Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Youth - An Overhyped & Overrated bunch?

Indian youth had never had it so good. With over 50% share in the population, youth is being venerated  day in & day out…paens are being sung by all & sundry…the media is going ga..ga over them, films are being made targeting youth & what not. In some cases, youth are even getting prominence at the cost of other groups. The entry of 79 MPs below 40 years of age is being heralded as a watershed moment in India’s parliamentary history.

Anyone who doesn’t fit into the `youth’ category must be feeling completely out of place, as if (s)he has committed a sin by not being young!

But why are we celebrating youth? What’s so special about this group…what have they done?? Why do we speak so highly of them??? It’s time we understood this stuff.
`Youth’ in my view, is synonymous with a deep & never ending yearning for positive change, an element of rebellion against what exists,  the way it exists and a fountainhead of fresh ideas & boundless energy to translate them into action…above all, someone who romances idealism. Alas, the Indian youth doesn’t exhibit any of these qualities. Why only India, even globally, the role of young people in shaping public policies, influencing socio-cultural-political landscapes has been found wanting. When was the last time you heard about a youth movement that radically altered the level of public debate about the way the world is…and ways to change it?
Not very long ago, we had several young men & women taking part in India’s freedom struggle. Globally too, we have seen youth fighting against racism, apartheid, social inequalities, wars, gender bias, and numerous forms of discrimination and repression devised by those who rule societies and nations. The world we live in today is largely a product of these movements led by the youth.

So, is the youth of our times taking this glorious legacy forward?

No! Sadly, the youth today is nothing but an old, stagnant & defeated mind caged inside a relatively younger body…a body capable of more frequent copulation (perhaps the only distinguishing feature between the youth and the aged) but with a mind bereft of fresh ideas, new thinking and yes…idealism. He or she does not have a dream of his own…in fact, day after day, they live the dreams of the so called old people by chasing & craving for a house of their own, a healthy bank balance, retaining their jobs, possessing latest household gadgets, changing cars every three years, spouses every two years and cellphones every year. `Change’ for them means a change of job and wealth levels…`Rebellion’ for them means having utmost contempt for their elders at best and jumping traffic signals at worst…an `Upwardly Mobile’ society for them means personal movements up the money & influence charts excluding everyone and `Empowerment’ means nothing else but an enhanced ability to swing deals their way.

Try spending some time with young people at any coffee or fast food joints around college campuses in cities or cigarette shops/chai ka gallas in small towns or villages. Simply overhear their talks and all your ideas about `youth’ leading this country and making it the next superpower would get sorted out  for good.

Because the youth today thinks and acts exactly like their grandfathers would. If that wasn’t the case, things like dowry & wife beating would have vanished long back…with youth rejecting this horrid tradition and those perpetuating it. Casteism would have become a thing of the past as majority of our young population would have freely & fearlessly married people from other castes, religions and regions (just take a look at matrimonial columns). Girls wouldn’t have been killed in wombs as their  young fathers wouldn’t have thought of them as lowly creatures unworthy of their love and affection.  And  corrupt politicians & bureaucrats wouldn’t have enjoyed the powers they do today. They’d be living in mortal fear of being caught, exposed  & questioned by the youth. On the contrary, young men & women of today aspire to be like them and curse themselves & their lineage if they can’t make the grade.

Let us look at our `young’ parliamentarians whom the media is raving about. We are being told that their presence in increased numbers would lead to a paradigm shift in the way things work in this country. Really? Isn’t it akin to saying that having a Rabri Devi as Chief Minister or Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister improves the status of women in the country? Has it??

As reproductive by-products of a political father or mother or both, they are well grounded in the kind of politics their parent(s) indulge in, just the way a shopkeeper’s or farmer’s son picks up threads of knowledge from seeing his father at work. And they’ll do more of the same things. The only difference being that they’ll do all this speaking the language that the `youth’ understands. With youth comprising the largest chunk of our populace, their acceptance is likely to higher than that of their old, doddering, incoherent & out of fashion parents. And that’s the only `change’ we are likely to witness. Period.

Unfortunately, I can’t name any young politician here for the fear of being slapped with libel but just think of any name and audit this guy’s actions in & out of parliament…what did (s)he do as a minister…in whose company did (s)he spend time with, where and doing what. How many times did (s)he questioned the way things were in working in his party or government? I bet your conclusion won’t be very different from what I’ve expressed above.

All this brings us back to the original question- why then are we venerating the youth the way we do?

Well, being the single largest constituent of our society, they happen to be the largest consumer group- consumers who’d lap up the goods and services being produced/imported in the country. The producers of these goods, with the help of the media have managed to create some sort of `uniformity’ among youth as far as desires, aspirations & beliefs are concerned. So from Jaipur to Jajpur, Pondicherry to Paonta Sahib and Dibrugarh to Daman, you’ll comes across young people with similar notions of progress, growth, happiness and matching shades of political vision & understanding. By & large they idolize the same people lionized by the media – cricketers, bollywood guys & gals and industry kaptans. They crave for the same things, be it material possessions or positions of power- be it in the government or the corporate sector. Nuisance value (the ability & power to screw others’ peace & happiness) is worshiped by young people regardless of the place or class they belong to.

And this universalization of thoughts, deeds & dreams is crucial to sell mass manufactured `standardized’ products, thereby helping gigantic businesses make a killing in the markets. And this perhaps is the reason why youth movements elsewhere too have died down. Afterall,  it’s not for nothing that the world is called a globalized village!

And those of you outside the `young’ bracket, please take heart…the youth today doesn’t pose any challenge to you. In fact, it is very much like you, may be worse.