By Abdiwahab M. Ali
Reflecting on my old school days, I reminisce about my childhood and the sayings and anecdotes I used to hear such as: “The youths are the leaders of tomorrow,” “Education is the key to success,” and many others. They were very inspiring indeed. However, instead of imbibing these gentle wisdoms, they instead fell into deaf ears. Age was the culprit.
Again, I could still recall days of fun playing with friends. Not too long ago, I was a child and the world revolved around me. When something went wrong, my parents were there to set things straight. A bad fall, a bruised knee, and a slight rise in body temperature would instantly be remedied by my kind and caring parents. I would cry from the hurt and they’d wipe the tears from my eyes. Wow! What a sweet, simple, and innocent time it was.
Back to the first days of the Arab revolution, Tunisia’s uprising was sparked by a 26-year-old poor street vendor who had set fire. By the time he was dead, the government had fallen and there was a growing wave of social upheaval around the globe.
Everywhere, the youth revolt swept from Cairo, Ukraine to Thailand. In the process, they have revived the tradition of mass revolutionary politics. In a short period, unassailable dictators have fallen — in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Ukraine and Thailand. In country after country, the movements created by these youth have burst through the restraints of the existing orders.
The crisis facing youth today is deep and broad. It cuts across national borders and affects many
While the magnitude differs from country to country, the unifying factor is common: the failure of society to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation. The world is aging and the older generations are eating the bright future of the young generations.
Youth in a mess and the missing Role models
It is impossible to fix the future without reconciling it with the past. A casual look at the Somali youth over the last few years exposes a picture of a generation that is crying out for help!
This is the theme that I believe was missed by pundits and commentators. The alarm bells and sirens are blaring pointing to the fact that our youth know and feel when they are being blamed for things or pushed away as scapegoats. They are often times unable to raise their voices to defend themselves against their detractors.
The youths are now in complete crisis; they have no jobs, no income, no education, no hope, and definitely no future. The only option they have is to either sail into Europe or side with the militant groups in search of comradeship, brotherhood, a thrill experience, an income and an outlet for their anger and desperation ( For a detail analysis about youth at risk, please see my recent article at www.sahanjournal.com/dilemma).
These impressionable youth have little or no choice to make. They are locked out of the economy and, hence, are outsides looking in.
For decades, the dominant image of Somalia has been one of being the “Sick Man” in Africa; a country bedeviled by a seemingly intractable burden of ignorance, disease, poverty, war and inept and corrupt leadership. Ironically, a country with rich resources but yet its people are the poorest in the world.
Think of our roads!
For those who are blaming the past and colonialism on our current predicament, you are absolutely wrong.
It is actually our Good-for-nothing leaders that failed to substantially dismantle or reform the system of elitism which is predicated on clannish, favoritism, the theft of resources from the public, and the concentration of power in the hands of a privileged few. It is an indictment of the current generation that is following in their footsteps, entrenching rather than overthrowing the system.
There is no doubt that our youths are in a quagmire. After the SYL legends, nothing is coming forth, and our youths are missing guidance and role models.
Yes, it can be argued that all historical moments of change in history are unsettling and dramatic and that if a society is fragile it can lead to self-destruction. But can what is happening in our youths be termed as a historical moment of transition or it is just a society that has abrogated its duty?
Let’s all admit that our youths constantly scour the horizons of the adult world in search of role models to emulate and help them interpret the signs of the times. Yet, it is the same adult world that is infested with sordid and incorrigible activities that defile our sense of moral aptitude.
Yet, it hurts me when I see the failure of our educated class; it pains me even more when I hear the vacuous words of our intellectuals. For instance, Mamma Hawa Abdi’s quotation: “I don’t recognize my people anymore. I feel Somalia is lost, there is no Somalia. It is just a name. Google it if you don’t believe. The question is: “Mamma Hawo, why do you underestimate our youth?
Look at these so-called intellectuals! It is not that we lack the intellectual ability, but rather that we lack the necessary intellectual boldness and discipline.
Are we really doomed to become like our parents; repeating their mistakes, experiences, and back on the path to dictatorship and penury?
No, not again.
The past has always had an impact on the present; but let it be positive. Our youths were caught in a psychological lock-in: Abysmal human conditions producing a mass psychology of hopelessness. This self reinforcing negative-feed-back loop was further maintained by repressive leadership at home and sneering nothing-good-can-come out of Somalia attitude abroad.
Without doubt, our goal of improving the situation of today’s youths so that they could be able to perform better in the future presents a challenge. It makes it necessary to shake off some of the ideas and structures of the past, both at the individual level and in society at large. Those who develop a fear of the sea after having survived a shipwreck will not be able to swim again. Societies that experience a civil war or enter into war with their neighbors will not make progress on the path of reconciliation, whether within themselves or with their adversaries as long as they remain filled with apprehension.
However, reconciling the present to the legacy of the past cannot be achieved just by words, instead, that process begins at home, in school curricula, and in relations among students and teachers, as well as within institutions from all parts of society.
Somalia’s future towards sustainable progress and development and the end of its vicious cycle lies in the hands of its capable youths. With a little help and encouragement, we will rewrite, rebuild and share our stories of Somalia.
Abdiwahab M. Ali
Abdiwahab M. Ali is a columnist and freelance writer.
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