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     Volume 4 Issue 69 | October 28, 2005 |

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Life Style

Trading Values for Money


One of the favourite topics of conversation among the older generation these days is the lack of moral fibre among young people today. We hear all about how young people are losing their values, especially their "traditional values". From the way people talk about it, they all seem to be doing drugs, having sex, and basically behaving in a beastly fashion. I am not denying that there may be some degree of truth in concerns over changing social mores, but most people are focusing so much on these particular problems that other less obvious (but in my opinion, as serious) problems are being overlooked.

For one thing, many young people today seem overly preoccupied with money. For example, they would much rather own an expensive pair of jeans than a perfectly nice and cool pair of cheaper jeans. This attitude is becoming something of a social disease among the young. But perhaps it is just a reflection of wider society around us, where the adults who have brought them up, are themselves increasingly preoccupied with the pursuit of material wealth.

The obsession with money has got quite out of hand. I met a boy a few months ago who made me aware of this. He seemed like your average boy - nothing special, thought a great deal of himself, his daddy had a great deal of money - you know the type. Anyway, he was being teased by some of his friends and could not think of smart comebacks fast enough to defend himself properly. He tried to act as though he couldn't care less about what his friends were saying, but I could see he was, bit by bit, getting increasingly angry. Then, when he could take it no longer, he suddenly snapped, "Yeah well, you all can say what you want, but at the end of the day I have enough money in just one of my bank accounts to bury you all five times, so there!"

After I heard this I was too shocked to say a word. One of his friends came up to me laughing and said, "Isn't he joss! Or mood dekso?" (Isn't he cool - have you seen his attitude?) I certainly did not think he was joss. I thought it was absolutely revolting and tacky to bring up money in such a gratuitous fashion, and around people whom he said were his friends!

My cousin also had the misfortune of meeting one of these ever-so-charming and rich teenagers, but this one was a girl. Her style of informing the world of her wealth is marginally more subtle. Whenever she buys something new, rather than taking the price tag off (as most normal people do), she leaves it attached to the item so that people know how expensive her possessions are.

But that is not all she does. In case you miss the tag, she has a back-up strategy. My cousin commented on her pencil case, saying how nice it was. The girl's answer to my cousin's praise was, "Oh yes. Well, it was five pounds you know, FIVE POUNDS! I bought it in England for 5 pounds!" Presumably this was said just in case my cousin had failed to notice the gigantic price tag still attached to the pencil case…

But even apart from this obsession with money, there are other problems facing youngsters which need to be addressed. The most serious of these is the way some young people in this country do not have any interest - or at least not much interest - in Bangla, our own culture or for that matter, anything indigenous i.e. "bideshi" is "bhalo".

In my opinion schools, even English Medium schools, should encourage their students to speak more in Bangla than any other language at least, enough to have a fluent grasp of their mother tongue. However, this is not the case. In one of the most reputable English medium schools in Dhaka, a friend of mine got into a lot of trouble with a teacher when the teacher heard her speaking in Bangla. The teacher went upto them and said, "What do you think you are doing speaking in Bengali? Don't you realise that you are in an English Medium school? What sort of example are you setting for the juniors when you speak in Bengali? No, you must speak in nothing but English if you want to make your school proud."

Now, please tell me, what sort of example are these teachers setting for students when they say things like that? Unless it is in a class (when they shouldn't be chatting anyway!), why should students not speak to each other in Bangla? And people wonder why English medium students do not speak Bangla as well as they should!

If parents want their children to know more about their culture they should not just stand back and let this disintegration take place. They should encourage their children when they listen to Bangla music, even if they don't like the fact that it is pop music. And they should try and make Bangla culture more interesting and accessible to their children.

For one thing, maybe it is better to introduce children to Bangla classical music when they are younger. And if you haven't done so, then bear in mind that the worst time to try and force anything on them is when they are teenagers. Just let them listen to the Bangla singers that they want to, as this may later lead to them listening to more serious music. Also, the Bangla music scene is both vibrant and creative, and if more parents took the time to listen to bands like Bangla or singers like Habib or Arnob, they would in fact enjoy it.

In an era of globalisation, there will inevitably be outside influences on the youth of today, wherever they live. The influences of "Coca-colonisation" from the west and Bollywood from the east are unavoidable (and are not always bad things!) so what parents must try to do is balance these outside influences with good "deshi" influences. If they succeed at this, they will have raised healthy, culturally-grounded individuals.

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