Ever felt you are in a rat race from the moment you were born? Are your kids also inadvertently sucked into the rat race?
The race to get into a school, score marks, get into a good college, win accolades in college, get a good job, buy a car, buy a house, get married and live a blissful rich retired life – all this while poking your kids and then grandkids to also win this race. Sometimes when you sit and look back, you realise that life has slipped out of your hands – like trying to hold sand in a firm grip. Its like being on a treadmill – running and running but getting nowhere.
We mistake happiness for all things material and think we can find permanent happiness in a degree or a job or marriage; it is much later on that many of us realise that happiness is ever transient, a moving target – we can never truly be always happy – there is no ‘happily ever after.’ And imagine a revolution happening for ‘being still” or for moving out of the rat race.
That’s what is precisely happening among the youth in China – to much chagrin of the Govt, there is a huge social media revolution where the youth are protesting their disillusionment with work and hustle culture by “lying flat,” known as “Tang Ping” in Chinese. This quiet revolution is about rejecting the culture of overwork, which is forcing the young to work long hours, with very little reward. Jack Ma earned the ire of this new generation when he endorsed the ‘996’ work culture – working 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week. This grueling work culture apart, the growing inequalities are a pointer to major rot in the system – China added 238 new billionaires till April 2021, one every 36 hours. China can surely no loner call itself a ‘statist.’
The youth are frustrated because they are unable to have a good life despite being in the rate race, what with rising prices leaving many with just a ‘dream house’ in their dreams. They are just ‘lying flat’ with many sporting T-shirts which say, “Do nothing lie flat youth.” This is being called as a spiritual movement - not overworking, being content with more attainable achievements and allowing time to unwind.
The Chinese Govt is worried because the working youth is their engine and if they lie flat, there could be an impact on the economy. They do what they do best - block such media chat groups. It can block the movement but the fact that there is this growing angst cannot be hidden.
This story of China resonates with us Indians too. The youth here too are in a similar situation and the gap between the rich and the poor is only growing. Our youth might not protest in this unique way but it would be good if they too stopped and saw where they were headed. Surviving the rat race is not about “owning one’s moment.”
The quiet revolution of China shows that its best to sometimes be the grass on the earth than a tall tree – as a grass there is no pressure – you only grow and survive – that’s happiness in the simplest form.