Vantage point

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Today's Kids I Tell You!!

When do you realise that your generation is no longer young? When other people of your age (and maybe you too) cluck their tongues in a very disapproving-schoolmarm-ish way when evaluating the generations after you.

Most people believe that the evolution of the human mind peaked with their generation, and believe they are witnessing the decline of the same as future generations are born. Others, who are self-loating about their own generation believe that it peaked at some previous generation, and they themselves are a part of that decline.

This attitude can be summed up using a standard sentence construction template -

"___________ is not what it used to be."

Art is not what it used to be.
Music is not what it used to be.
The approach towards education is not what it used to be.
Politics is not what it used to be.

Lamenting the decline is a universal phenomenon. Why? Is the decline real? I don't think so.

I firmly believe that coming generations are smarter, more decent, more well-behaved, and in general superior to their ancestors.

It is just fashionable to cluck our tongues at the "new generation", because of some reasons.

One reason is that we just tend to remember the good things about the past, and the forgettable things are... well... forgotten. Whereas, while formulating an opinion about the present, we take in everything, good and bad. It makes the comparison seem skewed in favour of the past.

Another reason is that a classic becomes a classic many years after its creation. And in the process of becoming a classic, it plays an important part in altering and shaping the public's tastes in a way that its own qualities are thought of al parameters to define a classic. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron was a flop at the box office. Over the years though, it has refined people's tastes enough to be considered a classic itself. I still remember the scorns I got from my friends when I said 'Dil Chahta Hai' was a potential classic, when it released. But mark my words, twenty years from now, it will be counted as a classic, simple because generations will grow up watching it and will imbibe the different ideas it used, departing from the then-norms of film-making.

Another factor which comes in to play is while talking about the decline in "values", "attitudes"....things like "In our time, we used to study for the sake of it's all about the money" or "In our time people would stay loyal with an employer for people change jobs every few years". This factor is the options or opportunities available. People who make these comments don't understand that the options available to people then were very limited. The choices they made were mostly Hobson's choices.

An old manager who complains about how youngsters change jobs at the drop of a hat will not admit that in his days, there was no job security, and even getting a job required involved bribery and nepotism.

Somebody who looks down upon kids today toiling mechanically to get into an IIT, while recalling how he didn't take it so seriously in his younger days, does not take into account the difference that being an IITian makes in today's economy, when IIT has become a huge global brand.

In conclusion, we need to get over the feeling that evolution stopped at our generation, and let those born after us, live life and change the world on their own terms. Imagine if we had been held to the standards and parameters of generations before us. Would we have liked it?


Ankit Solanki writes in -

Nice post. It brings this gem by Douglas Adams to mind (link):

1) everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.