Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Skipping over bits and pieces

As someone working in the teething advertising industry in Mongolia, I get tasked to do a lot of thinking about Mongolians and their attitude towards and perception of various items from money, smartphone usage, drinking habits, attitude towards friendship etc. Y&R Asia along with its regional network offices carries out a survey of some 30,000 people from all around Asia, called GenerationAsia, that brings about some very interesting insights about the new generation of Asians.

Mongolia is not yet included in the GenAsia  report, but will soon be. In the meantime, I refer to the findings of the report and sit around thinking if the same applies to Mongolians. Do the youth in Mongolia place as much importance on their passions as those in Shanghai or Tokyo? Certainly the world has become a much smaller, a lot more uniform place than it used to be. Mongolia is not some exotic nomadic and isolated country where deel-clad people ride around on horses drunk on fermented horse milk anymore. We are a country where deel-clad people ride in Hummers and Priuses, drunk on  fermented horse milk and locally-brewed beer, all the while taking selfies and welfies on unlocked iPhone6's.  Mind you, thanks to the new, much stricter traffic law introduced by the Government on September 1st, we should hopefully see a sharp decline in drink-driving. And jaywalking, which, really, is no different from walking in Mongolia at the moment. I digress. I am left wondering if the world has become a more boring place because of technology. The elements of surprise and spontaneity are denied to us thanks to our modern constantly-connected lifestyles. Everything is too accessible, too connected, to the extent that there are people somewhere in the world connecting their toasters to their Wi-Fi's, and those who are probably reading about it on their Twitter-feed reading microwaves. This leads us back to the question: are we as passionate? The answer is probably pretty obvious. Having a passion is probably the same across all human cultures. The question is whether Mongolians live in a society where pursuing one's passion is possible, encouraged or feasible. Perhaps it has to do with the various developmental stages a society has to go through before the pursuit of passion and happiness become the obvious thing to do, i.e. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. As the theory goes, one must go from the bottom up, i.e. satisfy the basic needs before we focus on those higher up. We are somewhere at the bottom and should be more worried about the physiological and safety needs. We, as a society, are not even half-way up the pyramid of needs yet.

However, for the young and urban Mongolians, their needs are quite different. As individuals, they are heading up the pyramid of needs towards esteem and perhaps, for some, self-actualization. This is, in large part, due to the rise of technology that made the world a smaller place. Technology makes, sometimes deceptively, goals seem more possible. We feel like we know more, because Google does. We feel like we could know everything, if we wanted to, and had reception on our devices. Knowledge has become an external thing that we access when required, and not something that necessarily needs to be internalized. Why know anything, when you could know everything.
I guess the point, if there ever was one, I am trying to make is that we have skipped over the fundamental bits of progress. Mainly because progress has become too fast.

I was watching the news the other day, which already indicates the age group to which I belong. 33,000 graduates will soon be competing for 10,000 jobs. We have produced too many lawyers and not enough school and kindergarten teachers, too many economists and businessmen and not enough civil engineers and child psychologists.

The image included above is of a famous Communist era painting that was proudly captioned "Skipping capitalism, straight to socialism", an iconic image for most Mongolians of my generation. The same image still applies to us today. It could represent the discord and disconnection between the left-behinds and the go-forwards of our society. Or it could represent our unquenchable desire to walk hand-in-hand with progress, leaping over the necessary developmental stages, whatever the consequences.