The birth of a new year is a time of rejoicing, of drink and dance, of fireworks, of endless wishes, of resolutions and maybe the odd wistfulness of a year gone by. It is also a moment to reflect on the passage of time - of years whizzing by. I was prompted by this brilliant article in the FT to muse on what sort of a world are we leaving for the young - for it is they who shall inherit the earth.
It is the fond wish of every parent to care and provide for his children. Yet collectively, humanity seems to be doing the opposite. How can it be that a powerful motive for the self, disappears when it comes to the whole ?
December was an awful month for the young. The shooting of school children in Newton, Connecticut and the rape and death of a young lady in Delhi would have shocked the most hardened of souls. But those awful incidents have to stand by the side of equally awful things we do to the young
Many children under the age of 5 die. Its a shame on humankind that 19000 children under the age of five die every day, largely from preventable causes, and my own country India, is the top contributor. I don't even want to guess the number of children we enslave, prostitute and kill. We are unable as a race to send 70 million children to school. We discriminate against the girl child in all sorts of ways and shoot the brave Malala, all because she wanted an education. In some countries, mainly the US, we have made the cost of college education so prohibitive that every student passing out starts life with a staggering amount of debt on her back.
All countries in the world are on a borrowing binge and leave the debt to be picked up by future generations. Every nation. including China, has a mountain of debt. We would individually cringe at leaving a debt for our child instead of a house, but as a collective nation, our sense of responsibility seems to have deadened.We all want fat pensions, but do not want to pay for it and are very happy to leave that liability unfunded for our children to bear. In many countries in the developed world, we offer no chance of employment for the young - we want to protect our jobs and make it impossible for anybody to fire us, but are happy to not even give an opportunity of a job to our children.
We debunk the theory of global warming because it does not suit us. We do not care much for the environment and are happy to leave the world a littered and polluted place. We do not even want to begin action on climate change. We exploit every fossil fuel that we can , knowing that very soon they would run out - that's a problem for our children to deal with. We deplete ground water in my country at such an alarming rate that very soon the next generation will fight wars over water. The less said about the number of trees we leave for our children, the better.
Our families are no longer the rock on which the young can grow on. Joint families have given way to nuclear families. Nuclear families are giving way to single parents. Many of us are far too busy running our lives. Our time, the most precious commodity for a child is, alas, is short supply. What has happened to the values, the most precious gift we can give our young. Not one of us, in my country, stops at a red light unless a policeman is watching - and sometimes not even then. We teach the next generation by example, it is OK to do virtually anything as long as you don't get caught.
What has my generation come to. What do we do the many things we do, for ? Aren't we interested in how history will judge us by - aren't we afraid that we will be looked at with contempt by future generations.
Forgive us Lord for we know not what we do. And show us the way, for we are lost.