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This is a question more about culture than language specifically but I hope it is still appropriate here.

It's a common topic in current media commentary (in English) to complain about the problems with younger people. They don't want to work, they're lazy, men are becoming more effeminate and women more masculine, they all drink too much.

But it is somewhat naive to say current. This has been a trend for a while. Our parents may say it about our generation, but their parents said it about their generation. And it keeps going.

This has been a trend through the ages.

Here are some examples in English (source) and here:

Example: (1916) "Nobody wants to work as hard as they used to" Examples:

  • (1937) "Nobody wants to work anymore".
  • (1916) "Nobody wants to work as hard as they used to".

My question is: Is there a historical trend for people to complain about the laziness of youth, generation after generation, in Chinese culture and media? All the examples in that image are from US newspapers, but I am just so unaware if there is a similar possible situation in Chinese culture and language for people to complain so openly. But there still may be examples in literature that I am also unaware of.

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  • There is a similar quote from said to come from Socrates, or Plato, but in fact it comes from Kenneth John Freeman, 1907. “九零后 the generation of the 90s, 零零后 the generation of 2000" The phrases are often not used in a complimentary way!
    – Pedroski
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 22:56
  • @Pedroski The Socrates anecdote is what motivated this question. I am looking for similar if there is a historical chain purely within Chinese culture/language.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 19:31

2 Answers 2

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Generation gap exists in every culture, the older generation complains about the younger generation doesn't act like people in the good old days, and the younger generation complains about the older folks not keeping up with the current trends

The phrase "現在的年輕人...." (today's young people....) is basically the equivalent of "kids these days" in English

Example:

現在的年輕人好吃懶做 - Today's young people are lazy

現在的年輕人吃不得苦 - Today's young people can't bear hardship

現在的年輕人祇顧玩樂 - Today's young people only care about having fun

(some might replace 年輕人 with similar terms like 青年人,後生一輩, 小子們, ect.)

As for young people, "(老一輩的人/ 那些老傢伙們/ 那些老東西/ 那些老人家/ 那些老古董, etc.)什樣什樣" is also a common tag line

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  • Excellent... do you have instances of this kind of language from the 1980's, 1930's, 1870's, etc etc, like from newspapers/magazines/published letters/etc?
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 16:35
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    My father's pet phrase was "現在的年輕人不知道打仗有多慘" (someone who experienced wartime hardship) . My pet phrase is 現在的年輕人沒手機會死 (someone who remembers the time before smart phone )
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 16:46
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    Ok. I am a Cantonese, the original quotes are 而家啲後生仔唔知道打仗有幾慘 and 而家啲後生仔冇手機會死
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 16:53
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I'd say yes. “一代不如一代” ("Each generation is worse than the one before") is a common saying and it originated as early as in Song dynasty.

Another phrase is “世风日下,人心不古”, which refers to the general moral degeneracy of a society over time. Ordinarily it's much more serious than "kids these days", but it can be used exaggeratedly today.

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