Art only begins when you are full.
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Is Gen Y (Why) Any Different?

Udayakumar Nalinasekaren
Dec 21, 2010

Generation YDoes Generation 'Why' really question with a deeper understanding and conviction? I set myself to think after reading this insightful blog by Vineet Nayar.

I grew up and live in India. In my childhood, I was told not to cross the line that was set by an elderly person, typically a grand parent or for that matter anyone from that age group in the community. These 'clad in brilliant white from head to toe' people literally had the last word even if they were stupid. Experience (read Age) was valued like a treasure. The punishments for crossing the line were severe. Even making a statement of acknowledgement after an elderly person spoke was considered impertinent behavior.

I then grew up to be a teen-age person. My parents, as most other parents who must have felt very suppressed by the previous generation, relaxed a bit. When I used to question foolish tradition followed at home without any thinking, they understood and gave way. When the awareness for science and it's explanations began to increase, one could even question the existence of God (albeit only with some parents who wanted to support reason) and get away with it.

India took its first steps to economic liberation just around the time I became a parent. Whatever my generation saw abroad and dreamt of consuming in India suddenly started becoming available. The world started showing up in the Indian living room. The current generation 'Why' started their earthly journey somewhere in this time frame. My children saw me questioning my parents about the merits of saving as compared to merits of spending to enable growth of  the economy. As the intensity of our questioning increased, our tolerance to questions from the younger generation increased as well. Otherwise we would have become unsustainable hypocrites.

Then came the digital boom which empowered the younger generation relatively faster, as they became teen aged people. The empowerment to learn, form relationships, play and live differently was phenomenal. Apart from parents who understood better, E-mail at work was the first vehicle for the priveleged few. Cellphones with texting was the next vehicle. Facebook is a recent phenomenon.

Gen 'Why' is who they are because the tolerance levels for their questions went up, combined with Internet and new communication medium jointly enabling more awareness and connectedness in their peer group.

No doubt, the new generation is empowered with technology and information. However, my experience is that abundance of anything has as much potential as scarcity does to drive innovation, enterprising behavior, horizontal thinking and sometimes other socially unwelcome behavior. As in any generation, I find that only a percentage of the Gen 'Why' people have the right attitude to pull the right levers and launch themselves into the right orbit. A majority of others are drifting in herd mentality. Some are spending time in soul searching activities and confuse themselves ever more with the abundance of information and relationship connects around them. There are lost souls here as well. What is fundamentally required is the committment to personal change, to become better equipped to deal with ones own life and to take responsibility for others. Carpe Diem!

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