What now for Malaysia’s newly-empowered youth?

JULY 24 — The dust has settled; Malaysians will now automatically be registered to vote once they turn 18.

Momentous political milestone aside, the question is not so much how our current politicians will try to use this to their advantage (that goes without saying) but what will this mean for this young, newly-empowered group?

It’s right that the young get more of a say in the country’s priorities. The future that waits for them is not some shining promised land.

There’s the current struggle for graduates to find decent jobs. Wage depression. The cost of tertiary education.

Our kids are no longer sheltered. In comparison to many other teenagers around the world, they have easy access to news sources and the use of two languages means they can partake of a lot more media than teens in neighbouring countries who mostly consume media in their local tongues.

While it’s easy for them to research topics on their own thanks to Google, the imperfect nature of the tool means they won’t necessarily get quality information.

Take the random anti-vaxxer for instance. That person likely decided to search for articles that served to bolster their opinion while not bothering to look for alternative viewpoints or, you know, actual facts.

The problematic nature of seeking information on the Internet aside, this might mean an uptick in youth advocacy. I think that’s a good thing.

For too long, the young have been told to stay in school, don’t protest, don’t form groups, don’t think about anything outside of school and being well-behaved.

It’s easy to say that older politicians have been young once, what they faced in their youth can’t be compared to the current challenges. What with climate change, the gig economy and other modern challenges that our forefathers couldn’t have imagined.

Who’d have thought in the 21st century we’d have our refrigerators be able to remind us to get groceries or we’d be hustling for extra money by offering rides to strangers?

The young have every right to express the things they want and need, and now they have the political power to help achieve them. 

We have been stuck in a rut for too long because the old and morally bankrupt have tried to maintain the status quo. 

It’s time for a new paradigm that gives the youth the space and the power to help forge a new Malaysian future.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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