The thing about bringing up an entire generation with the motto ‘Nothing is impossible’ is that in time they come to believe in it. So, what’s wrong with that, you ask. After all, isn’t that the spirit that turned a young, mixed-race boy from a single-parent family into the President of the United States? Yes, we can, said Barack Obama to the people of America. And yes, he could.
So, what could possibly be wrong with thinking that you can achieve anything you set your mind to? Well, nothing at all. So long as you are focused on finding a cure for cancer, mapping the human genome, breaking the record in the 100 metre sprint, or turning bacon into an ice-cream flavour. But what happens when people decide to implement this ‘nothing is impossible’ credo in their private lives as well? When they start to believe that they only have to want something hard enough and work at it long enough to get it? When they begin to think: I want it; ergo, I must have it.
What happens when we all become victims of a culture of entitlement, in which wants become needs, and needs turn into necessities? And we start to adopt extreme means to fulfil these, no matter what the cost.
Take the recent reports about IVF mums, who keep getting older and older with every year. First it was the 30-somethings who went in for assisted births, then the age limit went up to 40-something, and now even 50 and 60-somethings have breached this barrier. Apparently, a baby is now a lifestyle choice; something that every woman has a right to. Her personal circumstances simply don’t come into it. And you are a politically incorrect bigot if you even dare to enquire into them. Every woman, whether she is married or single, straight or gay, young or old, rich or poor, has a right to bring a child into the world.
Fair enough. The maternal instinct is a very powerful one and is not to be denied at the worst of times. My problem is with the kind of medical interventions that are brought into play to make this dream possible. Does it really make sense to make babies for women who have already reached menopause? Are these even their babies in the biological sense in that they are conceived with the help of donor eggs? If these are not their genetic children, then why not just adopt? And if you are going to adopt, then why not do it early enough so that you are more statistically likely to be around for your child’s college graduation?
But no, none of this is an issue. It is enough that a woman wants a baby that she can carry to term and give birth to. I want it; ergo, I must have it. So what if the oldest IVF mother in India – in her 60s when she gave birth – died a mere three years after her triplets were born? Some of you may well say that at least she proved that nothing was impossible before she died; she fulfilled her dream of becoming a mother. But seriously, is every dream meant to come true? Is every prayer meant to be answered? Is every desire meant to be fulfilled?
Or are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment, disillusionment, desperation – not to mention early death – when we start to believe this? And whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we are starting to believe it. We believe that we are entitled to look like those pictures we see in glossy magazines. If our noses don’t match up, we’ll get a plastic surgeon to fix them. If our breasts fail the test, we will get them artificially enhanced. If our complexions are not good enough, we will apply bleach, whitening creams, glycolic peels and God-alone-knows what else until they are as fair and lovely as that of the models.
If our brows are beginning to get furrowed, it’s time to bring on the Botox. If our cheeks are losing that youthful bloom, then a spot of Restylane would not go amiss. If our arms are too flabby and our waists more jelly than belly, we will hit the gym for hours on end to become just as toned. If that doesn’t work, well then there’s always liposuction.
When it comes to personal improvement, we will stop at nothing no matter what the cost to our health – both mental and physical. And it’s only a matter of time before other areas of our lives are just as infected with this ‘nothing is impossible’ spirit.
It’s already begun to spill over in our expectations of our loved ones as well. Our children are expected to be models of good behaviour, acing exams at school, doing well at sports, playing one musical instrument or other, helping out with chores at home. Our partners and spouses have to bear the burden of our romantic fantasies in which no couple ever rows, husbands remember every anniversary and birthday, and wives never have headaches when it’s time for bed.
It’s no wonder really that we are all beginning to collapse under the pressure. Which is why I have a new credo to live life by: I don’t have it; ergo, I don’t want it.
I think this one will work much better for me.
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami