As a trained economist seeking her doctoral degree in organization behavior from a developing country that is brimming with young talent, I might speak as I see from my colored lenses. Shedding more light on the resource constraint and the psychological impact it can have on the young minds which can be a product of a society, an economy that nurtures the notion of the survival of the fittest. To explain this, I might have to step back a little and recollect the memories of a small town where I was born and raised. At a first glance it would seem quite self-sufficient and reliant producing a homogenous set of children that attain similar education, etiquette, mannerisms for the dream jobs of their nurturers that are again no different from each other. Being ambitious is a no brainer; perhaps not even a choice for a few of us as we have seen our seniors reaping the best out of their limited means.
Most of us grow emoting the older ones we interact with them in our lives – our parents, siblings, neighbors. As we step outside our house, we get under the influence of our teachers, friends and by default tend to imitate and imbibe what they do, sometimes with our intuitions and sometimes without it. But soon as we develop some rationale and try to question the need of every act we perform or are supposed to, many get acquainted with their rebel alter- ego. Well, this can seem appealing to one-self but for-sure not to others who have different expectations from us. As a growing individual we learn several traits and can be no less than thankful to our elders who coach us to master them. Be it something as basic as reading, writing or any form of art and sports, majority of us learn it from someone who has aced it and probably an experienced person.
The world has come a long way now. The evolution has helped the mankind in learning more from their predecessors and be more considerate of what is to be passed on to the next generation. When some of my counterparts argue that humans have become more selfish and try to put their self-interests before others; I come out with my notion that it has always been the norm. But long gone are the cruel days of imperialism and people around are more kind, at least appearing so unlike our forefathers who were more obvious and employed brutal ways in getting their job done (not to mention the mutinies and wars). However, I do resonate with the conspiracy theories about the older capitalists trying to subtly gain favor in every forum and being myopic in achieving their aim.
The youth today is at a standpoint from which they must unleash themselves in a trajectory while leaving a promising tomorrow before they depart from this world. It all lies on the young people today to not let the greed and immorality percolate ahead in the next generation. The problems of aging world can be challenging to tackle but not something that can be escaped. The problems and their solutions must be investigated. A simple way can be picking up a cause that is close to one’s heart and trying to find and answer to it. I believe with every next 50 years or so new set of problems will arise which will need the people to engage in new discussions to find impactful and long-lasting solutions for them. Young thinkers and innovators like Greta Thunberg and Boyan Slat respectively are in their quest of finding solutions to the issue of Global Warming inspiring several others to engage in such causes that serves meaning to them.
Coming back to the question of how it feels to be young in an aging world. While it gives rise to a pessimistic view of nothing lasts forever and make hay while the sun shines and to be as opportunistic as possible; It also shakes our conscience when we encounter people fighting with the miseries around us. Under these circumstances one must argue what is the best course of action to take? How can we keep a check on our integrity and uniqueness and not loose ourselves in the big fight that has been put up?
I believe as an individual, a youth must be able to strike a balance between how much to give and how much to take and listen. We can be our unique self in having deep conversations with ourselves and not just being deluded with what opinions and suggestions others have for us. While living in a collectivistic culture a young individual like me learns the value of sharing and caring but also at the same time I must know when to take onus of my actions and when to say no. It is a dilemma for many of us living in such a society which asks us to be responsible enough but also questions the authenticity and viability of any idea that we come out with. Its indeed a tricky situation on how to put forward our viewpoint specially in front of our teachers and guardians without prodding them. It might give rise to a phenomenon where most of us learn to become tactful and manipulative and deploy some Machiavellian technique whether in family or outside at the place of work. One needs to draw a thin line between being polite and assertive.
Growing up in a middle-class family in India and having an opinion and even worse trying to give a solution for every question posed makes you a rebel in the eyes of others without even your realization of it. As I was dropped to the only railway station of our district to reach my college that lay miles ahead, I remember my father showing me a massive crowd for a national level entrance test.
“Look at the unemployment in our country?” he grunted.
“As if I was responsible for the unemployment in my country!” I thought to myself.
He clearly dissed me for choosing an offbeat stream of education over a conventional one that could have guaranteed me a secured job despite of me not having skills and motivation to learn the same. But indeed, it did strike to me as an economist that these are the real questions, I need to seek answers for and most of it circles around the issues that the youth face today who is supposed to compete for limited resources and quench their near to infinite wants.
