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Boomers vs Millennials
We've received a number of reader emails encouraging us to make last week's "Off The Cuff" podcast available to everyone.
It explores the generational fault lines in today's society, which are experiencing building pressure as the status quo struggles to continue in the arriving era of de-growth.
In this week's Off The Cuff podcast, Chris and Becca Martenson discuss:
- Boomers Have Everything To Lose
- They cling to status quo to deliver promises made in the past
- Millennials See Nothing To Gain
- The future they're being asked to inherit appears bereft of value
- Bridging The Generation Gap
- How to replace strife with support
- The Importance Of Mentoring
- An age-old model need perhaps more now than ever
This week, Chris's wife Becca joins him for a particularly unscripted and untraditional conversation about the tensions pitting old against young in today's society. As Chris describes the root issue:
Boomers have everything to lose if the status quo isn’t maintained and millennials increasingly think they have nothing to gain by preserving the status quo. It’s an enormous divide and we don’t quite know how to close that gap up. It feels like it’s getting wider.
I think I saw it politically in particular the Sanders campaign and who he attracted and why. And the why for me was, he was offering non-status quo-centric stuff. What I am seeing and feeling is that young people aren’t just saying economically I have nothing to gain by preserving the status quo, but they’re looking forward and saying…Wait a minute, none of this makes sense. I don’t want to participate in or perpetuate the status quo for another minute. It doesn’t make sense. There’s no future in it, the story doesn’t make sense, the narrative is broken. That’s the tension I feel in the air
While many of these pressures will continue to build as resources and good jobs become more scarce, there are real solutions each of us can participate in that will lay the long-term foundation for healing the generational rift.
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Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Off the Cuff. I’m your host, Chris Martenson of course, and today a very special Off the Cuff. It’s going to be different from any of the ones we’ve done before. Today, I am joined by my partner in life, and interest, and everything we do…Becca Martenson. Hi Becca.
Becca Martenson: Hi Chris.
Chris Martenson: This is going to be interesting because we are doing this pretty much off the cuff. We haven’t really even reviewed topics, but what I want to do here is… the conversations we have in the morning, or around the house, I always just kind of wish they would get recorded. Because we’ve known each other well for a long time, we do seminars together, and we’ve never done a podcast together like this. You handle a very different side of the resilience equation then I typically do and that’s always a thing that’s really admired at the seminars, for people who haven’t been. You get great feedback and reviews and of course, you’re bringing the feminine side of the story, the relational side, and the community side…all of that.
But what I’m really intrigued by was a conversation that sort of got triggered and that we’ve been nibbling along the edges of for a long time, which is the generational aspect of all this. A lot of people at my site…boomers…I’m a boomer…and of course, we have our fair share of millennials as well. That generational divide, which I have talked about before and I’ve expressed it pithily by saying boomers have everything to lose if the status quo isn’t maintained and millennials increasingly think they have nothing to gain by preserving the status quo. It’s an enormous divide and we don’t quite know how to close that gap up. It feels like it’s getting wider. I think I saw it politically big time with in particular the Sanders campaign and who he attracted and why. And the why for me was, he was offering non-status quo-centric stuff. Hillary Clinton in my mind, besides being just the person who was the architect of the destruction of Libya, for which really she should be held accountable amongst many other things, that she is also representing the preservation of the status quo. If you elect Hillary nothing will change, it will be more of the same…like Obama but a woman, or something like that. She is really representing and attracting people who want that stability, who don’t want anything to change, but under that…under all of that…what I am seeing and feeling is that young people aren’t just saying economically I have nothing to gain by preserving the status quo, but they’re looking forward and saying "wait a minute, none of this makes sense. I don’t want to participate in or perpetuate the status quo for another minute. It doesn’t make sense. There’s no future in it, the story doesn’t make sense, the narrative is broken." That’s the tension I feel in the air and so I just thought we’d talk about that.
You just did an event called Art of Mentoring, which is a week long—I’ll let you describe it but stand up village as it were with all sorts of different structures, and hierarchies, and rings, and complexity built into it. What? You’re saying no?
Becca Martenson: That’s not how I would introduce that subject but that’s fine, keep going.
Chris Martenson: Well, you introduce it then.
