Commonalities and Differences: The Midi-Narrative of Students in Australia and India

In 2006, a British team studying young people born in 1982 or after (Savage, Collins-Mayo et al. 2006, p.7) adopted the term ‘midi-narrative’. They distinguished ‘midi-narrative’ from ‘meta-narrative’. A meta-narrative, they said, was a story on a grand scale about how the world works. In contrast, they said: “the world view of our young people operates on a more modest scale of the here and now, rather than something beyond. Yet it is not an individualistic, mini-narrative. It is communal on a small scale (me, my friends, and my family): a midi-narrative” (Savage, Collins-Mayo et al. 2006, p.38).

Similarly, in Australia, there is little agreement or clarity on how the world works. The ‘meta-narrative’ of former times has faded. However, there are clearer ideas and more commonality in young people’s discussion about what their own lives and lives of those around them are about. There is a widely accepted ‘midi-narrative’ that most young Australians recognise and own for themselves (Hughes 2007, p.170).

While there are many similarities and some differences between young people in Britain and Australia, one might anticipate that, in other cultures, the ‘midi-narrative’ plays out differently and religious faith operates differently. Research amongst young people in Thailand found that most Thai young people, whether they were Buddhists, Christians or Muslims, thought that religion was important and provided moral principles to help them be good people (Hughes, Suwanbubbha et al. 2008, p.364). These studies indicate that there are strong midinarratives among young people in many cultural contexts.

In my visit to India in October 2012, I had the opportunity to talk with four groups of young people. In exploring the midi-narrative of these young people, my discussions with these students began by asking them to describe what was the ‘good life’: what young people want in life and what makes life worth living. All groups of students affirmed that the heart of a good life was relationships with friends and family. Students also spoke about the qualities of these relationships. A good life was found where there was love and acceptance of each other, where people supported each other. Some students spoke about the importance of communication and trust, respect and understanding.

Most of the girls at the Indian college were Hindus. One was a Christian and another was a Moslem. None of them felt that religion or spirituality made any difference to their understanding of a good life or the sort of society in which they wanted to live. They saw religion as being about tradition, family and culture. In practice, it meant participation in festivals. At that level, they were happy to be involved.

The patterns of primary responses among these students in India were similar to those of students in other parts of the globe. At the heart of a good life are relationships with friends and family and feeling good about life. Religion may be fading in contemporary societies in many parts of the world, but that is occurring in different ways. For some young people it is an individual matter and may be personally rejected or embraced. For other young people, it is part of the heritage which has little impact on the ‘midinarrative’ of contemporary life, but which remains a significant component of identity.

For more information see: Pointers, Volume 23, No. 1, Pages 13-16

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