Conflict between stability and change
Nidal Ayoub - 13/04/2012
The previous generation has experienced the illusion of victory and came out with defeat. This explains its resignation, refusal to change, preference for stability, fear of venturing into the unknown and belief in supporting the “better the devil you know” adage. On the other hand, there is a young, rebellious, insubordinate generation aspiring for change. We are currently going through a period of conflict where each party accuses the other. The fathers who consider themselves to be experienced thanks to what they have been through, accuse the children of being superficial, impulsive and reckless. On their behalf, children believe the other generation to be stereotyped and incapable of living through changes
Today, our societies are going through a transitional phase. Young people increasingly refuse what restrains them and quickly pass from submission to insubordination in order to be free. This makes gap between the two generations even wider. The problem goes beyond divergent ideas or the exchange of accusations. It is now a conflict where each party tries to marginalise the other.
During the insurrection of the young Lebanese against the confessional regime inherited by their parents, coming from a pious family, Souha sneaked out to participate in the demonstrations. The veil imposed by her background did not stop her from claiming a secular State, one that is not governed by faith communities. Having followed the Arab revolutions, she dreamed of a movement that would allow her to discard the practices that do not correspond to her beliefs. Despite her parents’ total rejection and against their advice, Souha has removed the veil she had been wearing since her childhood and took her first steps towards freedom.
Despite the ongoing dispute that opposes her to her family, Souha believes the problem is the mutual love that binds her to her parents as without that, it would have been easy to “turn her back and leave
Souha has rebelled against her social background, leaving her family to their chatter and growls while Racha is still going through ups and downs with her family. Their relationship goes from prohibition to negotiation passing by derision and interest. Racha has a very assertive personality with strong views that have obliged her father to listen to her. At first, he tried to prevent her from participating to protests demanding the fall of the confessional regime. Then, he was touched by his daughter’s and her friends’ strength and ended up joining the protests. However, his enthusiasm was quickly blunted with the end of the first spark of protest and he went back to his ironic refusal. Racha’s father believes that when it come to interaction with the other, young people lack experience and this is what led them to destroy the dream of so many people.
The major problem is that young people think they can change the world all by themselves without resorting to the experience of the previous generation. According to Racha, “everyone dreams of democracy and freedom”. She states that young people’s ideas and slogans do not differ from what their parents’ dreamed of. Fear is what prevents the latter from putting their ideals into practice. Their beliefs and practices are contradictory.
The same fear is the cause of what opposes Nabil to his family. They strongly support any propensity to change but at the same time, they do everything to convince their son not to take part in sit-ins especially after he has been hit twice.
Since the Arab masses have invested the streets, Nabil is less afraid and absolutely wants to participate to the sit-ins that support them. He hopes to contribute in a modest way to the change that is happening despite his parents’ emotional blackmail that fails to dissuade him.
Negotiation is what Racha refers to the logic of compromise: “this is not blackmail”, she says, “we sometimes need to find a compromise. At first, parents do everything so that you earn their rank, to domesticate us into the mould that suits them. Subsequently, they eventually always give up as they cannot put us in their cage and resign themselves to bitterly admit that we have different ideas. However, at times, they try to influence us.” It’s true that Racha’s father has complained that his daughter participates to daily sit-ins organised to support Egypt. The political party he belongs to supports the Syrian regime. He therefore asked Racha to avoid expressing any support to the Syrian people because this could cause him problems. Racha accepted this compromise in spite of herself: “the suffering endured by the Syrian people makes me suffer but I cannot protest to support”.
Soha presumes that the “older generation” refuse change because of inherited ideas according to which, they should never deviate from the “right path”. They also believe that all those who seek change are lost and will never find their way in life.
Racha and Nabil both believe that their parents have different viewpoints due to the defeat their generation has experienced. They lived the most exciting moments of the struggle that took place at the time of Nasser but their dreams quickly evaporated into disappointment and disillusion. This is why they are scared of change and above all, they do not want their children to go through the same experience. They try to dissuade them by insisting that “there is no other option.
On the one hand, parents seek the stability and protection guaranteed by authority. They fear the unknown, they revere their leaders and raise their children accordingly. On the other hand, young people do not fear authority and have a different worldview. They are impatient and make quick decisions. Their predisposition to change, to revolution opposes them to their parents’ generation, used to a routine life. The older generation lives with the memory of past glories and disappointments while the younger one moves towards a future they want to build with their own perspectives. The objectives of both generations might be identical and yet, the conflict remains between the generation that believes to have “made history” and the other in which the whole world sees the “makers of the future”.
Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech