Back then, the focus was more on ‘being,’ but today it’s all about ‘having.’ “ This is how a friend’s mother summed up the difference between her generation and ours. It isn’t uncommon for people of her age to get nostalgic about ‘the good old days.’ But what she said struck a deep chord somewhere and also set me thinking.Not long ago, youth symbolised hope, passion, rebellion, idealism and the desire to make a difference. Career choices were not driven by security; instead people just followed their instincts and dabbled in art, theatre, social work and more such offbeat professions. Career was not a mere means of earning livelihood but was more a mode of self-expression.
Ideas are passé now. As a spunky nineteen-year-old puts it, “What ideas? Who has the time to sit back and think? We have so much to do.”
Today youngsters get an adrenaline rush chasing fat pay packets, swanky cars, chic designer apparel and slinky gizmos. Career choices depend upon what they offer in material terms and in terms of upward social mobility. How else would one explain lakhs of management aspirants across the country making a beeline for the coveted Common Admission Test (CAT) every year? Or, for that matter, mushrooming of countless management education institutes even in the moffusil backwaters. It is not as if these people dreamt of becoming professional managers right from their childhood or are in the reckoning out of sheer love for the profession. Isn’t it obvious that they are lured by the moolah and the perks that come with the job?
The rat race does not quite end even after one has entered the profession. It’s almost the done thing to switch jobs often in search of ‘greener pastures.’ Ask any human resource professional in the industry and he’ll tell you how one of the biggest challenges before them is ‘how to retain employees and counter the high attrition rates.’
But this hunger for ‘having’ and ‘acquiring’ is simply insatiable. The fat pay packet often comes at a heavy price. Round the clock schedules and meeting deadlines take their toll on youngsters, who burnout due to excessive stress even before they touch thirty. What else can one attribute the skyrocketing popularity of spiritual gurus, alternative modes of healing, art of living and even pop philosophy books to. The likes of Deepak Chopra and Paulo Coehlo are cashing in on this ‘death of ideas.’ Isn’t it sad that the market manufactures even our spiritual beliefs and ideas? That only goes to show that actions without ideas don’t go very far.
It won’t do us any harm once in a while to pause and think: where are we headed? No doubt, it is important to be grounded in reality but if we continue the way we are, soon enough, we may lose our youth to cynicism, even despair.
Emma Goldman’s words come to mind. She said, “Idealists…foolish enough to throw caution to the winds…have advanced mankind and enriched the world.”