By Rabab Khan
Back when we were still in our teens, the favorite term to bandy around to explain why we could never get along with our parents was ‘generation gap’. And seemingly, this is exactly how things had worked for generations before that. Some of us had pre-partition parents, some had post partition parents. Those with post partition parents would have a different story to tell about their parent-child differences. Those with pre-partition parents… well, they weren’t too well off either. The point here, however, is that while each succeeding and preceding generation would have a different tale to tell, every story would center around how the times had changed – how life was more unsure, how the parents were old fashioned, or how the children were just not equipped to deal with a harder life.
This isn’t to say that things have changed. In fact, far from that, they are as alike as they ever were. Generation Z, or the Millennial generation, lives in a world no different from that of Generation X and Y. What has changed, unfortunately, is the tradition of labeling everything with the ‘generation gap’ excuse. Today, because things are so volatile and every few years brings about a new change, people aren’t as comfortable throwing around a term like that anymore. Not least because seeing people only a mere three or two years younger than themselves makes folks feel old. The concept, however, has not changed.
Today’s generation is growing up in a different Pakistan, and definitely in a different Islamabad, than the generation that grew up in the 90s – not very different from how the generation growing up in the 80s grew up in a radically different time than its successor. So much so that this might even be called one of those classical changes that the turn of almost every decade brings to this country. The carefree 60s of bellbottoms and late night serenades gave way to the liberating 70s of social and political awareness. And the 70s, in turn, gave way to the 80s which birthed the sectarian and the mullah culture courtesy of General Zia. Unfortunately, the downward spiral continues as the 90s were synonymous with both political and economic instability and the turn of the millennium brought about what has been perhaps one of the worst decades – Pakistan has definitely seen better.
The young folks entering their twenties or their teens today are going to be growing up to a radically differentPakistanthan what we grew up in. In these past ten years, we as a nation, have not only become obscenely desensitized but we have also, by and large, forgotten how to think for ourselves. The youth today either does not care about what is happening around them or can only be bothered about watching out for their own backs. This is not the 90s and this is definitely not the 60s when students took to the streets and the poor came out en masse when sugar prices rose by a mere fraction. The present is all about watching out for yourself and yourself only. This generation is content living in its comfort zone and as long as you leave it in its own little world, it’ll leave you, and everything else around it, to its own vices.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t really mean that this little world that generation Z is building around itself is any more pleasant than the real world that it seems to be running away from. If you’re growing up today then chances are that you’re either more afraid going out than you are of staying home alone or you’ve grown to not really care about what happens to yourself because, frankly, who’s safe today anyways. And if you’re not really afraid for yourself then there are certainly at least 10 other people fretting about you and, not very surprisingly, you don’t really care. What is even more unfortunate than this is the fact that the increased connectivity that the last decade has brought has only served to depersonalize these human relationships even more – with interactions as detailed as a tweet or a Facebook status change or a wall post being a healthy sign of friendship.
The only positive that can be taken away from all this is that whilst things are taking a definite downturn, the humor of rustic irony remains. Not fifteen years ago, I would have looked with the same disdain at this wall of text that today’s youth will now.