Becca Martenson: Well, I want to loop back to the arc that you’re talking about here, which is the generational gap. I think that what you’re pointing to, which is that the younger generation doesn’t feel as attached to doing things the same old way as the older generation does, but the story that’s being told…I’m just going to sort of say the middle class story that’s being told to the young folks today…which is just go to college. American dream…go to college, get a job, get married, have children, you know…left foot, right foot and it will all somehow work out. That’s ringing hollow I think to more and more people. What I’m getting a sense of from the young people that I talk to is that they are seeking more depth than is being offered by the mainstream political story, by the mainstream…this is what you’re supposed to be interested in the world, look at the shiny bright thing over here, here’s Kim Kardashian, here’s these celebrities. There’s a depth that the young people are seeking and sometimes I’m finding that they’re not able to even necessarily articulate that but it’s that sense of "isn’t there more to life than what we’re being offered here?"
And then to get to the work that I do with a program called The Art of Mentoring, I think it really seeks to offer the depth that the young people are looking for. The Art of Mentoring itself is a program that in Vermont is offered through the Vermont Wilderness School and it’s a week long program that is multigenerational—all the way from young babes in arms all the way up to elders— with a very complex set of interlocking programs for different ages of youth, for teens, for elders, for caregivers and babies, and for adults at different level of their own exploration. It all comes together in a village-like web that offers a different level of depth than I think the modern culture is currently offering to folks.
So again, that theme of depth and connection. The Art of Mentoring is centered around connection with the natural world as well as connection with the self and other. The depth of relational connection between generations is really, really important and I think in many ways lost in the current paradigm that we’re working with.
When the teenagers for instance in this program are having their week long adventure in the woods with their incredible staff, when they come back they’re welcomed into the community and witnessed as having been on a grand adventure. Then they go directly into a dinner where they sit with the elders and they get to ask these questions that they’ve been mulling over for the week and get to hear from the elders. This is just a tiny little example of one of the small places of generational overlap and, again, depth of connection that’s being offered through this program.
This is just one I’ll say…place where depth is being offered. But even in the large scale music festivals that young people love and have been loving since you and I were young people loving music festivals…even the music festivals are seeking greater depth, connection, and education, which was not something that I remember from my days of going to music festivals. Now they need to have real themes and they need to have educational focuses, many of which are based on resilience, based on spiritual exploration, and various other things. So again, I see the young people as seeking depth and meaning which is not being offered through the current narrative in the current paradigm.
Chris Martenson: I’m going to go further. It’s not only not being offered but they’re being directly lied to. Example: On the headline of my newspaper today, I opened it up and it said "American families enjoyed the fastest increase in wealth or income generation since the '90s." So, 27 years, this is the fastest…last year is the fastest income has ever advanced, and I’m going to call BS on that and here’s why: Tax receipts are down. If people are earning it, how come it isn’t being taxed? Second of all, it’s all in how you count. Third of all, in order to develop that number, they have to subtract inflation from it and of course as we all know, they under count inflation badly. One example: My Obamacare healthcare costs are going to go up high double digits, which, to me is in the mid 20% this year, it went up 24.8% last year. If you look at a normal family’s income, that’s a huge, huge increase and of course the federal government says "oh no, healthcare is a tiny little piece and we’re not going to subtract all that much. You’re doing better than ever!" That’s the story, "look, you’re doing better than ever," but almost everybody reading that headline is going "how come I didn’t participate?"
Becca Martenson: I’m not doing better than ever.
Chris Martenson: How come I’m not doing better? How many people do we know who are young, hardworking, multiple jobs, multiple income earners, and still report not able to make ends meet?
Becca Martenson: Absolutely, that’s happening all over the place. And again, the standard story of "just go to college and you’ll get a good job" just doesn’t pan out and I think most young people are smart enough to be able to see it. Which doesn’t mean that going to college isn’t a fine option for some people if it's required for the career that someone wants, but that as being a no-brainer, must-do step in order to earn money…it’s clearly not panning out with the risk/reward of the debt that needs to be incurred as a result and no guarantee of any kind of well-paying job afterwards at all.
