When young people finally realise the power they wield, it will be a shock to the political system.
| The recent survey by Merdeka Centre describing how youths are
uninterested in politics and their belief that politicians do not care
about them, is not only indicative of the failings of mainstream
political parties in this country but also the systemic repression of
youths in this country, especially the majority brought about by the
state and culture.
apathy among young people is not new. In 2017, Syahderan Johan (one of
the more interesting young political operatives in play) responding to a
spate of surveys describing more or less the same thing, wrote:
young politicians must be able to understand the aspirations and
concerns of the youth of Malaysia, beyond the sloganeering and rhetoric.
They must not merely echo the words of their more senior leaders. They
must be able to know what the young people of Malaysia want and need.”
course, nobody, certainly not the political establishment has asked
what youths want or need. While youths think that politicians do not
care about them, the truth is that politicians are deathly afraid of
young people and what they are capable of doing when they are motivated
And really, when you think about it, young people are
actually talking about issues that affect us all. Take a young person
like Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, who was targeted by the state for saying exactly what some of us were thinking.
this young lawyer wrote was clearly articulated, well-thought through
and needed to be said. It goes deeper than that though. It goes to the
heart of the kind of feudalism sans monarchy that is this political
Or how about former UM Association of New Youth
(Umany) president Wong Yan Ke, who was also targeted by the state for
questioning the use of emergency and the royal institution.
in an article argued that the king “should not interfere in national
affairs, but to always maintain a neutral attitude and play his role
within the framework permitted by the constitution”.
is the kind of rebellion that is needed in this country and it sure as
hell is not coming from older political operatives with vested interests
in sustaining the system. And this is what the state does, not silence
young people, but rather silence young people who would slay sacred
These young people are but two examples of youths who
threaten the status quo and while these examples are about the larger
systemic dysfunction of this country, the whole point of repressing
youths starting at a very young age is to discourage them from rebelling
against the entrenched system and interests.
This is why under
various propagandistic tools like asian values or whatever morality that
religions peddle, this idea that young people are ignorant and have to
be subservient to values that supposedly served an earlier generation
while ignoring context is drummed into the minds of young people in
And please forget about all these youth programmes that
various governments have come up with in lieu of asking young people
what they want and need. What are youth governmental programmes really
These programmes exist to brainwash young people into
thinking that the government is a benign entity which should be
supported because - depending on the quality and efficacy of said
programmes - governments bring some sort of benefit to their lives.
Whatever they receive in terms of experience or skill sets is built upon
a foundation of propaganda.
This said propaganda worms its way
into young people and they conflate political parties with the
independent institutions of government. They do not think of government
institutions as independent but rather as an extension of political
parties. They may not articulate it as such, but it’s all there in how
they express what they think of government and its role.
why the system is based on the repression of young people, either
through state interventions in how they experience education or how they
worship god. It is worse for the majority who are brainwashed by state
and federal institutions, and through various propaganda organs, into
believing that their ethnicity and religion are under siege.
young Malays are led to believe that starting families young and
carrying on with traditions, which have very little use in the modern
world, is something that sets them apart from the non-believers. This
creates a whole set of variables which impedes their political awakening
and crubrs their “rebellious” nature.
Meanwhile, social problems
that youth face are blamed on a lack of religious convictions and a
loosening of public morals, even though the same actions by wealthy
elites or political operatives go unpunished and sometimes even
rewarded. So, when young people see this in the political landscape,
they of course want nothing to do with this kind of hypocrisy. And, say
what you like about young people, but the one thing they are good at is
pointing out the hypocrisy of older people.
When a Pakatan Harapan
operative talked about the “youth vote” and was optimistic that young
Malays were on the side of reform, I asked him how he came to that
conclusion. While on an anecdotal level, I have met many
anti-establishment young Malays, the vast majority of disenfranchised
youths are products of religious schools or burdened with an education
which does not make them competitive in the private sector.
last thing they want is the status quo to change because it could be
worse, or they are uninterested in politics because they are struggling
to keep their head above water, all the while told by people they are
And let us be honest. Political parties have not
changed anything in this country for decades and young people have only a
limited time to change the system before they become part of the