The youths are better that we’ve ever known them to be. They can analyse their situation better than the Al-Attas ever could. They could even quote Marx and Engels or John Rawls at a whim without as much of a hiccup than us. And they may not be John Stuart Mill, a child prodigy who mastered Greek, Latin, and Roman Law before he could grow pubic hair, but they might as well be the likes of Mill – the whole collective of youths is the prodigy. These are the youths of our future, and they are of a better kind than we ever were.
They are not afraid either. Adab is a foreign concept to them as it should have been. They criticise as they might because their situation implored them to be. And they are not the ones to be petrified when the going gets tough and to rise up to the occasion of solidarity or being in a forceful collective that shakes up the structure of authority. While the rest of us are still pondering lackadaisically of what we should do or when we should ever do anything in regard to the grim dystopia we’re living in, they’ve already known what to do and when to do it. They do not get ready, they stay ready.
We’ve always thought that the youths to be our second in command, our understudy, our replacement without realising that such thinking had let us to have a misplaced security of our position. Along with that thought is a lens in which we have seen the youths as nothing more than those we prepare to take our roles. But the youths are not really keen on our position. They can see that what we have prepared them for is nothing more than a bleak future in which they are forced to live in.
There are no youths that would ever compromise their environment just because they are promised a goldmine in a failing ecosystem. There are no youths that would rather stay silent in a political climate that had neglected their interest just because there are privileges that might glimpse through the position of power. There are no youths that would rather cope with an unstable economy and financial crisis as they perceive their elderly bask in folly control just because they think that they will one day be the one that may bask in folly control. There are no youths that would rather be a neglectful socialite in the future as they can see how their social care in the present is a compromised one. The youths are not for this kind of future, they are for an alternative present that will lead to a future brighter than any of us could ever promise them.
If there are ever youths that would rather take in the promise from a corrupted world than to fight for what is just and right, they are no longer a youth but only a vessel void of anything worth cherishing, they are a part of us, a line-up of botched present.
The youths are the future and we have been their inevitable present and past. We have failed them with our reckless control over everything. We have been relentless in disappointing them. Kyai Hajar Dewantara’s education principles are useless in our grasp. We have not been leading to a good future just as we have failed to showcase an exemplary virtue to them, and we have not been the one to support them for a future that is promising.
I can still remember all about my first article for MalaysiaNow, an article criticising the Muda movement. I was very critical of it and was even quoting past figures to justify my critique. But in reflecting on it, even though I’m still critical of Muda, I realise that part of the reasoning of the writing comes from a place of a misplaced hatred. I was pushed to write it because I thought I was making an impact by condemning youths without realising that youths are the only future I have.
Perhaps we could all reflect better on our past and present. After all, the meek is not the only one to inherit the earth, it’s the youths as well. And looking at the way youths have been organizing themselves in the current situation, it seems to allow hope that we all might be able to get past this desperate time. And instead of pushing back this wave of youths reclaiming their throne, why can’t we be the one to support it, and get over our insecurity that had harshened our every step?
Ahmad Yasin is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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