Monday, April 25, 2011

Fashions Of Our Time.

Our country is notorious in making people grow and live according to a set of predefined ideals, goals and expectations. Think about it.. most parents want to make their child either a doctor or an engineer. Most children have spent their entire childhood, youth and ambitions to become either a doctor or an engineer as their parents wanted them to be. Sad part is, most children are not even aware of it. Instead, they think (or made to think) that they really do want to be either a doctor or an engineer themselves!

This is sad not only because a country or a society need lot more other professionals than just doctors and engineers, but also because sending all the children to this big competition is guaranteed to make 99% contestants fail at it. What a waste of time, energy and spirit! Regardless of how good you are, if all the kids are pursuing the same goal, heavy majority would be doomed to fail. It's worse than our education and higher education system is geared towards making doctors and engineers only, people's minds are actually engineered and conditioned in a very narrow way.

Another way to look at it is by investigating why exactly are people trying to make their kids (or kids trying to be) either doctors or engineers only. Why really ? it's nothing else than the perceived social status and set of limited benefits! Nothing more than just showing off to the neighbors and relatives that my kid did it! There lies the root of the problem. Our society haven't still matured to a level to appreciate the need and value of all professions. Humans can't be build in stereotype models, we have unique skills and talents, things we are naturally good at. Any system which doesn't take advantage of that fact, doesn't allow kids to enhance their natural gifts and contribute to the society in the way they can do it best, is an inefficient and failed system.

Good lawyers, Accountants, Scientists, Politicians (yeah them too, specially so!), Journalists, Managers, Officers to enforce law and order, Artists, Businessmen, Entrepreneurs, underground thugs (kidding - just to make sure you are not drowsing off already!) are needed for a society and a country to grow.

However, our culture (since independence) has produced a weird result that most of professionals in other areas are where they are because they have failed to become a doctor or an engineer. With a psyche like this, how can we guarantee an able person is in charge of a certain profession, or a professional who take pride in what he engage at ?

Luckily, things have slowly started to change... pressure to pursue a career only in either medicine and/or engineering is relaxing bit by bit.... There are other fashions in this society which are not so pronounced but still dictating our choices.

There was a time most of bright minds and successful students (even engineering students!) wanted to follow CIMA for some reason. We saw batch after batch math students doing CIMA courses after their A/L exams. Why ? was it because CIMA was the best thing to do at the time to enhance their careers ? How many of those who studied CIMA those days got actually benefited or successful due to it? Again, the real reason was simple. Fashion! One has to do CIMA and pass in flying colors, that was the thing you were supposed to do. That Is What Everybody Else Do!

Aha! there we have a useful and practical definition for fashion..

There is lot more other fashions we do without really being aware of it. Putting children to international schools can be another. However, the objective of this post was to introduce or highlight a particular disastrous fashion we have a week spot on. This hasn't got as popular and as common yet (because it's more expensive and has a barrier of entry may be), so better we become aware of it now!

What would we do after getting a degree or a diploma and ready to start a career ? What is the next thing we should aim for ? What are others doing ? Well, apply for a citizenship in a developed country, right? Go some where as a student or even as a holiday maker and try to get PR eventually! How many people have we seen who has this particular goal. Why ? because (among few other things) it has also become a fashion!

Few more tips and tricks to make sure it's a fashion and nothing else. Apply the fashion test : Do parents proudly announce that their children are abroad ? YES THEY DO! just as some proudly announce their kids are either doctors/engineers. Do we see people trying extra hard to get visa's even if that means spending lot of money and so desperate that they even getting caught in scams. YES WE DO!

Being an agent to help someone migrate or secure a job abroad or a 'chance' to secure a place at a foreign university (not as a scholarship but by paying a huge amount of money, yet it's considered as a big chance),  or to advice people how to win PR in certain countries is already a lucrative business. These are all signs of established fashions. Additionally do we feel pressured to look for ways to migrate, pressure from peers, extended family etc. Do we only see those of our friends who do migrate and so getting the inclination to follow them ? That's another sign of Fashion. Fashion pressures others to follow!   

Other part of fashion is that there are loads of people who have burnt there fingers by blind following of the dream of the day. Unfortunately this section of the population is not visible at the height of the fashion, no one pays attention to them when all we we want is to cherish the dream forward. They become apparent only when we awake from the dream. like when we count casualties after a battle. Take Gold Quest or Sakvithi scams for example.

Now, do we see casualties of the today's fashion to go abroad, study abroad, live abroad dream ? Sadly we do. Take the cases of thousands of youth spending millions of their parents money in so called universities in UK, AUS etc trying to live the dream of studying abroad. Their parents may be boasting at home, however numbers of those returning after loosing everything is in steady increase. Turned out that those stories about abundant part time jobs to fun their education are slightly exaggerated! so do stories about automatic PR, posh jobs after graduations etc..  Just the tip of the iceburg.