As I quizzed many young people (some younger and while some older than me) on how they feel to be young in this aging world and if they feel that there is a lot of pressure on them to prove their worth, many came up with this common answer that all they do is visualize their future. Every action they perform is to lessen the uncertainty of the future and making it more promising. This also makes them more mindful of their choices and the repercussions they can have while making those choices by getting away with any information asymmetry. This made me realize that most of the young people live in the future unlike their older counterparts whose thoughts are flooded with their nostalgic past. There is hardly any enlightened soul that lives in the present no matter how many mindfulness sessions and therapies they pursue. With persistent thinking of the future, the young minds are consumed by the pessimistic thoughts of the uncertainties, fearing the risk involved in the decisions they take for themselves and sometimes for others they care for. By the time they have a solid career and think of starting a family most of them turn cynic, some even giving up on something that they deeply longed for.
To add to this dilemma the constant seeks for validation both in real and virtual world have added to the paranoia to the existing fear for uncertainty. The youth today has got too much of information at their disposal leading to overloaded circuits, making them preoccupied and lessening their attentive capability and making them more forgetful than before. This has also given rise to attention deficit trait, that can be controlled by engineering one’s environment and one’s emotional and physical health unlike attention deficit disorder which is more severe. (Edward Hallowell, 2005). The ongoing conflict with oneself and others lead to psychological distress. Most of them specially those of the impressionable age tend to find comfort in cheap thrills leading to addiction of all kinds even internet thanks to the social media.
Unlike individualistic societies the decision making in a large collectivistic society is a group effort where the individual is not just solicited but sometimes coaxed to make choices against his or her will. For instance, in India students make conscious decision choices in terms of their career whether to go for a conventional form of education fetching them a degree and a secured job or being more of a gambler to pursue something they know they can ace despite of the resource constraint. Unfortunately, not many are guided well and get lost in the rat race. India has highest youth suicide rate and being the most common reason of death among age group 15-29 and 15-39 years. On an average 28 student lives are lost every day with the suicide rate being slightly more than one student per hour Lancet (year 2012). Age standardized suicide rate among men is higher than that of women as per WHO in India which is 25.8 to 16.4, respectively. (WHO,2012). According to Mrugesh Vaishnav, President of the Indian Psychiatric Society, Stress, anxiety disorder, depression and personality disorders result in mental illness driving a student towards suicide. This happens when the students are not familiar or satisfied with his or her surroundings, besides, relationship breakdown is another leading cause. (The Hindu, Jan 2020)
In US as well, the youth suicide rate has increased threefold in the last 50 years although the highest youth suicides happen in Lithuania followed by Ecuador and Chile. (Insider Monkey, Jan 26, 2017). While the settings and scenarios will be different in the case of an individualistic country but overall, this is majorly due to financial and emotional distress coupled with the undue pressure to outperform. As we progress, we see individuals with varied aims making conscious choices and some young married couples are also choosing not to have children to fulfil their other wants.
The rising competition specially in developing countries has also led to brain drain. It makes risk averse individual pursue those opportunities that are way more promising than their homeland’s. While this has led to attraction of good talent for the desired role it has also given rise to the fear of xenophobia and alien race. The recent movement of Black Lives Matter throws light on the incident that there is still irrational fear and hatred that fuels racism. All these can be traced to the constraint people face daily that lead them to contest for the scarce resources blurred by preferences for their own kind (race or countrymen).
I believe the young people at least the millennials like me are quite blessed to see it all – the old rustic days of the no internet era of the late 80s and 90s to the current days where every information is at our disposal at matter of one click. We indeed have seen the best and probably the worst and trying to paddle through the new normal amidst the pandemic. What we can do is relish the gift of the past for a good long time which is no doubt the biggest advantage of being young. To be able to reap the benefits more than the generation who has been responsible in providing those gifts and pass on a better although an irreversible aging world that can sustain and nurture the youth of tomorrow.
Overloaded circuits: Why smart people underperform, Harvard Business Review Press, Edward Hallowell, 2005
Gender differentials and state variations in suicide deaths in India: The Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2016″. Lancet. 1 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
Suicide Rates – Data by country. World Health Organization 2012. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
Student suicides rising, 28 lives lost every day, Shuvabrata Garai, The Hindu, Jan 29, 2020.
10 Countries with The Highest Youth Suicide Rates In The World, TY Haqqi, Insider Monkey, Jan 26, 2017