Thursday, August 8, 2013

Open Letter to Parents

Disclaimer: This is a rant. It's not coherent. The sentences are too long. I'm not going to try making it coherent. You have been warned.


I want to address this to parents who have achieved a definite degree of what we term as success in our society, who have worked hard to achieve it, who started out small, who struggled a lot and were able to secure a financially stable upbringing for their children. Some of you made it overseas; others made it big where you were but now you want your kids to carry on with your upward growth curve and make it big.

First: thank you for doing what was needed. Your efforts have borne fruit. Now, you might be expecting your kids to continue on the same graph.. to go ahead, break more boundaries, get even more financial success, a more secured future. To take your legacy forward.

But for some of you, you might find the same drive missing in your children. You might be hurt and confused if they are having other priorities (or none that matter in your opinion). You might even take it as a threat to your legacy or to their own well-being. Or you may have noticed it coming and arrested those tendencies early on in your kids' childhoods, taken the reigns over their post-school lives and made sure they studied hard and scored well, applied to this entrance exam in time, filled in their admissions at so and so place properly, kept daily checks on them even when they were away from home (before: phone, now: Skype) , made sure they "keep it up" (what??).

Some of you might have slipped a little in doing this over the years, seen your ward drifting, and might now be regretting it, but now attacking with renewed enthusiasm. Push, push, push. Some of you might be giving wise advice to your friends regarding their kids who have "slipped".

See, what led you along your path of successful job, profession, career, was the need for it: need for security because you didn't have it, because conditions were dire when you were little; because you were living in a world of scarcity. Out of that need, the push to earn more money was created.

When you set out, you had this Prime Directive in your mind : you do not want to see your children in the same dire situation you were in, you do not want to see them have to struggle in their lives the way you had to. Let's hold on to this thought, we'll come back to it at the end.

What you did not comprehend was that if the causal factor that pushed you is now missing from your children's lives (scarcity), then there is going to be nothing to push your kids to strive as hard as you did for earning money. So, taking a frank audit of reality, your kids, or maybe just one of them, might actually entertain thoughts about not struggling for the next higher levels of earning, or may consider changing tracks and chasing something other than money.

And that is not even wrong. Your kids have what is needed because you provided it. It's done, Sam. There's a very good chance that with the way things are and with your co-operation, they might continue to have those basic needs met without needing to struggle very hard for it. Heck, the situation might be such that you've managed to earn enough, and you do not spend as much, to ensure a basic subsistence for them for a very long time. With a few wise investments in the current system and a few conservative way-of-life decisions, they might even be ensured indefinite subsistence. The goals you set out for have been met.

It is only nature's practical way to try to ensure that your kids don't have anything pushing them to accumulate even more, because that will cross the line between need and greed. If you try to intervene here, then you are messing around with nature… messing with reality.

--------# REALITY #---------
Coming to reality: Many parents from this demographic that I know are sorely out of touch with it. If you watch the news on TV or read the paper daily, then I'm sorry but you are living in a distorted, propaganda-choked, semi-real world. A world full of sound and fury, which keeps you occupied but signifies nothing.

Many of you may still have your gaze set on the West... well, like the star-gazers, you're looking at the past. Your demographic, thanks to its economic trajectory, lost touch with the on-the-ground-situations in the countrysides and were also not entrenched in the circles of the elites of the economy. So there's a big chance that you do not know about what's really happening in the world right now either from bottom-up or from top-down. You may have no clue how extensively the media, the governments, the militaries and the industrialists are all in cahoots. Some of you think that what you see on TV or the big screen is a reflection of real life (because you've heard that shit-box say it to you over and over again).. you never traced the profit motives working behind these mirages, you never checked how they influence real life rather than being influenced by it.

If you do not know the details of what has happened in the global financial sector since the Lehmann brothers collapse, if you're unaware of the inner nature of the fixes that were adopted, then you really should abandon all assumptions of knowing about economics anymore. Likewise in agriculture, mining, environment, oceans and several sectors. There's major differences between a fix that lasts 5 years, one that lasts 50 years, and a fix that lasts forever.

Your kids, on the other hand, having taken to the web medium while growing up, might, out of sheer undirected curiosity (if you ever allowed for such time in their daily lives, that is), have scraped past the mainstream curtain and taken a peek at reality. If you were worried about your kids getting access to sex scenes on the net, well, newsflash, there's things much, much more disruptive lurking in the dark corners of the net that your kids and their peers are being exposed to: the truth. The devil in the details. All of them. If they tried telling any of this to you, you'll probably dismiss whatever they're saying; you'll trust your peers and the TV more because that's where the comfort zone lies, and they'll be way too out-of-sync from the TV to be telling you any truth.