We are not saying all those who migrate are just doing a foolish act or we shouldn't try to do so because it's a fashion. What we are saying is there are enough number of people who just want to do so because others are doing. There are parents who like to see their kids abroad because neighbors and relatives are boasting about theirs. It's been considered as the next mark of success. Kind of a milestone in life. Like, getting the degree, marrying, build a house.

If we take a decision not by looking at whether that is the best thing for us and whether that is the right thing to do, but automatically because of others are doing (because that's the thing to do! EVERYBODY ELSE IS DOING IT) it, then chances are such decisions may bring us failures more often than they bring us successes. That's the only point we are trying to make here. It can be useful to mindful about whether we are taking a decision because it is the Fashion or because of sound reasons.

Sometimes societies are blind to their own fashion! We as a country are notorious on this! We are such great blind followers, such fashion maniacs that it is almost a religion to us! There was a time going to middle east for work was a fashion. Bringing in Cassette Recorders, DVDs and stuff you really don't need but was needed to showing off to your neighbors was so important. Thanks to few nails that particular fashion may be  coming to an end now....

So, beware of the next!

Those who were following the Interactive Blogging 1 and Interactive Blogging 2 - Why people Leave Lanka will notice that we may have just covered yet another reason why people try so hard to leave. Some of other more sane reasons were discussed in that series of posts and in their comments.

What do you think.. What are the other fashions in this society that we could list down in here...... ?

(Image source :


  1. Great topic Ashoka!

    I think that following a fashion is not limited to Sri Lankans, but is a common feature of any human society. If you look at how people dressed 20 years ago, that would be very different from what we have now. That is so for any country I would imagine. Also look at things like texting. People like to do what others are doing and what is considered 'cool'. Peer-pressure too might play a role.

    However, I do not completely agree with you that people try to be doctors or engineers just because it is the fashion. I think people try to get into a profession which pays the most and which has the most social respect. If you ask yourself the question, who has an guaranteed job, who appears to be rich, and who appears to command more respect from the society, those professions would come up at the top (at least when we were young).

    However, I think what is sad is that there is a lot of hypocrisy among Sri Lankans. If you ask a first-year medical student he/she will say that they are going to be doctors because they want to serve people. I would be surprised if that would be the real case. On the other hand, if you ask a US medical student the same question, they will say that it is a profession where one can earn a lot of money. So I think we really have to be honest with ourselves when we answer that question.

    My view is that people try to earn the most money they can, and I don't see anything wrong with that. In fact, a country's economy will only grow if the people earn more money, so that they can spend more.

    So I think that most of the trends you have pointed out as fashions are not really that, but steps taken to earn more money. A US doctor earns at least $150,000 a year. Comparatively, a Sri Lankan doctor earns about $7000 per year. Believe me that the US cost of living is not 10 times higher than in SL! A brand new car is around $20,000 here (Rs. 20 lakhs). So given the opportunity, do you think a Sri Lankan doctor would refuse that??

    Looking ahead, I think we should teach our kids to be honest and should provide them opportunities to find out what is out there. Then they will be able to make a good informed carrier choice.

  2. Kalu, I have nothing against people trying to be doctors and engineers. There is absolutely nothing wrong in money making ambitions too.

    It's about why they try ONLY to be one of those two professions and nothing else ? If you look carefully, you will note doctors and engineers are not the only fields which can make money nowadays.

    They are also not the only professions which give an opportunity for one to do a service or have influence, gain power, get attention etc..

    If we think being a doctor or an engineer is required for having social status, that is the problem. Ideally in a progressive (or just sane) society, any profession should have respect and anybody who excel in his field should have status. A country needs good scientists, mathematicians and artists too. Some of those fields are more challenging and may offer more opportunities as well. Therefore, if all children try to become doctors and engineers first and follow other professions only if they fail at the first is just insane, ineffective, unnecessary and waste of effort.

    What I wanted to highlight is some of decisions/choice our society (or the current generation) is having are not based on good reasoning but on some outdated narrow thinking of past. They need to changed and updated.

    Also, blind following of fashions is harmful for any society since fashion is not based on good judgment or not designed to suit equally well for all.

  3. Kalu, forgot to mention, 100% agreement with the last point in your comment. Yes, parents should allow and facilitate kids to choose what they like and pursue them instead of pushing kids to become either a doctor or an engineer at all cost. This was a point I was trying to make too.


I would love to hear your views...