The youth will inherit the world, so youth-led movements must be encouraged, guided
It has been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, and youth-led movements have populated social media and the streets as they speak out against various incapacities and injustices, and mobilize concerted efforts to uplift the communities most affected by these. While some from older generations have praised these youth-led movements, others have criticized them for their alleged naiveté, citing the all-too-familiar “Bata ka pa; wala kang alam,” and the infamous “Anong ambag mo? Mag-aral ka na lang.” Notably, some criticisms have also come from fellow members of the youth. These young people have slammed their contemporaries for their purported insincerity, pointing out accusations of “Resumé padding lang iyan, college applications season na kasi,” and “Ang lakas maka-savior complex! Idealistic pa masyado.”
Yet whatever others say, youth-led movements only continue to proliferate—and it is of greater import that they continue.
This is not to say that we should turn a blind eye to supposedly questionable intentions for originating youth-led movements; in fact, this prompts us to do otherwise. We need to guide our young people to be critical of their own why’s, so that they would be impelled to ground their initiatives in more durable foundations that could withstand the burden of shocks and the test of time. Although their original impetus may still hold, a durable foundation like a sense of duty would allow them to continue their youth-led movements until they have succeeded at effecting the positive social change they had assembled for.
A sense of duty tells the youth that speaking out against incapacities and injustices and mobilizing concerted efforts to uplift communities are ends in themselves, even as these contribute to bigger ends. Duty reveals the link between the personal and the social, urging the youth to consistently act with respect to themselves and to their communities—with an essential bias for the downtrodden.
Perhaps it is a matter of how we critique. If we care about our country’s development, then it is counterproductive to condemn the young people who are doing something about it. Instead, we can:
Raise the youth to be compassionate in their own organizations and communities before they create their own.
Make known to the youth that development is more than just about survival.
Remind the youth that they cannot empower others. What they can do is enable others to empower themselves. When the youth try to save communities by speaking for them or giving doles, the communities do not get to represent themselves or come up with ways to improve their lives in the long term.
Show the youth that social involvement and political action must come hand in hand. Volunteerism must always be accompanied by structural adjustments, while activism must always be founded on on-the-ground relationships and experiences. Without one, the other stays uncatalyzed, the process incomplete, and the goal unrealized.
Steer the youth to go beyond collaboration. With the complex, interdependent, and emergent challenges we face today, working closely with certain organizations, communities, and sectors is not enough. Forming a collective movement that recognizes and leverages their unique characteristics in the interest of development would ensure that the coveted social change would be comprehensive.
When all is said and done, it is the youth who will inherit the world, and they need to have a say about what kind of world that will be.
Angela Maree Encomienda,
founding chair, The Initiative PH
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