The role of youth

“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them, is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely, until they – at some distant point in the future – will take over the reins. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself

This thought provoking quote taken from Alvin Toffler, an American writer and futurist, puts under the microscope the often-clichéd regurgitations about today’s youth being the leaders of tomorrow.

The question might rightly be asked of our leaders today – themselves yesterday’s youth – as to what they are doing to preserve the heritage of today’s youth and to prepare them for the task of carrying the mantle of leadership for the benefit of future generations.

Guyana has been blessed with abundant natural resources, but despite achieving self-governance 51 years ago, we have not shown progress commensurate with our well-established potential. Our mineral wealth, agricultural potential, forestry resources, accessibility by land, air and sea, and English-speaking population have not combined to make us the wealthy country that we should have been.

Consequently, successive generations have grown up into adulthood with the feeling that their leaders, both past and present, have not done and are not doing a good job of managing the national patrimony. They have seen the national pie dwindle as the value of the Guyana dollar vis-à-vis other currencies declined. Many have taken the decision to leave these shores in search of greener pastures and a chance to share in the heritage of other lands.

But for those who remain at home, there seems to be a growing number who see the promise of wealth as being possible only from the standpoint of criminal activity – whether blue collar or white collar. The effects of this mindset in our youth are seen from the increase in violent crime where the offenders are often mere teenagers. The fact that too often the victims are close relatives and friends of the perpetrators, or the aged and infirm, point to a level of cruelty and lack of empathy hitherto unknown in this country.

While white collar crime is not as dramatically presented in the news, there also seems an increasing propensity for fraud being committed by young employees of businesses and corporations.

It has become par for the course for our national leaders to bemoan the ‘get rich quick’ mindset of today’s youth, but without taking any responsibility for it. Yet they say it takes a village to raise a child, and it seems clear that the Guyana village has not been giving this important responsibility the focus that it obviously deserves.

The proof of this can be seen from our politics, as both of our major political groups have labelled each other’s rule of the country as characterised by rampant corruption and poor management of resources. If both of these bodies of leadership who have been leading Guyana for 51 years are correct in their analysis of each other, then the national patrimony has not been in good hands for five decades, and successive generations of our nation’s youth have been the victims over the years.

This now begs the question as to the role young people must have in assuming partial responsibility for ensuring that the potential of future prosperity is not eroded through corruption and neglect. It certainly seems that young people should have a hand in the preservation of their own future.

Some might argue that government sponsored programmes such as YouthBiz 592 and the President’s Youth Award Government of Guyana (PYARG) entrepreneurship training courses and the Youth Parliament are mitigating the deleterious effects of poverty and education deficiency in our youth. But if recent events are anything to go by, whereby gainfully employed and well-educated youths carried out a daring and violent, albeit unsuccessful, bank robbery attempt, then we may not yet be adequately addressing the root causes of the increase in criminality among our youth.

Interestingly too, youths may well be the majority (or at least a significant portion) of the inhabitants of the formal prison system across the country. When we factor in the inmates at the government run holding facilities for delinquent youth, and finally, those in other types of non-criminal custodial facilities of the state, we can see that quite a healthy chunk of our youth are growing up as wards of the state and not in regular households.

All this means that the problems facing our youth today are many, multi-faceted and are deeply ingrained in our society. Since children do not create or significantly impact the conditions under which they live and grow up, then the adults must take responsibility for this obvious decline in standards and morals. The current state of the youths within our population must be a direct result of the years of corruption and failed leadership that have characterised Guyana over its 51 years of independent rule.

This brings us back to the role that our youth must play in preserving the national patrimony for the time when they will inevitably assume the reins of leadership. If they are not to be doomed to inherit a new generation of youth much worse than they were, then it stands to reason that they must make their voices heard on matters such as corruption and poor management of the country’s vast resources.

In the words of another American, musician Kurt Cobain, “it is the duty of youth to challenge corruption.”

It is time our youths step out of the shadows of social media and make useful contributions to the national development ideal – not as creatures of the political parties, parroting the party line – but as invested stakeholders and gatekeepers of their inheritance, that is, the national patrimony.

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