Thursday, February 11, 2010

GENERATION GAP- Special article, Prof.K.Nageshwar

Every aberrant behaviour either in polity or in society sought to be explained, if not justified, under this fancy thing called generation gap, unlike the familiar gaps like communication gap, knowledge gap, information gap etc. This generation gap is the most invisible one.

It encompasses nebulous notions that are used to explain changes in behaviour, morals, ethics, principles, standards, way of life and a whole range of such things over a period of time in any given society.

Had such a gap not existed between the generations that have come and gone in the past? Certainly there existed a gap between form one generation to the other. But, they were not as profound as it is today. This is because the changes that are occurring in socio-political and economic spheres are so fast and sweeping in nature that a year now can be equated to a century in the past. So much is crammed into the contemporary times due to the path-breaking discoveries, inventions, new concepts in every aspect of life.

But such a generation gap can not be over emphasized in a country like India. This is clearly evident among the noveauriche where a sudden change in status was an acquired in one remarkable jump breaking their moorings of the past. Such a sudden shift in the status resulting in a pronounced generation gap is mostly an urban phenomenon.

But in most parts of the Indian society, the questions and the problems that haunted generations hardly changed. For millions of people not only in India but in most parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America the only gap that existed and continues to be evident is the gap between their means and their expectations and necessities. The generation gap is absolutely irrelevant for those who foil from dawn to dusk to eke out livelihood.

Therefore, the entire discussion on generation gap has to be confined to urban middle class and rural rich.

While in certain aspect of human authority, the gap between generations is alarmingly high while on some other counts, the generations have changed little.

The scientific and technological innovations have radically transformed the environment for the present generation as compared to previous generation. The developments in technology, especially communication and transportation, have totally transformed the life of this generation.

This generation has access to a wide range of electronic gadgets making their life more and more comfortable. The emergence of fast foods has made their life much more easier. But those who can afford to have these modern technology could make their lives totally different from their previous generations. But for another set of people, it only aggravated their simmering frustration. Exposure to luxurious life styles has increased, thanks to the electronic media. But their ability to meet these new found aspirations remained stagnant over generations.

As a result, there is a clear rebellious tendency in the present generation whereas the earlier generation more often reconciled with their plight.

The lure for money and material prosperity can not be termed as a peculiar characteristic of the present generation. It existed for generations together. Perhaps the intensity of this craze for money and material prosperity might have increased. The one reason that has greatly contributed to this trend might be the scintillating changes in the material world making it increasingly alluring with each passing day. But what has certainly changed is the modus operandi for attaining this material prosperity. This was effected by a complete change in the value system. The dynamism is increasing from one generation to other. At the same time, a steep degeneration is evident in the value system resulting in a dynamic degeneration taking a heavy toll of the societal fabric.

J.R.D. Tata was once asked to distinguish between their generation and the present generation of capitalists. The pioneer of Indian industrialization eloquently replied, ‘’our generation produced and earned wealth. But this generation is manipulating and amassing wealth.’’ This is evident from the fact that no capitalist in the present generation could come anywhere near the example set by J.R.D. Tata in determing the destiny of the country.

The character of money underwent drastic changes. It has not only devalued in monetary terms, the devaluation is much steeper in terms of values associated with it.

The present generation is embracing quick buck culture and wants to adopt any possible means to achieve this objective. No longer Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore are the source of inspiration for the emerging generations. The biographies of all great leaders reveal that they have been influenced during their childhood and youth by great men, women and their works. The formidable impact of Nehru’s letters on the impressionable mind of young Indira Gandhi has been well documented. Most of this generation draw their inspiration from Scamsters, lumpen cinestars, and rib tickling comic strips.

The reading habits have also underwent significant changes over generations. The blistering multi-channel, myriad hour small screen boom has made the present generation much more causal and easy going and trivalised their experience. This generation, thanks to the television boom, has became psychologically supine.

The social isolation and alienation have become the strident features of this generation. A sense of community feeling and community effort have been replaced by a penchant to get things done on their own and in their interest by hook or crook. They live in a world of their own delinked from society and community around which they live. Social togetherness has become a causality as relations have become impersonal. This feature is much move striking in the nightmarious metropolitan life.

This social alienation and isolation is resulting in a phenomenon of increasing crime rate, levels of frustration and diffusion of energies of the youth on destructive lines. The trend of growing detachment of individuals from the society around them is evident from the fact that civil protests today are marked by the destruction of public property.

The break down of traditional means of social control on the one hand and the delegitimisation of public institutions in the eyes of this generation have also contributed to this trend.

Conformism was the feature of the earlier generations. Accomodation rather than confrontation was their hallmark in social situations. Present generation tends to question everything and sometimes in a rebellious mood. This often manifests in a negative manner. On the political plane, the earlier generations were more interventionist in nature, whereas the present generation failed in questioning the wisdom of political elite. Depoliticisation has become the order of day in the youth today. As a result, previous generations were the harbingers of new political changes, whereas the present generation is unable to break the shackles of capricious political culture to herald an altogether different political order conforming to the visions and dreams of heroes of Indian freedom struggle.

No society can prosper without properly understanding and appreciating the past, analyzing the present in the light of past experiences and shaping the future by combining the wisdom of the present and the past. But the greatest calamity that is going to happen for Indian society will be due to this generation’s increasing lack of sense of history. As a result, the patriotic fervour seen in the Japanese or Chinese youth is obviously missing in Indian youth today.

