Photograph of Anil Chawla

The Cool Mean Generation

Author - Anil Chawla

Being cool and mean is the goal of young people - media, both print and audio-visual, wants us to believe. What is it to be cool? Is the desire to be cool as widespread as media would have us believe?

Nice is passÚ. It is hip 'n' happening to be reckless, profane and unapologetic about it.

Nice is boring. Today, it is politically correct to be obnoxious. The mean ones get the maximum attention.

Nice was out 10 years ago. Now winners are not really nice people. When it comes to role models, nobody today is interested in the ?nice? specimens. Frankly, Ram is out of fashion today. Laxman is, perhaps, a far better choice. Ravan has a massive fan following. 'Nice' is a victim. It is no longer a virtue." ? Prahlad Kakkar, Ad film-maker.

"I realized that I was not born nice, but I had become that way through a slow process of parental and teacher expectations, humiliation avoidance and habit. I knew that if I had become too nice, I could un-become it too", she said. Grzyb explores her own unhappy past - with excesses of niceness - and shares how she became less nice and much happier.

Many mothers recount stories of their being told by their mothers to 'be nice' because 'nice girls get married and get good things'. But today any mother who is concerned of her daughter?s survival in the society, would not give such unwise advice.

Article in The Week dated 22 March 2009

All the above gems of wisdom are quoted are from the article, Get Lost, Goodness by Jisha Krishnan published in The Week dated 22 March 2009. The article is sub-titled - "Gen Now doesn't want to be NICE, the four-letter word is boring".

So what does Gen Now want to be? They want to be cool. What does it mean to be cool? I wonder whether anyone really knows what it means considering all the contradictory advice available about becoming cool. But in general, one may sum up to say that someone who is cool should have a terrific body; should be confident, and should be dressed as per the latest fashion trends while simultaneously appearing to be uninterested in fashion and also in being cool. The right accessories of the right brands are absolute must. One obviously cannot be cool if one does not have the right brand of sunglasses. It is cool to be happy, cheerful and laughing. It is cool to hang around with friends (preferably of opposite sex), who in turn are all cool. It is cool to be seen to be drinking the right stuff. It is cool to speak the right version of American slang with obscene abusive words interspersed in a natural way. It appears that one cannot be cool without being mean and vice-versa.

About half a century ago, after the Second World War, there was a generation of flower-children, which discovered marijuana and gave birth to jazz and rock. Even this marijuana smoking bunch of hippies had a bunch of pet social and political themes that they liked to talk about - anti-war sentiment was a favorite. The slogan was "Love not War". Non-conformism of that generation talked of free love. They talked of freedom. The generation had its own bunch of thinkers who defined freedom and made it intellectually respectable. Women's Lib became fashionable during that era. Human rights received attention. The expression "politically correct" became popular due to sensitivity of the generation to other cultures and people with different social / cultural / historical background.

A hippy

The marijuana-smoking hippies were na´ve and too simplistic in outlook. But they had hope. They believed that they could save the world. The optimism of the flower-children generation slowly turned into pessimism and cynicism. Present generation teenagers of the developed world (mainly USA) have inherited cynicism and nihilism, which have gone deep into their psyche. This is a generation for whom there was no church, no moral teachers, no parental guidance, and no social values. The only values that they could relate to were provided by advertisements which told them to emulate some sexy model or the other. For them being sexy has become the ultimate objective of life. For them nothing is important except their own body, their appearance, their fun and their own life. Passion is a dirty word for them. They do not fall in love. They get into (and with the same speed get out of) cool relationships.

USA's biggest export during the past half-a-century or so is neither aircraft nor guns, but it is the cynical-nihilistic-anarchical no-hang-ups (some call it devoid of ethical and moral considerations) perspective on life. The spread of this mindset takes place through books, films, internet and every other media. One should also count in the important role that pornography industry plays in this. Educated English-speaking people have been more susceptible to this anti-cultural export from USA.