Your truths, your assumptions, may not match what your kids are aware of now. Please note here that I am not using the cliched "you have your truths, i have my truths" generalization. The fatal mistake when we talk that way is that somehow your truths will still remain perfectly valid as long as we all stick to the same old ways of life, as if there's some protective barrier separating your truths from my truths. They're not, and they won't. Your truths are the soon-to-be past. They were based on certain assumptions which are now falling apart. And no, it's not the same scenario as when you were in your twenties and you had disagreements with your parents and it's all a neverending cycle, blah blah blah. I may have been born after you but I wasn't born yesterday, OK?

Pollution is piling up and the toxics are covering the last mile.
Cheap oil is.. have you kept track of fuel prices lately? Cheap food is.. duh?
Gender roles: not the same anymore, and I prefer seeing women demanding to be treated as human beings for a change, thank you very much. Many of you moan about the loss of convenience from not having a full-time slave around anymore to care for the family (aka you), and you associate that with the “loss of values” in society. So much for respecting the elders.

Value of degree education : what happened when cameras went from prized analog possessions of a few to being there in almost everyone's mobiles? The college degree was an artefact of scarcity : its value was always derived less from what was educated in it (and your work career confirms it) and more from how many people did not have it. Did you honestly expect the value/status of these all-critical degrees to remain the same as more and more people joined the bandwagon? The only reason degrees and the associated torture inflicted on youth to get them have ANY significance today is because of people like you associating a fake significance to it, and people like you have hiring powers. Your mental blocks are wasting precious years of thousands of people.

Sex ratio of boys and girls (again, your generation and half a generation before you started the female foeticides, and today it's the sections of society living the same and better lifestyles as you, who are practicing it the most and inspiring everyone else to follow suit, remember that) is a demographic disaster that only strikes you as long as you're busy bride-hunting for your son. Parallel with that, sexual abuse has spread everywhere, strengthened by the shadows of secrecy mandated by the everyday life that has been your truth.

These trends have been going in one steady direction : not in a cycle.

Global warming, climate change is hitting home. The Himalayan glaciers weren't disappearing this way when you were teenaged, and didn't come back again and start disappearing again now. The water tables have fallen. They didn't fall when you were 20 and then rise back again while you were in your career and now falling again 3-4 decades later when you're retiring. Sorry boss, no natural cycle there. The statement that I keep hearing from you people again and again : "oh these things have been happening all the time" -- is at best a lie and at worst a reflection of your slowly degrading IQ levels. The world is not the same, and it’s not going through any regular cycles magically synchronized with your life cycle.

More importantly, it's going through some dramatic changes. Too bad they didn't happen during your youth days. Get over it.

That new truths are emerging, everything is changing... is supposed to be a good thing. The paradigms that reigned during your prime years are now falling apart and being exposed for what they really were. They may have served you well and lasted through your generation, but they were never designed to last forever. We're talking about the end of certain eras right now : cheap oil, centralized control, limited access to info, agriculture on steroids.. a lot of things. As a normal human you would welcome these changes. But as a parent, their ramifications can scare you, because the one thing that you've spent a lifetime earning: security and control over life, might no longer be the way it used to be, if you accepted these changes in their full spirit. The most comfortable thing for you, then, is to stubbornly remain out of touch with reality. What you’re not seeing is that your opinions are collectively having real life consequences and are prolonging the problems.

-------------# REALITY # end of this part #---------

So what are many of you doing? Well, you're "guiding" your kids to ignore the reality emerging around them, to stay the course you've set for them which you're absolutely convinced is for their own good. To fullfill their obligations as your heirs. Any friend's kid deviates and you must either use every emotional tool available to convince the deviant to revert back to the bandwagon, or he/she must be branded a failure and cease being of any significance in your world-view. After all, treating them with any respect may just encourage your own (by now over 18) child to think freely and "neglect" the family responsibilities (which consist primarily of your expectations and secondarily of everything that has come out of toeing along with those expectations).

Want to do something for the world? Cite the financial and social stability requirements, as if you haven't earned a penny the last 30 years and you're all back in that cramped room you once shared with 8 other people. Ever did a cost-benefit analysis of exactly how much money you need to have in the family bank account for the "financial stability" criterion to be met? Chances are you've already met it. But you'd rather upgrade the standard of living or send the kid off on a wholly non-cost-effective but highly respected nevertheless fake degree course, hollowing out that security money (later referred to as "investment" and “progress”), and then rely on the kid to earn enough to keep the family propped up. Create the need when it didn't need to exist and now if the kid dithers, flash up the "responsibility towards the family" card.

