Thursday, September 13, 2007
My Generation. The name of the hit song by the British band The Who from sometime in the 60s. Never did like the song that much, but am not averse to using it as the title for this posting of mine.
In my estimation 'My Generation', apart from the fact that it sounds cliched like hell, are the folks born between the mid 50s and the early 60s. Like me. We were not Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children', born a decade before. We were not historical in that sense even if we were born in historical times. But then again, which times are not historical? History is everyone's interpretation, version, of their times. This is mine.
We were raised and parented by a generation born before Independence who were torn between the attractions of the era they were born in and the new, uncertain, yet promising era of when they were becoming increasingly aware of a changing world around them. And perhaps not being able to come to terms with it. We - my generation - grew up in their shadow. Greatly influenced by their thoughts and deeds, and still wantonly rebellious of it because of the times we were growing up in.
My generation was growing up at a time when the world was trying to forget the 2nd World War. But not quite well enough. It's called Post-Modernism these days. We grew up when the USA decided to wage wars on other peoples because of the conviction of their rulers that America was the natural ruler of the world. (Not that they don't so still.)
We grew up at a time when Communism, especially the versions espoused by the Latin Americans like Che and Castro, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Mao in China, not forgetting our home-grown Naxalite movement, influenced so much of our lives, directly and indirectly, more so if you happened to be in Bengal's Calcutta at the time.
We grew up at a time when quite a large section of us were pleasantly surprised by the responses and reactions of some Western thinkers, writers, musicians and artists to the way their governments were handling the inevitable relinquishing and devolvement of western (read: White) supremacy. But not quite. (Perhaps not ever?)
My generation's times too were full of expectancy, naivete and confusion in newly independent India. Our own multiple cultures and sub-cultures were on edge and in varying stages of mutual discovery at that time. Western impaction and a burgeoning Indianness clashed within our sensibilities. I believe at that time, globally, a similar situation prevailed. So much was being learned and discussed, discovered and disseminated, reviewed and re-envisioned all over the world that within the perceptible chaos kernels of similitude evolved.
There were some of my generation who took sides one way or another. Like those who preferred Western thinking and lifestyles to abandon the confusing but evolving Indianness and emigrated. Others caught up in being more Indian, in causes and issues, becoming what we liked to term 'inverted snobs'. And multitudes like me, an ignored minority nevertheless, not swayed by either one or the other, opting to live in a conscious state of indetermination, of no immediate identity, subconsciously in a sphere of no ambition, of no particular political or ethnic leaning, paying heed only to our instincts and impulses, our often self-conscious desires and ideation. We wanted to be rebels without causes, even hippies, anti-establishmentarian. A lot of us achieved this. Most didn't, and didn't want to.
And those who didn't want to are those who are the decision makers and influencers of opinion today. They are those who are trying to re-live and rebuild our parents' dreams and hopes, whatever that is worth. They are the ones, who while currently making significant changes mainly in the economic and political arenas, have not yet been entirely successful in evaluating and determining social change. And so are doomed to repeat the errors of the previous generation. Maybe generations.
I qualified a paragraph ago, (a deliberate distinction), that there were some who didn't want to, and some who didn't succeed in attempting to achieve a state of rebelliousness. Even without a cause it has been a preferred condition for me (although I personally didn't achieve it), but I wonder at others of 'my generation' who have since discarded, even disowned such thinking.
All this raving has come about from the anniversary occasion dated today - September 13 - the Founder's Day of our school. I have no nostalgia for the school other than I made friends for life who continue to think the way I do, or just empathise with the way I think. Yes, the school has contributed immensely to our upbringing and education but it has not been as significant as others see it, despite the many years we spent there. If for some reason their lives have not been more interesting beyond schooldays then I see them as losers in life. Dead before their times.
My generation, in our heydays, believed itself liberal, changemakers, contrary, and convinced. Today I see them as never really having learned from history despite their education and learning. Today I accuse them of being culpable in raising an elite educated, but unlearned next generation. A generation raised to be extraordinarily selfish and demanding. A new generation seeking facile solutions in a superficial globalisation that is more colonial and fiscally motivated than it has ever been. A generation absorbed in the novelty of technological innovation that seeks to destroy cultural sensitivity and replace it with a boring sameness of plastic, virtual reality.
But of course there are exceptions. It is grand that we are human after all; thinking, egoistic animals. And so 'my generation' is divisive; in some way keeping to our early commonality of learning and upbringing. In some way fulfilling the expectations we shared. And with this we have progressed in ways not positively identifiable currently, yet influencing changes to come.
I have hope. I am not completely disillusioned or depressed. There is a path of chaotic change that can, must, and will be traversed. A path that will break the boundaries of tradition and norms. There will be a way that will cross barriers of distinction and ignore established ideology.
'My Generation' will live on in some. And may that tribe increase.