India has not remained untouched from the American export. Understandably, the cities that are more 'developed' have been more affected than the poor countryside cousins. Among the metros, Mumbai is the worst afflicted, with Bangalore and Delhi coming a close second. It is easy to find hordes of young persons in the affected cities, who despise everything Indian. They read the latest bestsellers as per some US magazine?s pronouncement. They see the latest Hollywood film as soon as it is released. They dance to the tune of the same rock music which is rocking across night clubs and cafes in USA. This is the cool, mean, time-pass generation, which drinks beer / cocktails, utters the f*** word in every other sentence and cracks jokes on everything and everyone.

They do things to pass time or to have fun. Any serious, passionate involvement is not appreciated, or shall we say, is not cool. They criticize Indian roads, Indian traffic, Indian trains, Indian politicians and even Indian food (too oily, too spicy, too down-market). But, they will not lift even a finger to help anyone, whether it is the country or the city or their relative or their neighbour. Why get into hassles? They will do anything for money. Tell them to do something for free and you can be sure of being ridiculed. They have time to dance away madly till they fall, but have no time to take an aging relative to hospital.

The irony is that this bunch of guys and gals considers themselves as intellectually and emotionally superior to the poor countryside folks, who speak English with a regional accent, do not know how to use cosmetics the right way, do not read the latest junk books, and do actually waste their life on such things like family, society and country.

In any interaction between the two sets of people - cool guys vis-Ó-vis the 'country' types, aggression and arrogance of the former come out. They look down upon all those who are not as cool as they are. It is considered as smartness to fool and ridicule anyone who is not as mean as the cool ones are. Shockingly, the ridiculing of good-natured helpfulness has been institutionalized by some TV channels in the form of 'bakra' programs, where an unsuspecting simpleton is asked for some help and when he / she tries to help out of kindness, he / she is ridiculed.

Advertisement for MTV Bakra program

In the cool mean world, kindness is a dirty word. This is the 'danav' culture, where it is smart to grab by all means, without any hang-ups about right or wrong. The cool ones laugh at the stupidity of the 'dev' types, who give away out of kindness, compassion and such human feelings. For the cool 'danavs', personal sacrifice, devotion, submission and love are nothing but signs of either stupidity or emotional sickness. They believe in taking advantage, making fun, and having fun without any obligation or commitment.

This so-called 'cool' behavior can be extremely painful for anyone who believes in traditional 'dev' values of humanity, love, compassion, kindness etc. May no parents have a son / daughter who has turned 'cool'! A cool mean spouse can be a nightmare. A mother / father who turns mean can be a horror for the children. Of course, the damage that the cool and mean ones do to the social fiber is immense.

When I read Jisha Krishnan's article (referred at the beginning) I was horrified. I wondered if the present generation of India, really doesn't want to be nice; do all of them really want to turn bad, mean, selfish, bitchy, reckless, vulgar, obnoxious and profane. Fortunately, the answer is a clear and undisputed No. While the number of cool mean guys and gals is growing, they surely do not count as a majority of the youth of India. Unless you are living in a rich locality in Mumbai, Bangalore or Delhi, you can look around and see that the cool guys and gals are far outnumbered by the cultured, family-oriented, well-behaved, nice boys and girls.

The media, both print and audio-visual, sadly, glorify the degenerate crowd. Films, television programs, and all the super-wise utterances by the glamorous folks seem to convey the impression that modern life is valueless and ethics-less. Advertisements promote a cool lifestyle. It is understandable that many young are falling prey to the grand carpet bombing of propaganda. Yet, there is no need to despair. The roots of 'dev' culture and values run deep in India. There is certainly a need to fight the anti-culture forces, but we can be sure that the 'dev' forces will win and 'danav' forces will lose. In ancient Sanskrit texts they put it as SATYAMEV JAYATE (Truth alone will win).

17 April 2009

Please write to me your comments about the above article.

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer (and now a lawyer too) by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.

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