Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Age Sets

When we were very young, we thought that grown ups knew everything. And they said "This is the best time of your life!" to us. We thought they had to be joking. There was early morning risings, and a search for notebooks, shoes, heaven knows what else, and fear of missing the school bus. However, as we grew older, we imagined that the world was easier for being comprehensible. One knew why people did what they did, and why they did it.
In the 21st century, things are so much more fleeting. Part of this is because the visual is much more dramatic. It is not just cinema, or advertising, or television or ipods and iphones. Things come and go quicker than we can imagine, values change rapidly, the bandwagon is different every decade. Fashions dictate, and those who are resistant to these changes in ideas or clothes are thought to be essentially outside the pale. Much of what goes as acceptable is now seen to be the driving force behind routine forms of banal disregard of common courtesies.
In an age of instant communication, we see that the  real world is constructed, it disappears and reappears, and what we know is what we are told. Truth and reality become increasingly difficult to analyse, because many worlds co-exist, and everything is finite. If the cereberal becomes the code by which these multiple realities are emblazoned, images become the aspect of unifying. If the constant image is that of change, then there is nothing to hold on to. That is why the political icon becomes the key signifier. The actual content of the image is not important, the divisive aspect is not significant, nor is the fluidity of meanings as they are released.
In this world, the young see resistance as a form of enlightenment, just as much as they see their mirror image in the key codes of assimilation. They oscillate between these, without difficulty. For their generation, having a label is the most important thing. This might be religious or secular, it may be based on caste, class, gender, race, or tribe/nation. That label then gives them the sense of self worth. Unfortunately for them, each comes with a prescriptive ideology, and at one level they receive their sense of self worth from belonging, at another level, antagonisms are set up between themselves, among themselves, because the symbols they carry irritate them into bypassing one another or confronting one another. Language can be the greatest of these divisive aspects, since it carries all the emblems of their social standing. Old people look at the young and understand that the evolution of the species depends on the transmission of core values, which include memory as a site of empathising,  as well as of distancing. The generation gap is probably the most constant aspect of changing values, and as each generation steps into the shoes of the previous one, it realises with a certain clarity how life goes on, not by imitation but by reason and generosity.

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