The power of change is in the hands of the youth
By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
When the Harry Potter film series ended in 2011, I thought that would be the last time I would ever enjoy watching Daniel Radcliffe in any movie as I was so used to envisioning him as the endearing bespectacled character.
But then, he successfully challenged himself by taking more intense adult roles, one of them as Beat-poet Allen Ginsberg in ‘Kill Your Darlings’. Based on a true story, it is about a youth movement consisting of authors whose literature explored and influenced American culture in the post-World War II era.
While the movie mostly explored the relationship of Daniel’s character with others, the idea of a youth group that has managed to make and leave such a big impression on society decades later is undoubtedly inspiring and empowering.
Here, the youth community is not lagging behind, and while they may have different standpoints as well as objectives from each other, the contribution of our own youth communities are equally important in shaping our community.
What are you afraid of losing due to modernisation?
With modernisation moving at a fast pace and advancement of technology, The Borneo Post SEEDS asked these leaders of these youth communities and NGOs what they were afraid of losing with increased globalisation and modernisation, with most answering culture, value and heritage.
“As a new generation of Dayak, I’m afraid of losing my culture and heritage especially the virgin Borneo rainforest that our ancestors have left behind for us to inherit,” said Paren Nyawi.
A chartered accountant by profession, before the 34-year-old joined politics, he was actively involved with NGOs as a social activist, spokesperson, talent and event organiser as well as a blogger for Borneo Cultural.
He was also announced as a potential candidate under DAP for the next state elections and is now a special assistant to Sibu MP Oscar Ling and protem chairman for DAP Katibas (N.55).
For Kuching-born Syed Nizamuddin Sayed Khassim who is a member of the Malaysian Youth Parliament, a youth council and simulation of real-life parliamentary proceedings for youth aged between 18 and 30, he’s afraid of losing values and history in the face of modernisation.
“With the avalanche of information and technology, we tend to lose our bearings. I hope that I could keep mine because it marks me for who I am.”
Being a Malaysian citizen, Syed Nizamuddin feels that Malaysia Day should be enshrined and respected by all its citizens as it marks the day that gave us a national identity.
For chairman of Azam Youth Central (AYC) Asyraf Hardy, which provides a platform for the urban and rural youth to take part in Sarawak development through volunteerism activities in creating and nurturing social harmony, environment and heritage preservation, nurturing talents and entrepreneurship, he would regret “losing the authenticity of our mother tongue as language portrays our identity and culture.”
Besides culture and heritage, it is also easy to forget the simple things such as basic interaction with another person. It is not hard to see why since the answer is in our hands – whether it’s our smartphones, laptops, or tablets – meaningful verbal conversation seems no longer important.
“I would be afraid of losing the simple joyful life of the ‘kampung’ environment which refers to the harmony, peace, love and unity of the people. Everyone socialises there,” answered Husni Zuhairin Sarbini, the founder of Kuching-based art community 9Lives which serves as a platform for the local artist community to create exposure and promote young talents.
AIESEC in Unimas president, Goh Kee Boon also feels that modernisation is making us lose the ability to socialise with people without technology.
“Sometimes people can be so engrossed with their virtual world that they start to forget the real physical world that they live in. They tend to observe less of their friends and focus more on themselves.
“The sense of gratitude will just fade day by day. In such a fast-paced world, people will just skim through things and exactly how many of us will slow down our pace and reflect on the whole day and be grateful for what has happened or not happened to us? Those are things that I am really afraid of losing with modernization,” said Goh.
Azam Sarawak chief executive officer Datu Aloysius Dris agreed that with modernisation and advancement of communication technologies, people were actually getting more disconnected.
“Even though the Internet is becoming a popular platform for the younger generation to communicate, it somehow erodes the communication skills, particularly face-to face interaction, which is a critical element in developing and sustaining harmonious society. This is where the managing of negative impact is as critical as taking the positive impact by modernisation.”
What would you like to see changed and maintained in Malaysia?
“For us to maintain our social harmony. It is important for us to sustain all activities that safeguard our harmony and good relations in the State,” said Dris.
For Syed Nizamuddin whose work with Malaysian Youth Parliament has given him insight into the workings of Malaysian Parliament, he wished to change the skewed view that many have on the date of our National Day.
“In history books: focus should be given on our history as a nation: not just on a single race or a single political party.”
He also believes that a national independence day is unnecessary because Malaysia was never an entity before independence but a post-colonial construct.
“Countries like Germany for example, celebrate National Unity Day that commemorates the unification of East and West Germany. They never had an Independence Day because Germany, like Malaysia was formed out of many states which were federated together into one entity.
“The focus should be on the birth of our new nation in 1963 and what happened after that. It is important because this will give us the sense of togetherness, and provides a national narrative that we all could look back and be proud of. I wish to maintain the level of mutual respect we have for one another, particularly here in Sarawak. We have gone a long way since the days of tribal wars and communal riots,” said Syed Nizamuddin.
For Paren, he wants to see good governance, a clean government and clean elections.
“I want to see equality and social justice as a norm, value and dignity placed on human works. I want Dayak recognised as a main race in Malaysia because Dayak makes up 45.8 per cent of the population in Sarawak. We are Dayak not ‘Lain-Lain’.”
As somebody who strives to be a ‘Voice for the Voiceless’, he feels that there is still a long way to go for poverty eradication efforts among the Dayak, 80 per cent of whom he says are still living in poverty.
“A nation will function properly if it has strong institutions, a good system of governance, check and balance and accountability. We need institutions to uphold law and order, righteousness and social justice. To this end, every citizen can be an agent of change. As the youth, we are agents of change and have to be proactive in social-politic as an effort for youth empowerment and nation-building,” said Paren.
More opportunity and equal chances for the youth
As youths play an important role in shaping our country, it is also fair to give them equal opportunity to pave their way into becoming valuable members of the community.
Asyraf hopes the youth would strive for more excellence in terms of career, entrepreneurship and education as to fill the gap between the urban and rural youth as well as to maintain the prospect and to ensure that the youth are not left behind and to strengthen the unity in Sarawak.
For AIESEC in UNIMAS, equal opportunity for all is the main reason why it was established.
“AIESEC in UNIMAS was founded by my friend and also my predecessor, Liang Jian Zhang. He observed that there were few opportunities in East Malaysia compared to Peninsular Malaysia. And what we really want to do is also to provide equal opportunities to the youth in East Malaysia, in this case is Kuching. We hope that we not only provide equal opportunities to the youth in Kuching but also act a catalyst to the other organizations or people to be better in our university or our communities.
As for 9Lives, they hope to see more acceptance of art into the community as they believe that art can be used as a tool to connect people together.
“We would love to change people’s mindset about arts and creativity in ‘our place’ and try to educate people more about the future and potential of arts as a career,” said Husni.
It has been six years since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak declared in 2009 that September 16 the following year that Malaysia Day would be declared a public holiday.
Pushing aside that we may celebrate Malaysia Day with a big celebration and parades, sometimes it is better to just take our time to appreciate the date in remembrance of what is more than just a public holiday and also reflect what can we do to make our country better in the future.
Happy Malaysia Day to all!