Chris Martenson: No, and the thing is that…and the anger. We’re all monkeys, primates on one level and so unfairness really doesn’t get to us, and I use the capuchin grape monkey experiment all the time. You feed one monkey a cucumber and his cellmate next cage over got a grape, anger results. There’s something deeply unfair and I’ve been watching the markets…they love to fiddle with the markets, the stock market in particular. I track it, much to my detriment, because I know it’s an important signaling mechanism and when the markets finally let go, that’s when we get to move onto the next part of the story. So my frustration is that they’re just delaying the story. But while they’re delaying it, they’re making themselves and their colleagues and their cocktail party friends stinking fabulously rich. I wish it were just a simple case of "well, we just made a few people rich by accident" but in this game you can’t make somebody rich without taking from somebody else. What’s happening in our society is that there’s a class of people who are stealing from the rest of everybody else. They’re stealing our futures, they’re stealing our present.
The Federal Reserve and all the interlocking political structure is fully in support of that, and people are getting mad. Some people get mad and some people check out, but what we’re talking about in part is how young people are saying "I’m not participating in that game anymore. It doesn’t make sense to me, it looks injurious, why would I struggle really hard only to get shafted at the end of all of this? Maybe I’ll just not work as hard." That’s showing up in all of the data that we’ve got out there as well and this is a really, really big deal.
What I wanted to do in this conversation—can we just call a spade a spade? Boomers need to apologize to the younger generations and own up for the mistakes we’ve made. We’ve made a lot of them, and we’ve acted selfishly, and we’ve acted out of integrity. Meaning, we saw, we had all the data we needed to do things differently, and chose not to. That’s something young people I find are reporting to me is like "where is that awareness, where’s the apology, where’s the recognition that y’all have done something that maybe wasn’t so awesome?" The more that story perpetuates like "Yeah! Everything is awesome! We’re all getting richer, and the economy is just about to boom again, and we’re all going to share in it" is bullshit. So can we please just strip away the bullshit, and get right down to it and say "yeah, this is a deeply unfair system, always kind of has been, it’s on steroids now and that is creating social friction and if we don’t watch it, my prediction is it leads to social unrest.
Also on the front page of my paper today, the Governor of Kentucky is saying "if the election is stolen from Trump there’ll be bloodshed." I’m not sure if he was calling for it or predicting it but that’s an amazing thing when you have people suddenly talking about open revolts who are governors. I don’t know, people can feel it…something is just off and the longer we lie to ourselves the more off it becomes. It’s like we’re on our 15th ruined Christmas party in a row with a drunk uncle nobody will talk to. Eventually y’all just have to circle up and go "Dude, your behavior is a huge problem."
Becca Martenson: Yeah, and I think that this is why it's really essential to be able to reach out to the young people and speak directly to this cognitive dissonance that is so present in every aspect of our lives these days. We have the massive wealth disparity on one hand and then we have the rapid destruction of the planet and climate change on the other hand. These two go together beautifully and yet the mainstream story is still just keep being a nice, happy consumer and it’s all going to work out. People know that’s not true. The dominant voices in the culture are not speaking to this or giving room for this to be expressed and so I think it’s really essential for us to find ways to allow the youth to know that there are some of us boomers out here who know that we are responsible and that what is being offered to them as the status quo next step in their lives may not make sense, and where are those examples that they can follow of people that are choosing a different path that is just stepping outside of the mainstream story and saying "I’m not going to participate. I’m just not going to participate."
You and I see that in spades in our area here in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, which is a fairly nice little bubble of progressive, alternative, sustainable focus where permaculture is a common word and where everybody seems to have a backyard garden. We live in an area where there’s a very high density of young people that are stepping outside of the mainstream and I think getting that story out there just as a model for other young people is really essential.
Chris Martenson: Absolutely, and before we get to how to maybe step out—because it's tricky, it’s tricky; we live in a system that uses money, requires money, and to participate in that you still need to participate in “the system” and so how you negotiate both worlds is something that everybody struggles with to some degree, which is: How do I move out of this world I’m living in into this other world I want to live in? That living two lives piece, obviously a big focus of a lot of our seminars.
