March 16, 2010
New Generations – New Strategies
Nancy Gibbs recently wrote an article for Time magazine entitled "Generation Next”.
She analyzes how today in the USA the generation gap is not as intensely felt or as intrinsically confrontational as it was in the ‘70s. Today’s “Kids and parents dress alike, listen to the same music and fight less than previous generations.” One sentence describing nowadays’ youth – she calls them “millennials” – especially caught my attention: "They are . . . the least officially religious of any modern generation, and fully 1 in 4 has no religious affiliation at all. On the other hand, they are just as spiritual, just as likely to believe in miracles and hell and angels as earlier generations were. They pray about as much as their elders did when they were young—all of which suggests that they have not lost faith in God, only in the institutions that claim to speak for him.”
Although she doesn’t specifically mention it, I suspect that the present youths also tend to believe in reincarnation or at least be open to the concept. They are likely to have developed, through exposure to popular culture, the sense that the person and the body are different (if you think of it, the whole Avatar movie is explicitly based on the idea that the self is different from its body; and that consciousness can be transferred from a physical structure to another while maintaining identity and personality traits intact).
The data Nancy Gibbs reports impacts (or should impact) our way of thinking about propagation in a number of ways. First of all, how to propose Krishna consciousness and the Krishna consciousness movement to people who tend to shun organized religion?
(One might argue that we are so disorganized that we have nothing to worry about it – but that’s another story.)
To me the fact that these youths pray to God – even though they do it at home and not in a church – opens up a whole horizon of opportunities; if that’s what they do, we could have internet courses on how to pray at home (and what mantras they could use). We could advertize things like: “We know you believe in God but don’t believe in those who claim to speak for him… Listen to him directly; read the Bhagavad-gita.”
These young Americans might not gather in a place of worship but they seem to crave community even more than their predecessors; as Gibbs point out: “they learned to leverage technology to build community, tweeting and texting and friending . . . They are the most likely of any generation to think technology unites people rather than isolates them, that it is primarily a means of connection, not competition.”
The internet, with its incarnations, its plenary and partial expansions, seems to be the place, the forum, the context to connect with them and to inform them about the wonders of the Lord (they are already praying to Him anyway), and about the matchless gifts bhakti-yoga bestows to the practitioner.
It also appears that some of their values are very much attuned with traditional, varnasrama ideals, “Asked about their life goals, 52% say being a good parent is most important to them, followed by having a successful marriage.” We have the info on how to be the best parent one can be and we know what a really successful marriage looks like… It seems that these kids are just waiting for us.