Generations. The Age of Life, the Age of Objects
Can the pride of repaying more than one has been given be taught? Will it be possible to introduce a new intergenerational pact, especially in view of the further shortage of young people forecast in the next two decades? How will relations between the generations alter the way in which reality is perceived and interpreted?
Every generation shares the destiny of its time and projects itself into the future by generating children. The death of each one of us normally implies the transmission of material goods, of things from one generation to the next. In this way objects become links, tangible vehicles of continuity between the generations. Tradition is perpetuated in this transmission of goods, in a freely-given exchange, based on the logic of the gift and of restitution: family solidarity generally exists beyond the logic of do ut des and establishes that virtuous cycle which in ancient symbolism was depicted by the Three Graces or Charities, symbolizing “grace” not in the sense of beauty but of gratuitousness. The Graces are the three young maidens that dance in a circle, symbolizing benefit (giving, receiving and restoring) which, transmitted from hand to hand, ultimately returns to the original giver. Nowadays, in these times of crisis and of ever scarcer resources, people feel the need to strengthen social bonds, to introduce a greater degree of justice in human dealings, and to generate renewed trust among the generations.
Today this culture of donation, of circular generosity, appears to have become an alternative to an economy based on the indefinite growth of needs and desires. This project of “negative growth” and “frugal abundance” could provide ways of restoring tangible and intangible resources (objects, security and affections) to the younger generations. It would also imply a profound and painful shift in attitudes and policy, above all in the spheres of ethics and economics. Rather than providing young people with objects or keeping them at home into their adulthood, it implies the reconstruction by society and governments of the conditions for their autonomy.