I want to circle back quick around this idea that what I’m not saying is that it's time for a hefty round of blaming and accepting responsibility, but we do need to say that until there is recognition of the problem for what it is and was, I don’t think we can really move forward. There has to be ownership of it. This isn’t to say that if you took this crop of millennials and rewound them 30 years in time, they wouldn’t have made the exact same choices as the boomers. This isn’t to say the boomers were some collectively really messed up cohort of people who accidentally got born. I think all humans would behave the same through that same stretch of time. And at the same time, what we chose to do with the information we had was really not optimal. We had good information. When Jimmy Carter put the cardigan on, when we had the first population bomb ideas, when we first noted the ecological collapse, when we first understood the role of hormone mimetics in the environment and the impacts that was having, not just on humans but on all wildlife, we had tons of data. We chose not to do anything with the data, preferring a narrative that said we could still continue to behave like adolescents. "Don’t worry about it, we’re going to live forever, we’ll take a few bumps along the way, humans always pick themselves back up." That’s true and as my listeners know here, everybody listening to this knows, it is different this time.
I read this op-ed in the New York Times where they said, "You know, maybe the economy has been stagnant for 10 years because we haven’t had a really good, big war because war is a stimulative."
Becca Martenson: Oh God.
Chris Martenson: No, they were serious and they said here’s the data. World War I, destruction but look at the rebuilding. World War II, destructive but look at the rebuilding. The error in that thinking was they didn’t understand that both those times we had rising net energy per capita due to new oil coming out of the ground. This time, if you destroy it, it just doesn’t get rebuilt because rebuilding takes energy. If you’re getting injured as a 13-year-old, it’s a different healing process than if you’re injured as an 85-year-old. If you don’t have the energy…you have to be aware of where you are in your life cycle and a mistake would be to say 1914 and 1945 are the same as, ergo, we should have a good war. Terrible thinking, but there are people thinking that. There are people thinking that, making the most profound mistake of all, which is that everything is just sort of the same as it used to be, and it’s not. That’s what the young people, I think, get and older people are having difficulty getting their minds around. And the Federal Reserve displays zero awareness of any of this. It’s just, we just need growth because that’s what we’ve always had, and it’s always worked, and it’s always been good, and it’s not.
I think what you said Becca, is great…that the young people, even if you got them the growth, they’ve detached enough where they’re looking at it and going "that’s still not very connected, or deep, or actually what I want." The whole consumer lifestyle that my generation bought hook, line and sinker, myself included—and it took effort to decouple from it and I’m still doing it. I hate to say I’m not decoupled…not by any stretch. You should see my Amazon habits, I’m terrible. But still, young people are alerting themselves to this idea of saying "Wait, hold it. I want more out of this. I want real connection, I want real depth, I want to be really challenged as a human. I want my gifts to come out, and my gifts extend beyond what I can put on a credit card."
Becca Martenson: Yes, and I think that what you were saying earlier was that we need to face this truth and admit what mistakes have been made, but here’s the deal: It hasn’t happened so far. I don’t honestly think it's going to happen. If we’re going to wait for the powers that be to have a mea culpa and say "Oh my gosh, we were wrong all this time," it’s not going to happen. I mean, my perspective is if we accept that, if we accept that the powers that be will hold onto their beautiful dream until it goes flaming down into the dust, how do those of us—and especially this next generation that sees it potentially for what it is—choose a different path anyway? We can’t wait for the powers that be to decide they’re wrong and change their ways. It’s just not going to happen…I don’t believe. This is my own personal truth until there’s some massive calamity that forces them. Until it’s forced, it's just not going to happen. It’s too entrenched.
But we can’t wait for that. These young people certainly can’t wait for that. They need to get on with their lives and start building in a direction that makes sense. What is that direction that makes sense given the schism that’s here between the status quo holders and all of those that are growing up now for whom that status quo will not be available, and is not available?
Chris Martenson: We’re alive—and young people, old people, we’re all in this boat together. What I wanted to get to and thank you for reminding me was to say once we get past the "I accept responsibility, blame, okay" we can get to this awareness saying actually we’re all in this together. We need to pull together. If it gets into us versus them—which, by the way, marketers are going to love, political parties are going to love, you’re going to be sold this idea that us versus them is great and if Democrats versus Republicans doesn’t continue to perpetuate the status quo, great, let’s make it old versus young. If that doesn’t work it will be rich versus poor. The truth is, we’re all in this together. Nothing drives me nuts quite as much as watching the police in Ferguson fight the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri because they’re actually on the same side of the line if they understand what’s really happening here.
This is a really big deal because young people are starting to pull back from the status quo, which is about giving our power over through our money system—which is just an idea, but it has such great power that if you have more money versus less you have a great life versus living under a bridge…that’s power we’ve invested in the idea of money. The powers that be have their power because we consent to it. We might not be aware but we consent to it.
