The Real World

The time has come for us adults to tell our youngsters what the real world is exactly like, that we can no longer maintain a two-faced reality – the adult and the children’s world

By Dr Rajagopal Soondron

“The education of a child starts 9 months before its birth.” Was its Napoleon Bonaparte who said that?

This simple sentence, pregnant with meaning, will make most Mauritians of the old generation feel small in their shoes; we should have kept quiet. For if there is someone to be blamed because of the recent SC results, then we’ll have to bear that brunt.

Since the beginning of time our ancestors communicated only verbally with their buddies, to convey or to extract information from others, for survival’s sake. This personal contact might have triggered our cognitive faculty and perhaps to help the blossoming of our intelligence during thousands of years, the very same intelligence which has finally spurred us to create the new language – 0.1 of electronics. Nowadays we proudly pass it on to our children without properly gauging the advantages and disadvantages. And suddenly the youngsters discovered that they could access all the information they want at the touch of a button, without having to talk or communicate with another human being.

Is the reverse of thousands of years of evolution taking place? The youngsters’ grey cells are in a limbo, not knowing how to react when personal human contact is cut off.

Our Responsibility

Are we surprised that out of 18,000 candidates who sat for SC, only some 3000 got more than 3 credits? We the elders expected their minds to be like ours, we who had known poverty and social challenges. We who always knew that life and the universe are constantly changing and dynamic, with nothing permanent, could not conceive that there would come a day when that thousand years old personal human relationship and interaction would change drastically overnight.

We naively believed that if we give the new generation everything freely – schooling, transport, exam fees, food – then we would establish a nice environment conducive to produce geniuses out of our children. We are totally disappointed.

In our enthusiasm to pamper our children we had forgotten the great historian Arnold Toynbee’s concept of “Challenge and Response” — the advantages of adversity — that he dealt so well within his book ‘A Study of History’. Typified by Japan and Germany which, so humiliated and devastated after the World War II, yet rose from the ashes.

Our 50s and 60s generations, exposed to the hardship and poverty of their time responded positively in many ways. But nowadays we are putting a golden spoon in our children’s mouth and we expect them to reason and react as the elders did previously. We expect their grey cells to navigate in the same neuronal pathways as ours – without them having experienced the challenges of adversity. Are we naïve? It’s as if electronics has suddenly put a brake to biological evolution, sending it into a different direction – where the brain cells are somnolent and non-reactive.

Long ago there was a world for adults and one for the youngsters, for it was the belief of the parents that they must protect the psyche of their children by not revealing the hardship and ugliness of the adult world, to make them believe that life is a bed of roses, to tell them that babies were brought in by some stork flying by, to make Santa Claus a real godfather.

That protection worked as long as the youngsters did not know what was really happening in the adult world – where there were opium dens for adult addicts only. But nowadays there is an amalgamation of these two worlds. Adults are peddling drugs to children and adolescents who, through their mobile, are discovering a totally hard, ugly and cruel adult world.

We adults were not prepared for that change. This scenario is no good to encourage our youngsters to think or to struggle for their very survival. They already have all their answers on the modern social media. This mentality is epitomized by the young married men in New York who are joining a vasectomy club: they undergo vasectomies so as not to have children! This is a burden for them. Is it a form of fatalism in the young generation?

It looks as if the time has come for us adults to tell our youngsters what the real world is exactly like, that we can no longer maintain a two-faced reality – the adult and the children’s world. As adults we must educate ourselves as to our responsibility and how to deal and approach the new challenges of our information loaded youth. It will befall us to think how will their immature mind take all the hard truths out there. Our task is becoming more complicated, so much so that some of us will feel lost.

How can we allow our youngsters to continue using their social media, their mobile and tablet judiciously – so that they also can discover therein some challenges and adversities that will keep stimulating their curiosity, their dormant “elan vital”, so that the grey cells that we have transmitted to them do not atrophy? They must not believe that personal relationship is becoming obsolete.

Our Good Faith

Our presence on this blue marble is a testimony to our capacity to adapt to changing rules and adversities. By analogy, suddenly we discover that there is something called Coronavirus, which is sending a wave of panic globally, courtesy the western media. Some 50 years ago we would have said that this virus is the concern of China only. Not nowadays; people travel freely from one place to another, there is dissemination of the same virus overnight – and our immune system is facing a new challenge which it has never experienced before. Similarly, our youngsters’ mind has a new challenge from electronics: they have to learn to adapt — yet again.

See the number of sordid crimes being committed in our country – on very close relatives at that – while at the same time every year we make such a glorious show of our religious fervour. Soon the youngsters’ mind will be saturated with such anti-social behaviour, and start to look upon it as a ‘new normal’ socially.

And what about the behaviour of our drivers on our road? How they are so rude if you happen to protest against their unethical manoeuvres while driving? How some just stop their car on the curve near a shop to go in to buy his cigarettes, never mind obstructing the flow of traffic!

Competent health authorities keep warning us about the toxic fast food, yet all the food courts in malls are doing brisk business. Parents find it natural to disregard good advice. Do we expect our youngsters not to be confused in the face of this double standard? Or is it that adult behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg of our social problems, one of which is the failure rate at SC level? There is a feeling that in our free society we have come to a crossroads, where there is a totally new generation completely out of phase with the old generation.

We have a new society coming up with new social problems we have never dreamt of.

The solution is to find a way to make electronics and social media more challenging, more apt to stimulate the grey cells of our youngsters, making them to react as we reacted decades ago in the face of adversity and challenges. But that will be the job of experts – sociologists, psychologists and educationists – who must ponder and suggest solutions.

Can we elders discover a new way to make our world and life more interesting, more challenging and magical for our youngsters?

Let’s not blame them – even we adults were not prepared to face the world we created when we discovered atomic energy and exploded the first atomic bomb. Similarly, we go on inventing all sorts of exciting gadgets – but we never know what their backlash will be on our children’s psyche.

As adults who are part of this transition, we now have to learn to help the adolescents to adapt.

That’s our job – before the birth of the next child in 9 months’ time.

* Published in print edition on 7 February 2020

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