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Conflicting mooring of generations

Rash driving, accidents, campus violence, missing classes – one


wonders what has happened to the present generation? One also
wonders, if it is the systemic aberration that we are missing out on the
present generation’s aspirations by sticking to the traditional methods
of social behaviour, governance, education and grooming? To
understand this apparent contrarian view, one needs to look at the
evolution of the last 3 to 4 generations. Many write ups including
Wikipedia provide us some interesting facts about various generations,
but are mainly applicable to the US mainland. These classifications
elucidate individual behaviour pattern, both personal and social. There
have been many attempts to list down these attributes, again mainly
in the West, though as the world continue to integrate; many
definitions and terms are increasingly being adopted all over. Some of
the generations and their associated social behaviours as given below
provide us a clue to this ever present generational conflict.

Early 20th century started with the so-called World War I generation –
at times also called the lost generation. In India, this was the
Swadeshi Generation, motivated by the non-violent and inspiring
leadership of young Mahatma Gandhi. Many young Indians joined the
protests and pressurised the mighty British Empire to rethink about
their dominance of the Indian psyche. Pride in the new nation,
integration of the country in thoughts and beliefs were the hall mark of
this generation. This generation gave to us a well crafted leadership for
our freedom and has passed the baton to the next generation.

The GI Generation or the greatest generation was born from


during the two world wars. This generation faced the Great Depression
of interwar period and then plunged headlong into World War II. This
period was also a witness to the ‘Silent generation’, of those people
who could not participate in the War due to their age. Being an early
witness to the horrors of war and great depression, they articulated it
through their historical writings, ever expanding professions and
modern art. Many decisions of post World War II were influenced to a
greater extent by this generation. Indian scene was dominated by
“Bharat Chhodo or Swatantrta Sainani” generation, born between
1910 and 1930, led by the Swadeshi Generation. The quit India
movement shook the very roots of British Empire, who started
preparing for the eventual closure of East India Company and British
Vice regal legacy. People of this generation have a strong loyalty to
new India and are sometimes called the traditionalists. The
generation was also a witness to the bloody partition and communal
frenzy, which affected their social behaviour and secular thoughts.
Many developed and still hold on to their Gandhian values and face
modern market economy and the hip-hugging jean clad youngsters
with cynicism. Their interpretation of freedom obviously runs contrary
to the definition provided by the modern generation.

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The Baby Boomer Generation, born during the World War II till
late 1950s, was famous in West and infamous in India for the same
accomplishment - increase in birth rates. In India, we had parents or
grand parents with 5 to 8 children, though due to different reasons –
no family planning, high infant mortality rate, average life span of 32
years in 1947 (now it is 65 and rising) and an agrarian society needing
as many hands as possible to till. By their huge numbers, the boomers
are a demographic bulge in the West. The generation has patriotism
worn on its sleeve, are sensitive to gender equality as they have
witnessed famous hippy culture, feminist movements and economic
progress after the devastation of world war. This generation has grown
up on the staple diet of freedom struggle stories, Ramayan &
Mahabharat, sacrifices of their parents, three decades of poverty,
government control, Hindu rate of growth and third world socialist
mindset. For them, west still remains a monopolistic capital economy
out to subjugate traditions of the East. This inherent suspicion clashes
with the modern generation, hungry to ape the West in everything
except their values, ethics and hard work.

The generation after the baby boomers is Generation X and


encompasses 20 years period from 1960 to 1981. In the Western
world, this generation had a privileged access to television while in
India and rest of the developing world; they generally missed out on
this “Idiot Box’. A progressive and well articulated generation has
contributed its might to the IT surge and taking India to the present
economic heights by their hard work. They have struggled under
licence-permit regime and tasted the success under post 90s
liberalization as first generation entrepreneurs. Gen X has been an avid
reader of printed books, fiction, literature or newspapers. Many of its
members are in industry leadership position today. They straddle ably
between the traditionalists and modern youth, are adapt to change
and have a good understanding of the technology.

Gen Y from 1982-1991 is the Millennial Generation or Generation


Next, described for their following Gen X. The generation is defined by
an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and
digital technologies. Gen Y is also referred to as the MTV Generation,
heavily influenced by the advent of MTV, F-TV and V-channel. Indian
youth is still hung up on the Roadies or splitville and similar reality
shows. The rise of different form of communication technologies, use
of the internet, email, texting, IM, YouTube and social networking sites
like Face book, MySpace, Orkut and Twitter have made this generation
more of peer-oriented than family people. This generation wants to
excel and stand out in social and professional space. Surprisingly, Gen
Y is also called a Boomerang or Peter Pan Generation due to their
penchant for delayed separation from the parents, while disagreeing
with them all the time. Harry Potter and Goosebumps or Chacha
Chaudhary is a constant reference point. The generation is a sports
freak and thus at some places, referred to as Trophy Kids. The
economic bust of late 2000 affected this generation the most, as they
were either entering or waiting to enter the start up jobs. Advent of
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300 channel DTH, neo-liberal thoughts and increasingly polarised and
charged campus life have ranged these youths against the
traditionalist as also Gen X.

The generation born in 90s and first decade of 21st century is generally
called Generation Z. In west they are also known alternatively as the
digital natives, internet generation, net generation or the new silent
generation. Most city dwellers of this generation are well connected on
net or communication devices. Digital natives like their siblings of Gen
Y work at night and are late risers, much to the consternation of the
traditionalists and baby boomers. The generation is in a hurry to attain
adulthood, fame and money, and has mostly skipped the laid back
childhood, thanks to the compressed period of learning with the new
age devices. Generations Y and Z provide India, much talked
about demographic dividend and therefore India needs to provide
better development facilities than it has done so far.

- Col (retd) KK Sharma

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