This is the awkward period of human evolution, not just United States, not French, not Canadian, not Asian or whatever…this is human evolution where we have to go from a set of institutions, political and economic, that are fundamentally extractive and isolationist towards a new set of institutions that are regenerative and relational. That’s going to be a really long, tangly journey but that’s what I think I’m feeling in the young people as many of them are starting to gravitate saying "I’m leaving behind the extractive and isolationist pieces but I don’t know how to do this." Us older people are not like valued elders in this story like "Oh, I did that three times in my life, here, let me help." This is all new territory. That’s how big this is and that’s why I think some people experience this as an existential crisis. It’s really a hero's journey. We’re leaving the shore like the first Vikings. We don’t know if there’s any land that direction, but we’ve got to sail that way for some reason.
Becca Martenson: Yeah, I’m right there with you and I think that there’s a weaving of the new story that is happening concurrently with the desperate holding onto the old story that’s happening. Both of these are happening simultaneously. From my perspective what we can do is, again, support the young people to weave their new story and support them to figure out ways that they’re going to create alternative currencies and alternative systems for a new idea of money, whereas the old idea of money has all the wrong incentives and has essentially created the system that we’re in right now. How can we, from our perspective, support the young people in the creation of the new models and structures? Because again, I think that both of these things have to happen simultaneously and are happening simultaneously. Where are we if we have this older generation that has some concept like you and I and the listeners on this site have a concept that something is not right—where do we put the resources that we have towards this creation of the new story supporting the young people with their beautiful journey? How can we do that? That’s where I think… that’s our responsibility and that’s where the rubber meets the road in our own responsibility. It’s not just saying "yeah boy, did we screw up here, sorry guys" but to really step in and support and help the new model come into being.
Chris Martenson: Okay so that’s great but you asked the $64,000 question which I’m sure is on everybody’s mind right now which is, how do I support that? Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about what we mean by support. Obviously, if you can support your local farmer by buying their produce and other economic means of support—and I know people at this site have been experimenting with the idea of if they have capital buying land and somehow engaging younger people in the farming or utilization of that land or something like that, so we all get maybe the economic models but we need more. I don’t want to short change that and if you’ve got some other great ones throw them in. But what I think is interesting here with you at this time, is to talk about the non-economic support that might be needed because it's less obvious and possibly more important.
One quick example. I’m not going to use names because I’m a privacy nut but that bright, shiny young woman who came down from Unity, Maine and was asking these exact sorts of questions which is: I’ve been putting all of my life energy into these practices which are highly valuable but don’t generate a lot of money, and I know they’re valuable because X, Y and Z. Here’s the feedback I get and they are, they’re deeply valuable. Our society doesn’t know how to value those yet and typically doesn’t with money. My counseling to her—and we’ll see where this goes—was to begin parroting some of Kiyosaki’s work which is: It’s time to turn those things that you’ve been providing into assets that will generate things like residual income for you, that will become assets that you will generate once and then would have persistent value afterwards. Instead of delivering that beautiful, perfect speech to this exact gathering of people, it becomes the book that lots of different groups can pick up and resonate from, or the video, or the something. She was excited by that and if asked, I will support her in thinking about how to begin to generate assets because that’s what I did accidentally but it worked out well. The Crash Course to me was just me trying to take the talks I’d given and turn it into something so more people could access it and then later I understood "oh, I’d built an asset," so I have a little bit of experience with that at least from that standpoint. This is the entrepreneurial mindset, which is multiple streams of income. Find the thing you’re passionate about and good at, and convert it into an asset…whether that’s a book, a video, a song, a copyrighted piece of material, a seminar series, a something that can be repeatedly used and that’s a way to begin to capture that and get more from it.
Becca Martenson: Yes, because this is a bridging time. This is a time between systems where the old system is still firmly in place and in order to…you have to participate because you have to pay taxes. There’s a lot of other ways to step outside of the system but no matter what, you still have to pay taxes. So income has to be generated. I like the residual income, asset building idea as the way to be in the reality of the moment, which is people still need money to survive.
