In ‘Tin Fish‘, there is a wonderful speech given by the school captain, which goes (edited a bit)
…..I am not what I’d have liked to be. The school is aiming to prepare me for others. I want to be for myself. But it is growing increasingly difficult for me to prepare myself for myself as my expectations grow greater. A reformed, open-hearted school can help me. Till then, I shall stand on the beaches, look towards the sea and wait for a solution to be washed ashore.
The novel is set in a boarding school in Rajasthan, deals with peer and parental pressure, and has the chaotic politics of the 70s as the backdrop. As a late 70s born, I could identify with the book because though the cultural icons had changed (rock bands/actresses etc) societal changes seemed to have moved at a much slower pace. The value and belief systems as well as the prejudices – caste, religion, income are a part of the 80s too.
I could also identify with the above excerpt on two counts. ‘Preparing me for others’ ..the pressure to conform – on the kind of education one should have, the kind of career one chose, the kind of person one could get married to, one’s conduct with family, boss, and one’s behaviour in society in general, all had their own sets of conformity. ‘Prepare myself for myself’..when I wrote this post sometime back, I had mentioned the conformity that the blog imposes on the blogger, it is something that happens in real life too – we create an image of ourselves, consciously or more likely, sub consciously, and try to stick to it. In either case, more often than not, objectivity will be lost.
Sometime back, I also came across this wonderful piece in the New York magazine, titled ‘Say Everything’. It talks about how as the young population gets increasingly used to the net, there are many among them, for whom, sharing their ‘stuff’ online is the natural way to be, and for whom, privacy has an entirely different definition. In fact they consider the extreme caution of the earlier net generation to be narcissistic and are prepared for the implications that the shared stuff might have on their lives decades later. The author sees this as the biggest generation gap in a long time, perhaps since the hippie generation. She even wonders whether in this era of surveillance cameras and tracked card transactions, their belief that privacy is an illusion might be the sane approach. The article outlines a series of changes that are happening with this generation - “they think of themselves as having an audience, they have archived their adolescence, their skin is thicker than ours”
Now, one could say that they are conforming to an online audience (like my blog example), but as the author points out, over a period of time, will this generation, which has been growing up with the net, move towards such degrees of comfort that they are totally un-self conscious? And perhaps, to quote the extreme example used by the author, a Paris Hilton level where what could have been the worst humiliation possible, was used as a stepping stone for fame? A generation so transparent that any ‘forced’ conformity would be easily detected and would be undesired. And moving on, to use the words I had seen in a totally different context (link), would transparency be (or subsume) objectivity?
At this stage, we are of course, smack in the middle of these changes, but unlike the above generation, technology (more specifically, the web) entered our lives relatively much later. We perhaps have the baggage of not just peers/parents/society but also the ones we have created for ourselves earlier on in our lives. We might struggle to adjust, but yet we are perhaps the bridge generation, across the cultural changes wrought by the www or even liberalisation (in India). Did every generation have to play similar roles?
until next time, stage fright