You tell your kids to wait untill they're retired or use the weekends to do the stuff that their heart (still connected with the rest of existence) beckons them to do... while conveniently sidestepping 4 crucial realities:
a) With work culture changes your kid has to put in double the hours you worked to earn at the same level, hence has no free time.
b) By the time your kid retires, either the issues beckoning them will have been fixed, or more likely it will be too late and there won't be anything left to fix : the arrow of time does not customize itself to anybody's retirement plans.
c) You're pushing your kids to slog for and achieve something whose value might not hold any more meaning once the transitions shaking up our world have run their course.
d) Carrying on with the status quo entails a pantheon of lifestyle related illnesses and social emergencies that are slated to befall your kids and their families, AFTER your death, which will suck out whatever financial security they've managed to muster.

But by the time that reckoning happens, you'll be dead so no one's going to blame you. You may feel secure having your family in the top 10~20% of our population financially, but have you bothered to consider if there will be any shred of society left once the remaining 90~80% can no longer afford to feed themselves? Will your financial security give you any protection if what's being predicted by the realities of today does come to pass? For you who spent a lifetime chasing security, is there ANY kind of real long term planning you are doing for it? You planned very well for the world of yesterday. What about tomorrow? Your being out of touch with reality defeats the very thing you've spent a lifetime striving for.

I'm going to be honest here: Parents who still heap physically unnecessary expectations on their children, who have lost track of reality and are stuck in the same loops, I honestly do not see the worth of having to reinvent the wheel for you, of having to stay stuck in your reality for you. You played a very important role in bringing your kids to a stage where they have the luxury of stepping back and analysing the situation at hand. But the expectations you've fostered along the way are defeating that; it's like a natural self-cancellation mechanism; a cruel joke played by fate.

Now the scene is coming to an end and your part is done. By staying on and insisting for the same roles to be played again by your kids, you are harming the rest of the play : you are stopping it from moving on to the next act. You have been important, but your part is done. It's over. Get off the stage. There are other roles available for you to take and I have seen many other parents like you decide to move on, take them up and they are doing very happily. But most of you can't see them; for you they're losers and their kids are losers.

To the "kids": the logical conclusion is as painful as it is clear. We love our parents. But we also owe our allegiance to the planet we were born on. This planet is your mother too and all the organisms on it your brethren. If carrying on with your parents' expectations entails being part of the problem that you're so aware of, if it means ignoring the reality around you, and if you really, really want to embrace and be involved with your reality rather than ignoring it, then whichever way you choose, you will have to get rid of your parents.

(I thought about softening that with adding "in our hearts and heads" or other lovey-dovey crap but no, I don't want to soften it. That is implicit.)

Honestly, I'd like to have a poll of all the people who are in the success bandwagons and who have well-off folks : How many people in this world would discontinue being part of the "machine" that's messing the planet, if they no longer had any expectations on their shoulders to carry out?
If tomorrow morning, you woke up to find out that your parents had passed away peacefully in their sleep and in their will had signed over their legacy to you but also removed any kind of expectations from you of maintaining it, plus left clear instructions to follow whatever your heart tells you, and left  you with enough basic savings to support you & family to get off your job and start doing the things you WANT to do, how many of you would continue with the soul-destroying jobs you have to currently put up with? However your current way of life is, with all burdens removed, how many of you would gladly transition to a more humble, more connected way of living? If nobody expected anything from you, and your daily needs were met, what would you do?

Parents, please find out the answer to that question. And now let's come back to that thought I'd asked to hold :
You do not want to see your children in the same dire situation you were in, you do not want to see them have to struggle in their lives the way you had to.

So why, through your expectations, are you making them struggle more than you had to when you now have the chance of letting them live the life that you never got to live : one in which they can follow their hearts? After coming so far along, why are you eliminating the very thing that motivated your life, why have you lost sight of your Prime Directive?

As for "why should I or my kid do anything?" well, do whatever makes you truly happy (but please do that), but honestly, tell me :

If what you know is needed to be done, can't be done by the 1% super-rich people's kids because they're spoiled out of their wits and they just don't have the values for the job;

And if it's outright cruelty to expect this from the bottom 90~80% who have to struggle just to make ends meet;

…then BACHA KAUN, Who is left??

If this article hurt you in any way, then... well, it was intended to. That's what you get for losing touch with reality and forcing your own children to follow suit.

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