State and People: Age Demography and Issues of Inequalities

Source: CFFN.ca | Archived Version January 09, 2008

Solution to problems of injustices in a society starts with an awareness of the need of its people and the dynamics of interaction between its demographic segments. Because every person in a society is an embodiment of a body and spirit, fulfillment of both physical and spiritual (i.e. energy of mind related to consciousness and happiness) need of a person should be considered when finding lasting solutions to societal problems. Treating an individual individually, however, makes the problem of finding the solution extremely complex. In this pursuit, it is useful to assume that people of different age, abilities and aspirations make up unique demographic layers possessing broadly understandable and collective needs. Consequently, it should be possible to develop endeavors of social transformation and prosperity could be built differently for different demographic layers so that their unique beliefs, values and knowledge could be respected and utilized. The dream of building a prosperous and egalitarian society would come to fruition when all groups could successfully adapt to the changing dynamics of local circumstances and that of the world, to emerging vision of a new society, and to the availability of internal resources.


 

Children

The most potent builders of tomorrow – the children – are also the most vulnerable people of today. They are important not only for themselves but also for the generation that holds its sway in the country today. What children know and what they value could be largely influenced by subjecting them into positive human experiences. Children get immensely affected by their natural surrounding and, at the same time, they are most adaptive to new situations compared to anyone else. Their own responsibilities are far and a few and they are more prone to be conditioned by their surroundings.

Behavioral researchers have established that children learn to trust or mistrust by the age of one and a half years; experience autonomy or shame by the age of three and a half; and take initiative or experience guilt by the age of 6. Until this age they only learn from society. But from then on to just before reaching teen, they learn to either the industry or the inferiority. Then during the adolescent years a person either finds his or her role in the society or begins to experience role confusion. They then learn to relate to the society through peer groups.

However, at present these children only appear to be having insatiable needs and drain on the treasury of a household and the treasury of a nation. But whether or not the society could fulfill their physiological and cognitive needs depends on the psychological, philosophical, intellectual and monetary capacity available in the society. Unfortunately, in present Nepal, such opportunities are not available to all children and neither does a will among the wealthy and successful to correct this. The generous spirit of the elites of Nepal has died since the segregation of their children from the poor through the introduction of so called “boarding schools.” The irony of the fact is that every policy maker in Nepal dreams of rapid progress but is unwilling to sacrifice the special lot built for the children of people like them to build a fair and equitable system for all children of Nepal.

Studies point that treating everyone equally without recognizing inherent inequalities ends up perpetuating inequality. Extension to this is that just opening schools and saying that every citizen has equal rights to enroll in those schools would not treat all children fairly. But in reality, substantive physical and emotional care is required from early on for producing children with great potential for building the future of a society. Therefore, one giant step towards building a just and inclusive society begins with raising children in an environment where they experience inclusion, equality, respect, love, sharing and industry. For this to happen need of children must be children must be looked after since the time they still reside in their mothers’ womb and needs of parents incapable of providing for their children must be looked after by the society for that purpose. All undertakings must recognize the interconnectedness of the poverty, exclusion and suffering of a child with those of adults who look after them.

Young Adults

They are the dreamers of a future society where anything is possible to build. They are eager for change and willing to do anything to bring that change, and they love to be able to make their own decisions. They want opportunities for everyone to participate in nation building: whether in education, in politics or in economic activities. They are hungry for knowledge an experience on one hand and the acceptance and intimacy on the other. And they want to master the art of being able to stand independently and to build their capacity to contribute towards the continuance of the society. Money, material, and glamour are either highly important or not important at all to the people of this group.

The greatest care the society should give in creating of an environment where these people would experience minimal isolation and maximal intimacy. They would find maximal self-worth in being able to learn new skills, compete and carve a role in the society and in the endeavors of livelihood and prosperity. Trades skills, higher education, and any exploration of new frontiers would build the self-worth of this group.

This group can be best served by a leadership at grassroots level who can understand higher philosophies and policies and formulate programs and actions that can engage them in learning new knowledge and skills. They must constantly be able to experience that what they are doing today will make their life better than the one lived by their predecessors. The tools and techniques they are using are better than those used in the past. And, they are now part of a system that has built-in feature for continuous monitoring and improvement, which is an indicator of progress, prosperity and optimism.

Generative Adults

They play a role of builders and sustainers of the systems and the society. They are concerned with how to meet physical necessities of self and the dependents and how to secure their own future wellbeing. Their pride is primarily derived from the product of their reproduction and wealth or progress generated from their own perseverance. Their self-esteem would be hurt in presence of stagnation.

This group of population can derive self satisfaction through one or more positive happenings from among being able to give better opportunities to their children compared to themselves, in augmenting personal wealth, in augmenting personal status, progress in work and multitudes of other factors. To engage this generation in a creative work, give a sense of stewardship of the society, and an ability to maintain the livelihood of the self and the family would be paramount for strengthening the sense of their positive self-perceptions.

In a country like Nepal, where a vast population lives under poverty and mostly in rural agricultural setting, tremendous sense of empowerment could be built by demonstrating that they could improve their livelihood by organizing the human, material and natural resources available in their own communities. Improved livelihood could have come from enhancements in any possible fronts such as agriculture, health, sanitation, and improved trade of goods or services. The essence here is that these are not one time endeavors but one that could be achieved and improved upon year after year through the mobilization of available internal resources. They must feel that they themselves have the power to improve their own destiny.

Elderly

On one hand, elderly people begin to develop increasingly higher level of dependency on others for their functioning. On the other hand, they carry increasingly larger volume of knowledge, experience, and wisdom to be worthy consultants for the younger generation. They have learnt to tolerate social differences, injustices and would stand for retaining old values and dislike changes made in their comfort zone. Therefore, this demographic layer poses the greatest resistance against the reforming gender, caste and cultural hierarchies practiced institutionally or through entrenched informal networks, behavioral norms and expectations. Small indicators would have profound impact on them, and, for that reason, they prefer small and incremental changes and oppose large social transformations.

By this age many would have derived pleasure from their past endeavors and begun to experience the integrity of their self-esteem. Whereas there would be a big block of others beginning to experience despair due to reasons of declining health, declining mobility, declining life prospects, and other experiences of failures. Similarly, by now, each of them would have established their role in the society either as a leader or a follower.

The easiest way to give sense of empowerment to this population may be in giving voice and in finding ways by which individuals could continue finding appropriate role in the family, community and social surroundings through which they could develop positive internal self-perception. They should also feel assured that their role would be rewarded with fulfillment of their physical necessities and emotional needs.

Summary

A successful country should always develop four sets of plans, policies and programs to address the unique need and harness the unique potential of its children, young adult, adult, and the elderly people. When programs and policies are intoned to the dynamics of the demographic needs of the concerned people, their success are highly likely.

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