The other part though, I mean…this woman was very, very far along and working at a very deep level with the subjects that we’re talking about right now and I think there is a huge population of young people that the support we can give them is to just say "you’re not crazy. You’re not crazy! The way you’re thinking something isn’t quite right here, that’s correct. Yes, you are right in thinking that Social Security is probably not going to be there when you hit retirement age," to just affirm that niggly feeling that is bubbling inside them to say "yeah, you’re not crazy. You are wise, and smart to be thinking that the story you’re being sold doesn’t really make any sense," and so there’s a real spectrum I think. And again, you and I happen to have a lot of connection with young people that are very, very mature and far along in this story…way farther along than you and I are personally.
Chris Martenson: Absolutely.
Becca Martenson: I think that for those people there are some really specialized support that we can offer but there’s a much broader message to the wider population that I think is just…I want to support them to be affirmed in their intuition in that knowing deep inside that just says something isn’t right. This isn’t right. There’s a whole spectrum of support that I think is required but providing systems that can bridge, that can be the bridge between the current system and the new system so that they don’t have to be essentially all alone in the wilderness with this. And again, you and I will have to do some morning jamming on this and see what we can come up with in terms of what kind of structures we could possibly come up with that can be that bridging between paradigms, but I think that’s what we really need.
Chris Martenson: I agree with all of that and I’m going to try and get something out of my mouth that maybe hasn’t come out before which is something I’ve been working with for a while and it’s the idea that a really powerful form of support for somebody comes through my presence.
Becca Martenson: Yup.
Chris Martenson: My presence might simply mean not even saying anything. It’s not that I’m a wise, older person who understands how to build assets and residual income—that’s a download I can deliver, but there’s something also to just saying "I see you."
Becca Martenson: Yes.
Chris Martenson: "And I don’t have anything to tell you that’s going to be like 'here’s your next step. I see it clearly.'" It’s just saying "I see you and what we have we need badly, and I don’t even know what that is." My metaphor for that is that I’ve come late to the game. I woke up…I was in my 40’s when I woke up and I’ve been working on it ever since. I understand now, I had to deconstruct a lot of belief systems and I’m still working on it. Belief systems about my government, about America, about humans, about the world, about money…everything, and I know that’s an emotional process, all of this and that, and what has caught me, Becca, is, in dealing with some of these younger people, I will impart something that I’ve only very recently come on that’s a big giant pearl of wisdom for me and they’re like "I totally know that."
Becca Martenson: They’re [laughs] so far ahead it’s ridiculous.
Chris Martenson: "I already know that." My metaphor for that is they say that if you don’t learn a second language before the age of 13, you will always have an accent for that language, with very few exceptions. But the younger you learn that, the more you are fluid in that second language, the more accent-free you will be in essence. So really, for the older people who have woken up—when I say bring the presence, the presence comes from the humility of saying "I can be here as an older person who is in command of his consciousness and can keep his ego in check and be present for you with the humility of knowing you’re going to go further with this than I ever can because I’m always going to have an accent when it comes to this material." And it’s so different for young people who are born into the awareness in their DNA practically. It’s in their cellular awareness that this world they’ve been born into is changing massively and in ways they can’t predict. They will surf that wave with more elegance than I could have. I’ve mixed my metaphors up now…they’re accent free surfing? I don’t know where I’m going with that one…
Becca Martenson: [Laughs].
Chris Martenson: …so let me get back to the accent. That’s my first time trying to articulate that, which is the idea that sometimes that support might just be sitting down, shutting up, and bringing your full awareness to this person and saying "I see you, let me know how I can help."
Becca Martenson: Yes. I think you’re spot on. I think that if we as the older generation attempt to provide solutions to the younger generation we’re providing those solutions from the mindset that made the problems in the first place, and the younger generation is much more flexible and less attached to this system. So it’s the younger generation that’s going to be creating the new model for us. It’s not going to be us. And so yes, supporting with our presence, supporting with our witnessing, supporting with—just letting them know they’re not crazy…their deep knowing is true and right and we want to help them [laughs] help us figure out what we’re going to do about all of this.
Chris Martenson: Absolutely. Well, thank you for picking up that ball and running with it because that was my first time trying to sort of get that concept out in organized form. I think I’ve had pieces of it but I realized that when I say that, I actually can get in touch with a little bit of sadness when I was saying that and I think that comes from checking in with always wanting to have had that for myself…wanting to have had somebody who was watching me and saying "I see you and I trust you. I don’t know exactly what you’re going to do with it but there, that’s all there is." I think that’s in really short supply in this culture, generally, and there’s a sadness I have around that.
