The times they are a-changin', for the worse
By Op Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-15 07:41

Times were when children considered it natural for elders to scold them in front of their friends. Times were when a son or daughter apologized to or sought forgiveness of parents even if he/she had the burning suspicion of being in the right. Times were when parents were supreme, when children loved their elders for their virtues, and ignored their follies, if they had any.

These were true of oriental societies like China and India even till a few decades ago.

And these are times when children, in general, care little for the advice of their parents, teachers or elders. These are times when children, especially in cities, know what they want immediately after reaching their teens, thanks to TV and the Internet.

These are times when parents apologize for their actions to their sons and daughters even if the children are at fault. The latest to do so, according to media reports, is a mother in Nanjing, capital of China's Jiangsu province. She scolded her 17-year-old, high-school-going son for wasting his time playing computer games with his friends. The boy ran away from home from being "embarrassed" in front of his friends. He returned after two days only after his mother, on the advice of one of his teachers, sent him a short message of apology on his cell phone.

Indeed, the times they are a-changing'. But even Bob Dylan didn't realize what the times were changing into when he wrote Come mothers and fathers / throughout the land / And don't criticize / what you can't understand / Your sons and daughters / are beyond your command / Your road is / rapidly agin' / Please get out of the new one / if you can't lend your hand / For the times they are a-changin'. The maverick that he is, Dylan dreamt of changing times to build a better society. But then he was writing in the 1960s, which were different times.

The promise and hope of the journey of those times were lost in transit as we entered the vortex of self-aggrandizement and greed. Human beings are different from other animals because they have a highly organized society. Nature has made a human child dependent on its parents for the longest period in the animal kingdom precisely because of our social structure.

On the other hand, human society has developed a mechanism to care for the aged by deigning upon their children to provide them with everything they need. But the West gave this system a silent burial a long time ago. And our blind love for everything Western is prompting us to do the same.

The Nanjing boy seems to have started that filial indifference a bit too early in his age. But then these are times of alienation, of self-centrism and non-reason. In short, these are times of the ill effects of the market. And if we make the market the supreme reason of our existence, we cannot keep out its ill effects from our lives.

E-mail: oprana@hotmail.com