On the road- another generation…and another world

Jack Kerouac, in his autobiographical novel ‘On the road’, depicts the wander lust and defiance of a long gone generation. This novel stands for everything about the Beat generation- the bohemian hedonism, non conformism, anti-materialism, spontaneity…. All these attributes later formed the seed of the hippie counter culture of the seventies.

Dean, ‘the holy conman with the shining mind,’ is on a road trip with the protagonist Sal. In the front seat of their hired car, there is a regular couple who is sharing the fare with them for a short distance. Dean talks about them:

‘Now you just dig them in front. They have worries, they’re counting the miles, they are thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they’ll get there- and all the time they’ll get there any way, you see. But they need to worry and betray time with urgencies false and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls really won’t be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found it they assume facial expressions to fit and go with it, which is, you see, unhappiness, and all the time it all flies by them and they know it and that too worries them no end.’

I couldn’t help thinking. Every young generation (in a very loose sense of the word) has role ideals of it’s own. For a generation a few decades back it was about questioning everything, experimenting with drugs, floating around like cotton wisps and a fierce commitment to non-commitment. In the east this draft of air only affected certain areas and certain sub populations.

For us the role model around 50 years ago was an edifice of sacrifice. He goes down in flames- for others, for society. Then came the angry young man of the 70s. The innately good person who raises voices against injustice selflessly. Some times he does bad things but only because the end justified the means. Then our role models started to retreat into himself. First it was the happy middle class person who only wants a good job and a good love story in his life. After that he didn’t even need the job any more. He wanted only love.

What is the religion of the youth now? Who is the role model?

I think it is the self made millionaire. He can have a pick of anything in the world. The ‘good’ life. Cool cars. Nice outfits. Beautiful resorts. Private jets. Yachts. A certain non-commitment regarding political issues. A hidden disbelief in a distinction between smartness and callousness.

So when I look back from here to that polar opposite of the world mentioned in ‘On the road,’ I feel like peeping into another planet…


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