AUTHORITY OF IDEAS: Youth should pursue a life that enriches them
IN the drive for change it is often said that "the authority of ideas" is deemed to be more important than "the idea of authorities." This is in essence what Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said when he told youth last week that their ideas were much welcome.
Speaking at the Youth Action Forum last week he recognised that it was important for Malaysia to have a large reservoir of young people who would be able to contribute positive and fresh ideas in developing the nation. And for them to be passionate about their ideas and projects for a better Malaysia, especially in "social economy" through social innovation.
In other words, social innovation can be turned into an important platform for youth to be change agents that will make them responsible citizens of the country by adding value to the community.
The recent spate of crimes that Malaysian children have been subjected to should make us pause and think as to where we are heading as a nation.
Youth, in particular, must be sensitised to such a question and take up the challenge of finding a lasting solution before the youthful ideas and idealism wane. It is true as the prime minister asserted that we tend "to lose our passion and dreams when we get caught up in the rat race."
In fact, youth need to examine critically the notion of "rat race" before they decide to join one. First, it is a potential source of social "unhappiness", even with the increase in prosperity and a higher standard of living.
A recent Gallup report that measures daily emotions in more than 150 countries and areas demonstrates that even citizens of countries considered economically more prosperous can be rendered emotionally deficit.
It cites Singaporeans as the least likely in the world to report experiencing emotions of any kind on a daily basis.
The 36 per cent who reported feeling either positive or negative emotions is the lowest in the world. According to Gallup, Singaporeans are not enjoying their prosperity despite their per capita income of US$33,530 (RM103,900).
The metaphor "rat race" conjures an image of rats in a science laboratory when being subjected to several repetitive activities -- for example, running around a maze -- in order to fulfil some sort of experimental goal.
For humans, this may appear in the form of routine work functions performed mindlessly day in and day out for a specific goal that has low value or little social purpose.
It follows that work is no more than a dreaded chore and no longer inspiring, let alone in the effort to make a difference towards nation-building.
While the prime minister is right in saying that work experience can bring out new ideas and different perspectives to solve issues and problems, youth need to seek out challenging careers (not just jobs!) where "the authority of ideas" is valued most.
Not the other way round. Equally important, such careers must not cause them to be alienated from the community at large.
Alienation is becoming very real and alarming as the disparity gap widens as is the tendency today.
To my mind, what James Reid (1932-2010), the University of Glasgow rector from 1971 to 1974, described as "alienation" when he delivered the 1972 Rectorial Address entitled "Alienation" was spot on, viz: "It is the cry of (wo)men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It is the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making."
He further reminded us to reject greed and individualism and the rat race when he said: "A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are human beings.
"Reject the insidious pressures of society that would blunt your critical faculties to all the happenings around you that would caution silence in the face of injustices lest you jeopardise your changes of promotions and self-advancement."
"This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you are a fully-paid up member of the rat pack. The price is too high. It entails a loss of your dignity and human spirit."
In the pursuit of any idea, this must be the ultimate caveat.
Dzulkifli Abdul Razak New Straits Times Learning Curve 3 February 2013