Sunday, June 5, 2011

The legacy of Generation X

When you reach a certain age, you start to think of the legacy that you wish to leave behind. What would you like to be known for ? What would history judge you by ? Generation X , to which I belong, is the post baby boomer generation in the Western world. The generation of transition from Mao to modern China in the Middle Kingdom. The generation that came of age post the Indo-Pak-China wars in India. Our best years may have gone by, but we are young enough to still influence our legacy. So what would history judge us as ?

Alas, my conclusion has to be that of a wasteful generation. A generation that went on a binge and is leaving a debt to its children. Every major country in the world is saddled with mounting public debt, created because we of Generation X wanted instant gratification, but were not prepared to pay for it. Be it health, or pensions, we wanted it all, but are leaving the bills to be paid for by our children. Alas.

We were wasteful also with the environment. More than any other generation, we have done our best to ignore the consequences of our action on the environment. We wanted our comforts but are leaving the clean up to later generations.

Despite given the great opportunity by the baby boomers , who preceded us, we have not been able to abolish war. Or even limit it. Human conflicts continue as ever before - just in a different part of the world. Cambodia, Congo, Afghanistan - the list is as depressing as ever. 

We've also, I am afraid presided over a gradual degradation of values. True we have made some remarkable progress in some fields - we are much more equal at this point in time than at any previous point in history. But overall, moral turpitude is on the ascendancy in a meteoric way.  The word greed, has perhaps taken an altogether new meaning in our time.

We've also not really put our might behind advancement of human knowledge.  No great breakthroughs in science. Yes, lots of incremental improvements, but nothing that would make us stand out in history. Worse, we went backwards in some fields - notably in space science.

Not all is bad however. We do have some accomplishments to our credit. The greatest of them all  has to be the communications revolution, especially the internet, which is nothing short of magic. We've also shrunk the world - we've brought countries and peoples together. More people have visited and experienced other cultures than ever before. We perhaps can claim some credit for the onset of globalisation - maybe one day we will transform into a truly global oneness.

But overall, the report card doesn't look too good. B minus at best. We can improve; there's still time. Maybe move the needle to a B or even a B plus. Improve our legacy to our children. It would be a crying shame if, at the end, our generation would have lived in vain. And didn't leave it a much better place than when we inherited it.