Becca Martenson: Welcome to the sadness. I think that sadness would be shared by probably almost everybody listening right now and that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to address with programs like The Art of Mentoring and the bringing together of the elders and the teenagers. It’s the witnessing that we do of these young people that are so extraordinary. They blow my mind with their wisdom. To provide them with older people that are sitting with them and just saying "I see you, I see you. You have so much to offer, I see your gifts. Please bring them out." This is what we need. This is what this next generation—what all of us as human beings I believe need, and I think that we’ve lost it. We’ve lost that thread and we can look at all the different structures and reasons why, and that can be helpful, but we need to get back to it because this is…in order for us to come up with our beautiful responses to this terrible predicament that we are in, we need this next generation to be fully living their gifts and to be bringing the fullness of who they are to the world.
My personal belief is that our current cultural structure is not set up to do that and is actually set up to do the opposite, which is to create quite a small box of what is allowed, acceptable, and celebrated, and anything outside of that box is ignored or shunned. The box of what it means to be human is quite small and in order for this generation of human beings to live into the fullness of who they are, we’ve got to blow that box up and start seeing each other in a deeper way and creating the structures that can allow us to expand into who we are. I think our whole educational system is designed to do exactly the opposite, as you and I have talked about many times.
There’s a lot of undoing that needs to happen and I think that sadness that you’re feeling at not being seen in that way as a young man is a current that runs through all of us and it’s that existential sense of isolation that our culture supports so beautifully. And again, this next paradigm that we need to live into is about connection and relationship. However we can support the young’uns to be in connection and relationship with each other, and with their deepest selves, I think would be a step in the right direction.
Chris Martenson: Absolutely and for anybody listening, The Art of Mentoring happens once a year. It just finished at the time of this recording sort of late August/early September. It varies a little but it's somewhere in that time window.
Becca Martenson: I need to interrupt Chris because that’s actually not true. The Art of Mentoring happens in a number of places around the country at different times and is hosted by different organizations. If anybody is interested in finding out about it, if you just google The Art of Mentoring, you’ll find different host organizations in the United States as well as internationally.
Chris Martenson: Cool, so there’s lots of ways you can engage with it. I’m going to talk about the one that happens close to us. It’s an experiment. It’s an experiment in refashioning ourselves in ways that we’ve been talking about. It’s an experiment in how do we do this deeper living thing? I just had this podcast with Bill Kauth and Zoe Alowan and it was about them making their tribes through neighborhood affiliations and various commitments that they form with their tribal unit. They’re in Ashland, Oregon. A number of people came out and said "Sort of cool. I don’t get it." A few of our introverts were like "Oh, not for me." What I would like to offer is that for those people who are curious and say "Well, I’m not really ready to commit to that tribal thing you talked about, that seems a little far, but what does an experiment really look and feel like?" I think The Art of Mentoring is a really well contained piece that you could go and really see something that is extraordinarily different and you will notice that if you just sit down and talk to any one of the teens who have been through this program for a number of years, you will run into a type of a human that will give you hope again.
Becca Martenson: Yes, yes…it’s so true. When I first encountered this model of education called mentoring, which is actually based on globally indigenous practices of education, I was looking at the teenagers and I was blown away by their wisdom. I didn’t even know anything about what had done this but I basically went to the host organization and I said "How did you grow these teenagers? Where did they come from? And whatever you’re doing, I want to get involved and support this because these are human beings that are fully alive and I can see it." The contrast between these teenagers and what I was seeing outside of this culture—and just the way teenagers are even represented in media. It’s like childishness is the way teenagers, I think, are really portrayed and encouraged to be. And so when I saw a model that was supporting such a different type of teenager that just…I was blown away by the groundedness, the knowledge of self, the awareness of the group, the supportive caretaking of the younger children, the awareness of the elders. Watching teenagers go up to a visiting elder and just ask "Can I get you a chair? Would you like a cup of tea?" Just awareness that they have a role of support in the community, that they’re not just there to be a consumer and buy things and watch the latest movie, but they’re there to help take care of the younger children, and they’re there to support the elders. Again, this basically all…these kind of kids were grown essentially in such a simple way of just being provided really beautiful connections in nature, time in nature where they could explore in a fairly unstructured way, which is just such a different model of education than the "adults are in charge of everything" world that the educational system is now.
