x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Not everyone can grow up to be a pop star or footballer

A generation ago, young people aspired to grow up to be doctors or engineers or teachers. Nowadays, it seems youngsters all want to be pop stars.

Less than two decades ago I was a teenager, looking at the prospects for my future. I hadn't decided what I would be one day, but the opportunities were endless.

It wasn't only our creative imaginations that allowed us to come up with games such as "let's play teacher" or "I'll be a fireman someday".

We were taught from a young age that the work of engineers, doctors, teachers and the like provided respectable jobs in society, and that we would each need to finish school and go to college and then university to obtain a degree that would get us one of these respectable and useful positions.

These careers were - and still are, to a certain degree, depending on where you get your degree and where you are from - reasonably well-paid, and people with these skills are in high demand.

But who created this concept of the "respectable job"? The idea has come down to today's adults from the generation(s) before us. We regularly heard expressions of encouragement - "one day, you'll grow up to be just like daddy" or "you'll be a famous doctor someday" - and these became embedded in us; we believed them without question.

Today, the world has changed. The pool of respectable and interesting jobs that young people are encouraged to consider today goes beyond just a few professions. Students can think bigger - about becoming an ambassador, a minister, a CEO, even an entrepreneur.

There is also a whole other category of work, one that relatively few parents may hold up as goals for their children but that many young people look on as "dream" jobs all the same.

I'm referring to work in the artistic sector, and especially the performing arts - singer, actor, reality show star, television presenter, and so on. There is also the related range of activities as performers in sport; here the main aspirational goal is to make a good living as a football player.

Today, many young people don't want to go to school, because they assume that it can take a lot of hard work to earn good grades.

A better way to amass that first $1 million would be to come up with an Arabic equivalent of Gangnam Style, a song that will get millions of views on YouTube and thus give you the chance to be a star speaker at universities! After all, Psy's hit seems to have made all things South Korean so popular that the country's GDP actually went up because of his hit.

Sorry, but our young people need to understand that all real-world jobs basically require a lot of hard work.

Even pop stardom takes effort. I'm sure it's a lot of hard work staying in shape, being followed by paparazzi everywhere you go and coming up with creative songs that have less vocabulary than a 2-year-old.

I am not here to judge artistic or sports performers about how smart they are or how much they contribute to society. But as I see the money being poured into their pockets, I wonder if disproportionate stardom is devaluing the emphasis that parents try to put on education. Will our universities one day teach us only how to become famous high-paid artists or athletes?

What good is a doctorate from a reputable, century-old university? Why do our news headlines focus on every detail of the lives of celebrities when their status disrupts the very essence of our appreciation of education and hard work?

What today's societies need is balance. We need to help our youth understand that although it is good to have singers and dancers and footballers, not all of us can achieve excellence in those jobs.

Everyone has a role to play in society and even though nobody can deny the big and growing emphasis on celebrity, we can certainly work to restate and re-validate the old roles, in professions and trades that provide tangible benefits to other people and to society.

 

Aida Al Busaidy is a social affairs columnist and former co-host of a Dubai television show

On Twitter: @AidaAlB