Two young twenty-somethings illustrated a different facet of the generation gap by sharing a slice of life for Dalit youth in Chitwan. They told me they’d found themselves in a social circle free from the confines of caste, as many of their friends were non-Dalits and cared little for an awkward division they had no part in creating. Though many of their non-Dalit friends would admittedly avoid a parental battle by not bringing them into their homes, caste division was not their doing, and they refused to take ownership.
I thought this was beautiful. Having witnessed the pain this hierarchy inflicts, I was given hope that youth could push caste discrimination through the gap between its proprietors and assailants, toward a lonely graveyard full of shameful practices human being’s inflict on one another. But then these guys said something troubling.
They explained that it was their youth that was currently freeing them from many caste divisions, but they predicted it would change for them and their non-Dalit friends as they got married, got jobs, and got older.
Institutions as part in parcel to a common life as growing up and getting married would bring them back into the norms that inform their society, and back into the caste hierarchy. This made me think about the battles we take up in our youth, and abandon as our circles become smaller, our lives busier, and our contact zones lessened. How divisions of status, race, language and caste seem tamable in the twilight of our idealism, but rear their heads as we take up the more banal fights of adulthood.
I’d never give up the belief that future generations will be the catalysts for social change in Nepal, (and the rest of the world for that matter). But perhaps there is something to gain from acknowledging the mechanics of a generation gap, or more importantly, recognizing that there is something inherent to youth we must maintain in order to continue fighting inequality. We obviously don’t need to be young to know something is wrong or do something about it, but we do need to hold on to that part of us that’s not yet cynical enough to stop fighting.
Posted By Devin Greenleaf
Posted Aug 1st, 2007