“You can understand how today’s kids are on track to become a powerhouse generation, full of technology planners, community shapers, institution builders, and world leaders, perhaps destined to dominate the twenty-first century like today’s fading and ennobled G.I. Generation dominated the twentieth.”
– Neil Howe and William Strauss, “Millennials Rising”.
This generation unlike any other known in living memory has come to face an explosion of ideas, thoughts and knowledge, combined with the speed of networks and communication. While living in the current binding it has a wide range of ideas and information to choose from. A book which was previously unavailable in India, due to its contents leading it to be banned, can now be read online using just a small technology. The fullest extent of the technological stretch is yet to be felt across the globe equally. The chasm of information and knowledge which was created by our colonial masters is now being slowly bridged together. Cultural relativism has now become a thing not limited to the books and the coffee tables of the intellectuals but rather a common man’s thought. A rational and wise person will not go around calling out a Dalit in public place rather, he will judge the person on the basis of other factors, such as how he presents himself and how well read he is.
The millennials, that being us, have been given access to information at a minimal cost. Something which was unimaginable back in the times of our fathers. My father, for instance, had not heard of “Time” magazine till he was into his late 30s. Even the prospect of coming to Delhi for higher education was something he only thought of in his dreams. And now just after a generation, his son can think of going to the States for higher studies. The keys of the globe were given to us at a very young age. Very few of us have rather decided to utilise this new tool. I can sit down and read Foucault while listening to Scott Joplin’s “The Cascades” without paying a dime or moving from my laptop. Are we using this gifts to satiate our narcissist hunger? Or has that become the new cultural identity that will be imposed on our generation? Our parent’s generation saw a lot of political upheavals, from Bengal to Assam to Kashmir, what we have come to see is a more of a cultural change.
One of the primary things anthropologists do when they encounter a previously undiscovered culture is that they try to understand its various customs and traditions. Which I believe the white man forgot to do when he was busy conquering the world. Something so ancient might seem insignificant but over the years of studying history, you realise the importance of how a culture was brought into the circulation of the “civilisation”.
Have you seen how when you turn off the light, the plasma is still hot enough to leave an afterglow? This is the cultural hangover that we are unknowingly facing. We forget the fact that different cultures lead to different methods of upbringing and exposure that lead to different attributes in their personality. The perceived uncouthness of a person from Kanpur and the tehzeeb of a Lucknow guy is primarily due to the kind of atmosphere they have been exposed to since birth. So will you not accept him for how he talks, or will you try to understand why he behaves as how he behaves? This is why cultural relativism is so important.
“I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” —Orson Scott Card
The millennials today face a dilemma. Something that is not outrightly spoken about but is felt in the electricity of the atmosphere. This fork of the road is very simple. People have forgotten the idea of identity being not so stringent. The multiplicity of the identity of an individual comes about even when you don’t necessarily ask for it. It is something inherent to human behaviour — how we might not like a certain idea for its practically rather for its beauty as an ideology. We have begun to fight, verbally and physically, over matters which we don’t exactly comprehend.
Of the many people who are termed as Right radicals, you can actually count the number of people who know the history of Capitalism and its proponents, yet the Left-liberals will tag the title of Right radicals to every individual who does not agree with their thoughts. The Left with its ideal of living in its safe spaces and not giving a platform to the Right is also a problem. The Left with all its knowledge and propagation of truth still fails to explain why its hung up on the beauties and failures of the past.
Having said all this, you ask yourself, are these problems something inherent to human beings? If so then has to have such a plethora of information at our fingertips made us incapable of judgement between a morally right or wrong decision? Can an animal be so much more important than another that we could kill them? Does that not contradict the sentience of being of the “important” animal?
The question of identity which looms over us when someone asks us on which side of the political spectrum do we lean on is actually redundant. In the present day, an identity might range from being a postmodernist to a neo-liberal to agnostic. No one identity holds a person’s thought together. Will we restrict ourselves to the limited ideas of the political activists who would prefer you be within the frame of the Left or Right, as it is easier for them then to appropriate your identity? It is very simple because calling a postmodern artist a dissident would not make sense unless they want to label art as a form of violent call-to-arms.
We might have forgotten the importance of this age, the age when information is not limited to a chosen few, rather the masses. An age where we can have an enlightened mass, yet we chose not to indulge our intellectual ideas into discovering the modern society and philosophy and argue over matters which is clearly a tool for political mobilisation.