Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't be too hard on the youth today ...

... they can't help being what they are. If you are a GenX'er (or even a baby boomer) who is exasperated when dealing with a junior / student / whatever who belongs to the Generation Y, you are not alone.

Some have harshly dubbed the GenYs as the Dumbest Generation who believe everything they read on the Internet and are desperate for fame that they'd do the most hideous things to get the most hits on YouTube. Narcissistic and short-sighted, they are disdained as fame whores who have little understanding of privacy of self. They come across as figjams with a massive sense of self-entitlement. But is that really what they are or are we guilty of generalisation?

As a GenXer, one should be a little more understanding, coming from a tough sell generation that has been dubbed as cynical slackers with no real ambition or impact on the world. Yeah, no doubt you had moments of wanting to yank your hair out by the roots because the dumb intern refused to write a letter / e-mail without using gibberish texting acronyms (W U?!) but once upon a time someone else had bashed their head on the desk at the sight of you as well.

Frankly, I believe that the GenYers face a great deal more challenge than we did. They are bombarded with so many messages that rivals an ADHD with no Ritalin on a sugar high. Yes, they have the advantage of technology (home PC, laptops, highspeed Internet connection, mobile phones etc), but it also means more pressure for them to stay connected, to out-perform and to be the one to be noticed in a crowd. For those who lament that this generation do not know how to take care of themselves or do the simplest chores, remember that they are the generation raised by maids and had no other job except to study and go for tuition / dance / music / art classes.

GenYers are also under pressure to excel in a terrifying way. The pressure to take more than 10 subjects for their high school exam., to score all A's, to be the best athlete, the best performer, the best writer etc etc etc is something we never had to contend with. Granted that the SPM during our time was tough enough that getting 8 A's makes you the wunderkind of the district, sometimes even at state level. Since so many people are obtaining a gazillion of A's, university entrance become extremely competitive and they have to work ever so much harder to distinguish themselves from their peers.

We can afford a childhood rife with play time, exploring our neighbourhood with friends and generally just being a child. We had little fear of strangers and except for the odd, racist fear mongering of our elders ("If you are naughty, I will sell you to the cloth merchant Bengali!") we are relatively footloose and fancy free. We didn't worry about being bullied online (our bullies prefer being up close and personal), we didn't worry (overmuch) about passing the exams, we didn't worry about the environment that we were despoiling, we didn't worry on whether the economic cake was enough for us as well and ad nauseam the worries that plague kids born after 1990.

And many of us forget that the target of our rants are just a small percentage of the population of GenY. These are the privileged, middle to upper class kids who come from two income families. We forget those who slip between the cracks, the children of the urban poor (many who turn into Mat/Minah Rempit to spend their time or relieve the pressure they face) or the rural poor who struggles because they are not equipped to face the changing economy.

So let's not be an old fart and give the kids today a break.

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