That’s not a very articulate way of describing what this model of mentoring is on the ground, but what it produces in the teenagers continues to, yes, as you said, give me hope.
Chris Martenson: I’ll talk about one teenager who has been through the program a lot, which is my youngest daughter Grace. When I talk to her, sometimes I just get goosebumps because what she says is so far beyond even what I’m anticipating is going to come out of her mouth.
Becca Martenson: Yeah [laughs] and you know her.
Chris Martenson: I know her pretty well. The amount of context that she has is astonishing, and that context could be the individual psychological makeup of the people around her, it could be the awareness of what’s happening in a larger group setting, sort of the arc of people’s development…you name it, it’s just this really—grounded is the word you used but for me it's context. There’s all these different nodes of connection that come together into an awareness that I truthfully have wanted to develop in my own heavily accented way here later in life, and that’s what the goosebumps come from is seeing the fluidity. She just sort of grew up around it and this is how you are. People will rise up into what is expected of them and these communities expect a lot.
Becca Martenson: Yes, the bar is high.
Chris Martenson: The bar is high but not in a shaming "if you don’t do this we’ll give you an F." It’s just the bar is high and people rise. I love seeing what’s possible when people bring their best selves out. Our culture is not asking the best of anybody to be a consumer, to work hard, to get a paycheck, to struggle to make ends meet, to go to Disneyland once a year. It’s not a very high bar. So younger people in particular are saying "I need a different bar. I want one that matters to me. Let’s make it worthwhile."
Becca Martenson: Yeah, depth and meaning. They can feel it’s not there and they want it.
Chris Martenson: Well who doesn’t? We all want to be seen and when we really do have our gifts out…there are all of these books out on how to achieve the flow for basketball players, whatever. We think about it in sports people "he was in the flow or she was in the flow." The truth is, every human wants to be in the flow, and to be in the flow for me means to have your authentic gifts just emerging into whatever moment is the one you’re living in and it does it effortlessly, it doesn’t require any additional effort from you, it might actually energize you, it’s not depleting, it’s fulfilling…all of that. That’s the exciting part of this story. All of these predicaments we’re talking about are really an invitation to greatness, to step into that flow and bring your best. That’s the positive side of the story.
The negative side is: If we continue to deny reality, we are going to have a very hard moment of change via the pain route. What we’re talking about are people who are actively saying "how do I change via insight?" That’s what needs to be supported more and more…let’s change by insight, let’s change on our own terms, let’s do that.
Becca Martenson: I agree, I agree. I think it would be such a cool thing to do a survey of all of the organizations and models that are choosing by insight, that are choosing a different path and that are providing people in different areas with alternatives. You know, that’s the story we need to talk about. Yes, we need to talk about how things aren’t right in the world and that’s super important because some people apparently haven’t figured that out yet. But I think even more importantly we need to really focus on what is working right now and how can we build the morphic field of that, to use a Rupert Sheldrake term. How can we build the energy behind the things that are in play right now that the young people are involved in that are working, and support those to get the attention and focus they need both with spotlight and resources?
Chris Martenson: Excellent, well said. This has truly been an Off the Cuff. I had no idea we were going to end up here. If you’re at all intrigued by the idea of The Art of Mentoring—not that it’s the be all end all only thing we would recommend, but it is something that Becca has a lot of involvement in and I have some involvement in, and it happens…there’s one in the west coast I know about, one here on the east coast, one in Canada, one in Scotland, maybe there’s others but you could look that up and see if that appeals to you…very small programs, they fill up quick so you could look into that if you’re interested. Or, join in the comments below and ask more questions and Becca or myself will answer those as best we can if you have more questions about that. But what I want in the common area below this podcast, I want to talk about really what it means if you’re a younger person, how you would want to be supported; if you’re an older person, how you would be willing to offer support. I would like to open that conversation up because it’s time.
Becca Martenson: Awesome, I can’t wait to see it.
Chris Martenson: Me neither.
Becca Martenson: Look forward to hearing from everybody.
Chris Martenson: All right well, goodbye everybody. It’s been fun and I’ll see you next week. Thank you, Becca.
Becca Martenson: Thanks for having me, Chris.