“Using your dad’s tool” is a phrase that sounds rather incestuously pornographic, but that’s the phrase that keeps resurfacing in my brain whenever I think about the bunch of kids I meet these days. Let me clarify here. By kids I mean anyone more than two years younger than me. A little more descriptive verbiage here: sheltered, clueless, yuppie, spoilt brats. Nope! I don’t hate 'em. Not in the least bit. However, they belong to a class of people almost completely alien to me, which is surprising, since exactly four years ago, I stood exactly where they are standing now, and I remember myself very differently.
Actually come to think of it, I didn’t stand exactly where they are standing. Things were a lot different. “Back in my day” is another phrase one doesn’t really feel comfortable using at 21, but hell, back in my day 21 year olds didn’t seem all that different. They seemed pretty much on the same platform as us guys.
The short break that I just took to go to the toilet has shifted my focus a bit. Apologies. I shall return to the kids and us in a moment.
There is a story by Isaac Asimov, which describes a world of the future where all calculations are done by machines. Technology has evolved to the point where humans do not need to compute at all. In such a world a man who is able to calculate by hand becomes a novelty. It’s an amazing story. But thinking about it now gives me a slightly different angle on it. Let me expound with an analogy:
There is another story, a well known one, called Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. Now this book was not written in the ‘90s. Let us for a moment assume (it’s a far fetched assumption, but bear with me, I shall attempt to elaborate) that Mr. Michael Crichton did not live in present times, but was born as a dinosaur in the Jurassic period. Let us also assume that this twist of fate did not rob him of any of his literary abilities. Let us say he wrote Jurassic Park in the Jurassic period. Now the question I wish to pose is this: What would be the reaction of J. Random Dinosaur be, to this fantastic novel written by the Crichtonosaurus?
I assume it would be something of the order of “Ha Ha! This saurus is brilliant! He actually hypothesizes that dinosaurs will cease to exist in a mere sixty five million years. Where do these author lizards get their ideas from? What imagination!”
This sounds reasonable when one looks at the reaction of a present day human to Asimov’s story about the calculating man.
It is inconceivable to people that what they hold to be basic axioms of existence, will change.
This brings me back to the discussion of kids and us.
When we were kids (that would be around the time we left home for college), we left home with the knowledge that we were stepping out into the big bad world, where we would be required to perform trapeze acts without a safety net.
Therefore, it became necessary for us to learn, in any way possible, the fundamentals of survival in a big bad world where people get their jollies out of watching other people fall.
We knew that if there was real trouble, we might be bailed out, but the price would be steep. And then again there was the drive to prove ourselves.
I shall choose three keywords from this little homily about ‘us’.
We, since we were learning survival for ourselves, had to work our way up from the basics. Therefore, we naturally attach a lot of importance to fundamentals. Fundamentals, “life ke funde”, the basic truths.
E.g. Rule #1: Don’t get into it if you cannot get out.
Rule #2: Cash is always an issue. Don’t believe anyone who says it isn’t.
Rule #3: Your best pal is going to be the one to inform your parents about your love life, so if you want to keep it a secret, forget it, it’s impossible.
Rule #4: A closed mouth gathers no foot.
And so forth.
Kids today have no real need for this sort of rule book. They come from backgrounds which have been created by people who made up these rules, and then provided a cushioned layer on top of them to protect their future generations from the harshness of life. That’s what I mean by “using your dad’s tool”.
When we see these children, we see children because we know the underlying realities of life, upon which society stands. We see young people unequipped to handle the world that we handled and (immodestly) conquered.
We see kids who don’t know the fundamentals of life.
I suppose we must take into account the fact that kids today have a completely different set of basics. We forget that the basics we learnt have formed this new set of basics.
I suppose that’s how the concerns of society have evolved from “Where’s my next meal coming from” to “Is 40 GB really enough space for a hard drive?”
Safety nets were something we learnt to do without. Hence our actions were somewhat limited by fear. Those of us who have succeeded and will continue to succeed are the ones who are daring enough to perform crazy stunts despite the lack of a safety net.
Possibly, the generations above us would yell out loud at this heresy. Their justifiable anger would be based on their claim that they did provide us a safety net.
But this stems from the fact that they possibly had even less of one. Again, evolution.
What is scary about this evolutionary trend is the visible effect it has on drive.
The jump that our parents managed was immense, given the platforms they had. The best of us will just about reach that magnitude of jump with great difficulty. It is a different matter that a jump proportional to the one our parents took would land us in heights which are too dizzying to imagine.
However, it is increasingly obvious that the closer you are to the sky, the more vision you need to realize that there is in fact outer space beyond the blue.
I remember having this conversation with my father, before I left home.
The topic of discussion was: Why is it that the most successful of people come from the most impoverished backgrounds?
Dad’s theory was that people, who come from poor/uneducated/violent backgrounds, have nowhere else to go but up. This struck me as a very accurate account of things.
What one needs to do in order to move up in life is to be dissatisfied with the current state of things. The problem is, the higher you start, the more difficult it is to believe that you can do better.
That’s the ‘trouble’ with modern kids. They have it all. Why would they ever want to do more? I know from personal experience what kind of effort it has taken me to create an atmosphere around me that breeds dissatisfaction. A modern kid living at home would have a hell of a lot of trouble managing the same.
What would be interesting to see is the amount of achievement a modern dissatisfied kid could manage.
I think I’m going to teach my kids the following:
3) The art of being dissatisfied.
I’ll leave the rest to them.