Let the Young Ones Teach us
Aasha Mehreen Amin
Sometimes when adults make a mess of everything the children take matters into their own hands and not surprisingly, do a pretty decent job. You see children, in most cases, (save the demonic kinds) are basically decent human beings, as they have not been corrupted by adult greed for power. They like to think that the world can be a better place if 'only people would get along', if we disposed of our trash in the right way, if we didn't take things that were not ours, if we were just a little close to what it means to be a good human being. Naive as all this may sound to the jaded adult ears these are perhaps the basic lessons of life that we once learnt by heart as children but forgot as time moved along.
Recently a picture in the paper caught my attention. A long row of young school girls were holding a banner in front of Chittagong Press Club asking the question: "When will Chandgaon be developed? Why is the MP and Mayor so negligent?" Why indeed.
What was impressive that these young teenagers were so conscious about their area's development that they cared enough to stand up and demand that something be done. The crime of state apathy is an age-old malaise for our nation. Under the very picture was a news report that described how a Upazilla Parishad chairman was arrested and another jailed because they had misappropriated rice under the government's vulnerable group feeding (VGF) programme meant for the poor and distressed before Eid-ul-Azha. Such shocking incidents do not shock us anymore. Instead we get surprised when we find officials actually doing their duty and not robbing the poor and hungry. Just remember a certain politician who used corrugated tin meant for disaster rehabilitation construction to make sheds in his personal property.
Cynicism, therefore, is hard to contain in such circumstances, especially for the weary adult citizen. Thankfully though, we can always rely on our young people when we run out of optimism. They are the ones often, who decide that they won't accept defeat and that they will rise above all odds. Yeah sure, we grumble, they don't have to worry about creaky bones and piling bills.
But seriously, they do come up with amazing examples of heroism. Not too long ago a group of young schoolgirls stopped the wedding of their classmate who was being forced to marry by her father. The girls managed to persuade the father and also cited the law prohibiting child marriage. Soon other schoolgirls in other districts followed suit. This is what conscious citizens are supposed to do and it is heartening that it is the young people who often take actions that adults around fail to do.
Recently I met two young men, barely out of their teens at the visa office of a neighbouring country. They were part of the Boy Scouts and on their way to a convention. What impressed me most, something that I have often encountered in young peoples, is their confidence in themselves and their determination to brave all kinds of obstacles to follow their dreams. One of the young men said he was in the naval academy and already enrolled in an honours programme. He also had a small business of his own. But it was obvious what really gave him a kick was the prestige of taking part in parades on national days. His brothers were all abroad but he wanted to stay in his country that he believed had a lot to offer him and vice versa.
Optimism, courage, honesty and energy -these are the basic ingredients that make up young people. That is why even when adults steal from the poor there will always be young people who will come forward to give out food and warm clothes to them.
We are about to commemorate Eid-ul-Azha, which is based on the sacrifice of the most supreme kind. Perhaps on such a holy occasion, we may take lessons from our young people and give up our greed and dishonesty replacing these 'bad habits' with generosity and integrity. For them, the young ones, fortunately, it is no sacrifice but something that comes quite naturally.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009