My dear daughters,
I am writing to you today to let you know that my generation has let you down. We have broken the social contract on decency, equality and respect.
Repeatedly, first in 2014 in India, then in 2016 in the UK and the US, and pretty much every part of the civilised world, my generation has used its political enfranchisement to endorse movements that dispense hatred as if from a vending machine. While history will judge the leaders of these movements, I do know though they picked political pugilists who used divisiveness, derision and the darkest elements of human nature to arrive at the seat of power. They unleashed fear and anger as a weapon. They made the majority feel like a marginalised force that was under threat. They used the ‘us versus them’ narrative to create Machiavellian miracles.
I want you to know that I’m sorry for falling prey to that. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be the bigger person and give a patient hearing to these voices instead of trying to outshout them. I’m sorry I closed my eyes and hoped they would fade away into the night like a mist that wasn’t supposed to be there.
Right now, I want to stop using fear, hate and anger as a weapon of public discourse. I’m not going to wait for the leaders to change it because it has to begin with me. We can choose to change the world.
As you grow up, if we haven’t moved on and we haven’t matured, I want you to talk about a unified ‘we’. Where there is hate, I want you to use empathy. Where there is anger, I want you to exercise patience. Where there is ignorance, I want you to use compassion. It’s not going to be easy, but you have to win back this world, one person at a time.
I have failed you because I never listened. Whenever I heard that people were angry, I immediately tried to ignore those voices. If that didn’t help I shouted, posted, or intellectualised their reasons and showed them to be of inferior thought. I have failed you because instead of making the situation better, I only helped polarise it further.
I know you’re thinking that there are some people whose only aim in life is to divide people, create fission in social structure and make islands of us all. You need to understand this fact that deeply – they only succeed if you let them. My generation didn’t reach out to the very people they wanted to isolate and made them feel marginalised. No one can feel neglected if you genuinely listen. Every time someone groans, don’t dismiss it but address the reason behind that groan.
It will be a long, tiring process but unfortunately, it’s your cross to carry now.
The world you’re going to inherit is incredibly fragmented. We broke it up with our frustration, our grief and our sense of entitlement. While, I promise I’m going to do my best, I suspect you’re going to have to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Begin by never letting anyone tell you that you’re different, and don’t ever believe that about anyone else either. I ask that when you grow up as a woman or as a man, as a liberal or a conservative, as a circus clown or a corporate executive, you see everyone as the same. People aren’t really that different when you get to the bottom of it. They all have the same emotions, the same insecurities and the same aspirations. Bigots seek to exploit that. Don’t let them.
I recognise it’s a huge burden to place on your four-year-old and four-month-old shoulders, but I promise to help you. A man who changed a nation once asked us to be the change we wish to be. As of today, I resolve to embody that sentiment and just hopefully, you and your world will live and breathe the idea. Forgive me for my sins, but you mustn’t suffer for mine, so this is my promise, that we’re worth saving, but we just need to believe it dearly.