Year of 2011can be rightly termed as the ‘year of political upheavals’. The New Year was welcomed by severe protests in Tunisia that led to toppling of the longtime President Ben Ali. This was followed by Tehrir square protests in Egypt ousting the authoritative president Hosni Mubarak. This awakening took little or no time in spreading to various other parts of the Arab world. Civil war broke out in Libya, and uprisings were organized in countries like Syria, Bahrain and Yemen against saturation in the political systems. All these events are collectively referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’, which put an end to various autocratic regimes in the Arab region. We, in India, have also experienced a systematic anti-corruption movement this year. Though this movement was not aimed at any particular regime or political party, it attacked the prevalent evils in the politics in general and society in particular.
These upheavals mobilized millions of youngsters. The issues they were addressing were directly related to the lives of the youth; poverty, unemployment, unequal distribution and corruption, to name a few. This is the reason why young people spontaneously joined the protests. They also made use of the communication technology, including social networking sites like Facebook and Tweeter to widely spread their ideas. Electronic media also supported the movements.
Contemporary political uprisings started the discussions about the role of youth in politics time and again. As we know, the youth in any society is closely associated with its scientific and technological advancement, economic wellbeing, industries, entertainment, sports and so on; but not so much with its politics. Politics has certain inherent qualities in it which majorly restrict itself to the grey-haired population. In such a scenario, assertive role played by youngsters in these movements cannot be ignored.
The present era is witnessing unprecedented scientific advancement. World has come closer as never before, through cyber-web, internet, and number of social networking sites. These are the areas where youth have the exclusivity. Through various social networking sites such as ‘facebook’, young people from various parts of the world have befriended their fellow youngsters from other countries. There take place discussions over various issues of international concerns. This has strengthened ‘people to people contact’ or what can also be called as ‘track 3 diplomacy’. Youngsters are exchanging the ideas about the worldview with each other. They are facing common problems and are seeking to find common ways to deal with these problems.
The young generation is increasingly taking interest in voluntarism and related forms of public service and is engaged into community-based, non-profit charitable efforts in order to make their respective societies a better place to live. This aspect of youth cannot be disregarded as they have become part of vibrant ‘civil society activism’ in almost all parts of the world. Historically, youth is identified with principles such as democracy, peace, cooperation, human rights and so on. There are struggles going on in the world for achieving these ideals, and young population is an important part of such struggles.
Nevertheless, when it comes to role of youth in world politics, there are also certain challenges. These challenges need a mention.
Firstly, in almost all parts of the world, more so in the advanced countries, youth has become self-centered, individualistic, consumerist and materialist. Many of them are addicted to alcohol and drugs.
Secondly, everywhere, more so in the third world, youth is increasingly swayed by reemerging primordial identities, and thus, is going away from modernism and democracy. The example can be found in the rising number of young ‘fidayeens’ who are ready to sacrifice their lives pertaining to religious extremism.
Thirdly, role played by youth is more spontaneous and less organized. We have seen, millions of youngsters gathering for the rallies with a lot of eagerness. But their initial enthusiasm does not persist for long. Egyptian experience has shown the energetic protests by the youth. But they have taken a backseat in the electoral game, giving a way to ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ to win the elections. Now, time will decide whether this energetic youth is really interested in playing role in carving their future, or it was just a spur-of-the-moment. Similarly in India, youngsters who took part in the anti-corruption rallies, furthermore have the responsibility to ensure building of the corruption free society.
Keeping all the aspects of contemporary world scenario in mind, it can rightly be said that, today’s youth has a number of challenging tasks to fulfill. They are expected to extend their cooperation in the struggles for democracy, creation of an egalitarian society, preservation of human rights and end of discrimination in various parts of the world. Even the tasks such as disarmament, climate change and global struggle against terrorism and extremism cannot be achieved without their active involvement.
After all, today’s youth are going to be tomorrow’s leaders. At the moment, they have a choice in shaping their future, whether peaceful, democratic and egalitarian, or that full of chaos, fights and bloodshed..!!