I’ve been thinking about this subject for the past week or so.
This generation is probably the youngest in our history. The median age is around 23, one of, if not the, highest growth rate in the region and a life expectancy hovering in the late 70’s. We are not only the youngest but will also probably become the longest living generation in our history as well.
We are also the generation that complains the most.
My generation of 20-something-year-olds has a long list of issues to complain about. Pick and choose: from unemployment to standards of living to rising prices to education to marriage to exploitation to the socio-political dimensions that dominate our domestic environment.
The tendency is to blame the government. Now this may be sound in theory since the government, any government, has its share of the blame. However what I feel is unique about my generation is its apathy. There’s a mild a sense of anger about the issues but a reluctance to play any role in changing what needs to be changed.
The perception is that it’s useless to do anything about anything because everything will stay the same. We are stuck in a cycle of predictability. Moreover we tend to feel that any role we can play is too small and therefore too insignificant to matter, so why bother? Moreover we tend to be lazy; let the responsibility fall on someone else’s shoulders, at least then when they falter we have someone to blame. Moreover we are a generation raised on instantaneous gratification, the text-message generation, the quick fix generation; in other words if we don’t see immediate results then we abandon ship.
I have to admit and in a way reiterate that the first half of my life was spent in a different environment. In school we were taken out as a class to clean up a surrounding area; a forest, a park, a riverbank. In Jordan the likely scenario is to hear a friend complain about how the government isn’t doing anything about our environment, or how the police are too corrupt and worthless to implement the laws. They say all this before throwing a Pepsi can out of a moving vehicle.
We complain that our educational system is in terrible conditions and in need of massive reform. And with that, I agree 100%. But at the same time I cannot help but notice that those who complain about the system do not seem to have an appreciation for education. No one reads books in Jordan. Rarely have I seen students carry book bags, or fill university libraries until they become a fire hazard. A visit to many public schools on their last day of the academic year is a bold display of pages from ripped up books blowing through an empty playground.
Unemployment is a huge issue, and granted there is a lot that must be done about it on a federal level. However even with the knowledge that there are too many engineers in the country there are still thousands dying to get into an engineering program simply because their parents want them to, simply because of the title, simply because they feel there’s some type of guarantee they’ll find work.
These are all just small examples of how even the smallest role can play a big part.
The truth is many of these problems require a bit of time traveling to the past. In our schools there are no debate teams, or model UN clubs, or even student councils that actually do anything of tangible significance. The youngest of us are very disconnected from our communities or at the very least it’s safe to say it is no where near the level that it should be. When you’re in you’re 20’s and facing the realities of the world, or even perhaps the more jaded 30 and 40 something year olds, these types of things may appear futile and useless. The point is that all of these organizations lay the groundwork for learning intellectual discourse, for learning how to debate and argue; a political outlet. It will help turn the current cacophony into something more harmonious. It also helps overcome what I feel are irrational traditional fears instilled in us by our society; that saying anything will mean our disappearance off the face of the Earth.
These are just small examples of the type of engagement that is needed. There are many ideas that can go a long to way to pushing the youth to basically get up and do something about anything. To be the change they want to see.
It’s frightening for me to turn on the TV or open a newspaper in the western hemisphere to discover the latest group of young people who decided to come together and change the world, or at least their communities.
It’s frightening to make any of these off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions knowing that they will brushed be off as insignificant and useless.
It’s frightening to know that my generation can tell me on any given day all the things our government does wrong but can rarely name a member of that government, or the parliament, or a single issue or even the number of seats in the Senate or Lower House. The constitution is an unknown document and so are any of the laws written after the Ten Commandments.
I still have a dose of admiration for the 20 something year olds that go out and do something, chase an idea until it outlives even them. We still have some of those individuals around; the creators behind maktoob or jeeran dot com are shining examples in my book. They are the alternative to sitting at home wondering why the government isn’t creating more jobs for you.
Unemployment, wages, standards of living, all these issues fluctuate with the times. Apathy is what scares me. The idea that our generation spends so much time and energy judging what others have or have not created, that weÃ¢??ve created little of our own. The idea that our generation can be so willing to tear everything down yet so reluctant to build anything in its place.
Or maybe itÃ¢??s not apathy. Maybe itÃ¢??s complacency.