The generation born in the decade of 1950s have entered in the realm of senior citizenship. It has been a strange generation with multidimensional experiences and conflicting roles.
Its grooming was in childhood of dreams with ascribed values and aspirations to be an asset to the parents in sharing the family responsibilities.
Imagine their life journey, it is youth struggling with raising children and caring of old parents and old age lonely and estranged. The world was not then globalised. The political ideologies had purchase and religion as a code of morality and sanctified journey for the other world would solidify social boundaries. It has come to collapse with mimicry.
With the change of decades, not only roles have changed but new norms replaced the older values of social solidarities and collective responsibilities, substantially. The decade of 1950s was a decade of ambitions and fantasies and 1960s was the decade of dissent and movements, while seventies on wards it was demystifying and disillusionments, until the close of the previous century.
The new century came with the weakening of boundaries and dismantling of established institutions through the processes of globalization and imagined life referents. The generation of 50s was then past it’s prime. It needed respite and indebtedness from its succeeding generation. It did not happen. Instead of it, it receives blames and criticism of age of indiscretion from their children.
The condensation of time and space has been so abrupt and quick that this generation hardly can map up the age before this century. The globalization, privatization and liberalization have melted down that predicable solidity of our social and economic realm. It caused dislocations, disintegrating of families and communities and privatizations of individuals also. The new generation is guided by mitigating space between instinct and reason.
This has led to undermine the significance of family, marriage and put emphasis on the revitalization of personal choices. It is a breakdown to the model of social solidarity and negation to the belief that family is capable of catering basic and intermediate needs.
The ascribed social boundaries with its logic of intrinsic moral policing got dismantled. Its ramifications were that the generation that was past its prime in their childhood would do everything for their parents and grandparents, in their youth had to sacrifice everything for their children and when their turn came they were left to themselves, worried and lonely. The moral power of age till the close of century was abruptly filched.
An interesting conversation of two friends is worth mentioning to reveal the suffering and the shift of stage of our generation. Kh. Mir sahib on Eid day in 2015 was sick in lonely house at the marginal of a newly built house in the city migrated from the town. His two sons had left their house with their families to the unknown places.
He had no news about them. He and his ailing wife were in waiting in abstruseness. Parallel to it, his Pandit friend dislocated from his native place revealed him that on a festival day, he had to stay foodless for the grand children and his children had to first be fed. He was ridiculed by his wife to ask for food before the children were not served. Imagine, in their childhood they had to care for their parents and serve them first and when in youth they had to serve their children first. In the old age they are powerless lost in ambiguity.
Prior to these abrupt social changes and alterations in the norms, in the generation before this century, there were hardly disintegration of families and loss of power of primary groups, which means family, neighbourhood, school and kingships were interacting public sphere institutions to exhort moral pressure and set predictable social boundaries.
This century brought in consumerism and distant social networking that made senior citizenry out of date and children defying the primacy of primary groups. They perceive it archaic notions of bondage. Instead of reinstating equilibrium through moral pressure permeated through primary groups in older generation, the new generation is exposed to the vulnerabilities of distrust.
Independence from these groups, ethical vacuity and individualistic self-directed choices have made our children choice less in the ever framing new identities and fast changing goalpost of priorities. The children in particular and youth in general are threatened by surveillance from non-visible sources. All the time they are tested by survivalism, in view of vulnerability in singular identity. This leads to the fabrication of self-identities in its highly individualistic forms surfaced in meeting places in commodity driven consumer culture. They are highly self-centred and least interested in sharing the family responsibilities. Fluid relationships and market rationale have put doubts to the institution of marriage in wake of absence of intrinsic morality. Liquidity in mutual attractions has made our children especially educated career women indecisive for marriages. Their number is on increase, especially with the qualified daughters. Parents have no choice but to reconcile with these changes. For culture is demeaned, with rapid individualization the culture has lost its applicability to meet the needs of the individual.
Global mobility browsing through cybernetic world of soft power is inducing. Children and young persons without understanding fall prey to its enticements. In a competitive era, the failure or lagging behind in race and nervousness in visibility have made our children irritating and irksome. It why identity politics gains ground and penchants for asymmetrical associations are preferred to the traditional affinity for primary groups. It was precisely that capitalism and technological advancement have rendered wounded person devoid of meaning and morality in the rat race competition of the global career market. It was for this worldly survival, a quest for social solidarity and evocative fun, youth were taken to the religions and faiths. Since our societies are fast losing that social fabric, the internationalism global market has packaged religiosity to a site of employment for the youth all over the world. The space has been left out through the insolvency of ideals in politics. Escaping from the global completion, fearing failure, either the depression syndrome of drugs and medicines give them shelter or an easy escape to collective solidarity through the trails of religiosity. In any case it is an instant finish. Parents have little options to save their children from this ugly world for a fruitful survival. There is no romanticism, leisure and mannerism but only packaging for instinctual seducing, like animals bereft from personal discretions.
What then should parents do, especially, in a society where local language is thought to be powerless and rural –urban divide is deepening with each passing day in contempt. The primary groups have become too weak to cater needs of our children? The only way out is linking schools with the families. Dialogue, and communication in public sphere are to be enhanced to scrutinize social sites and save our children from seduction to mobiles. The proper usages for academic purposes of social media need control and boundaries. Conversations with children and peer groups are to be improved substantially. Befriending not distancing the older persons, children should be encouraged by parents to have more proximity with older people in the family. It is more up to mothers in bringing their children closer to their grandparents. It is an era of trust deficit. Moral teaching from religion and tradition in tune can generate real social and cultural capital that our children need to retain their smiles, peace and gratitude in facing the sphere of unpredictability, outside the home. There are no friends or adversaries, only queues for materiality in competitive race that throws tests after tests. Parents can be best friends and it is up to them how to convince their children to draw the social circumference of their desires and needs. Once they are convinced about it; they become self-accountable to themselves. It is how they can increase their social circumferences, use their discretion and live with their intrinsic strength. Parental interactions, family conversations and discrete communications from religious monitors are the requirements that alone can make life terrain safe and sustained with spiritual and social capital.
Ashok Kaul, Professor Emeritus in sociology at Banaras Hindu university