But the generations have changed precious little over the attitude towards man-made barriers in society. In fact, these barrieas have became much wider in the present generation than the previous ones. Hate ideology gained credence. The brotherhood and love that kept the society united throughout the generations are fading away. Ethnic frenzy, xenophobic cultural parochialism and other narrow tendencies are gaining more and more acceptance.

The earlier generations were fired by zealous nationalism and saw their individual destiny with that of overall nation’s destiny. This is not to ignore the exceptions. Exceptions exist for every trend then and now.

It is easy to mobilize present generation ion on caste-communal or regional or linguistic lines.

Even those who come from abroad to choose a life partner looks out for their own caste people. The citadelas of caste, creed and community have become much more impregnable with the new generation showing no signs of desire to pull them down. Yet another institution that has changed little for the better in Indian society through the generations is the institution of marriage. Love in marriage continues to be more of a cultivated one. The eligibility has also not undergone much change. The personal worth of an individual is getting far less weightage than his or her family background especially in terms of money and status. The young follows ardently the family code here than anywhere else.

Certainly there has been a change towards worse in this regard. Marriage perks and dowry are viewed as a means of meeting the inflationary pressures of the economy. The sanctity of nuptial bond is disintegrated in an age where human relations are increasingly being defined by monetary aspects rather than human dimensions. The all round commercialization in this generation has its discernible impact on the institution of marriage in the society.

The institution of family has also underwent changes through the generations. The joint family system broke giving way to nuclear families which in turn transformed into atomic families. This transformation is making the life of the old miserable. The young face a sense of helplessness, especially when they confront a crisis situation. They do not have an psychological or moral support to fall back upon. Despite such changes in the institution of family one thing has not changed. The parents in Indian families still sacrifice for their children though it is rarely reciprocated.

The greatest casualty in the institution of family is the relations with other family members. The social obligations still keeps parents and their children together in this generation too. But fraternal relations are becoming more and more casual. Family is a precious natural resource that maintains social stability and prevents chaos within the family and society. Family brings social and cultural cohesiveness.

On the societal plane, the significant change witnessed by the generation in India is that the privileged sections of this generation are being trans-nationalised. This was not possible even for the wealthy during the previous generations. This generation is being swept off their feet and slowly and swiftly abandoning their socio-cultural moorings. Therefore the life time dream of many young boys and girls in posh colleges of India today is to settle in the United States of America. About half of the products of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) and more than one third of those coming out from Indian institutes of Technology (IIT) leave their motherland in search of greener pastures.

The western privileged consumers can taste such exotic commodities like maize recipes from Guatemala, pineapples from Ivory Coast, beans from Kenya, mangoes from India, sweet corn from Thailand, cherries from Chile. Thus, for the privileged generation earth has become their backyard. The affluent section of this generation in India too are in a position to imitate a similar exotic life styles. The parading of western affluent life styles have an impact on the middle classes too. The Indian middle class of this generation is catching up with these consumerist life styles. This creates an impact on nutritious levels of people and their economic priorities. Despite improvements in the health care system the ailments are increasing. Life styles of the present generation is also one of the causal factors.

A significant change occurred through the generations on the political plane. The political philosophies have underwent drastic changes. Politics are no larger a moral quest or a missionary zeal for this generation. Politics is viewed by this generation as a vehicle for augmenting their economic powers and social status. Political parties are becoming devoid of ideology. The criminalisation of politics and corruption in public life reached its new heights in this generation. Healthy elements in the society are distancing themselves from politics. As a result of these dangerous trends. All ugly routes to politics are being keenly explored, experimented and practiced. It is not that manipulation and maneuvers were not present in politics of previous generations. They were subtle. Corruption existed. But it was looked down by the society. People were involved in embezzlement, but it was subdued. Now it is naked and crude.

Several provisions of constitution incorporated with a great hope and wisdom by the founding fathers were mocked by the present generation political leadership.

People’s attitude towards religion have also underwent a major change in the present generation. The religion was marked by traditional gaiety and reverence. It was viewed more as a self-purification mechanism. But the contemporary trends tend religion more towards exhibitionism and competitive extravagance. The mixing of religion and politics have further created disturbing trends. Present generation seem to be using even religion for their personal ends. Religiosity is replaced by opportunism. Most people worship today for their selfish motives and attainment of worldly things. This goes against the basic tenets of religion which strive to keep humanity at a much higher pedestal. Religious and ethnic tolerance which were the striking features of earlier generations are fast replaced by mutual hatred.

The present generation is slowly moving towards a cultural vacuum despite the rapid rise of culture industry. Fine arts, literacy classics, cultural master pieces are strange things for the present day youth. Culture is something that links one generation with other. This process of decultarisation is making the youth a prey to drugs and other narcotics. Literature transmits wisdom from one generation to the other. But the youth moving away from literature are snapping their ties with the past and failing to have an identity of their own in this complex society. People’s lives are becoming much more mechanical. As a result, the society gets dehumanized making the life of coming generations miserable, unless a social and cultural renaissance sweeps this generation.

Indian society presents a contrasting picture. For a vast majority, life continues to be a struggle for generations together. The gap only that exists for them is the gap between their means and needs. It is increasingly difficult to make both the ends meet. For the middle classes, the gap is between their means and ballooning aspirations. The affluent and upper middle classes find this generation gap as a pleasant experience.

Certainly this generation is fortunate to have greater opportunities. Scientific and technological innovations made seemingly impossible things possible. These innovations have also radically transformed the life of the present generations. But the society can forge ahead into future by analyzing the present in the light of the past. In the rapidly changing current milieu, gap between generation is inevitable.

But, a leapfrogging may prove to be counter productive. The gap should be towards the positive end.


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