Students rebelling against a bleak future

Students rebelling against a bleak future

Students gather at Kasetsart University in an anti-government demonstration last month. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Students gather at Kasetsart University in an anti-government demonstration last month. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Youth is always a conundrum for adults. That is odd, since all adults were once youths themselves.

The phenomenon expressed itself recently when young people in colleges and schools across the country gathered in flash mobs to demonstrate their discontent with the government.

When the wave of demonstrations began, many adults heaped scorn on the young protesters, ridiculing their nascent movement as nothing more than a flash in the pan.

Then as the movement started gaining strength, the adults resorted to calling them names. "Stupid", "no brain" and "easily manipulated" were among the most prominent epithets, implying that the young protesters were automatons being programmed to act by politicians.

The politicians in question were understood to be those from the Future Forward Party, recently dissolved by order of the Constitutional Court.

A newscaster on Nation TV wondered on air why all the students at a protest were wearing face masks, where they obtained the masks and whether certain politicians had supplied them -- a comment that makes one wonder who really deserves to be called "stupid".

Another favourite method the adults use to chastise the young protesters is to remind them their parents send them to school to study, which is what they should do, while leaving national affairs to the adults.

Interestingly, as the students protested, halfway across the globe two women were meeting in England. Both became activists at a young age and both have made huge impacts in their fields of interest.

Greta Thunberg, as most people should know by now, turned her solitary climate "strike" into a global movement. The other woman is Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, to recap her story, started a campaign at age 14 to make education available to all girls in her home country of Pakistan.

At 15 in 2012, she was shot in the head, neck and shoulder by a Taliban fighter while travelling home from school. In 2014, she became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17.

During her trip to join a school strike in the UK, Greta paid a visit to Malala at Oxford University, where she is studying.

It was a historic meeting of an unusual kind, demonstrating succinctly the potential of young people to make an impact.

Of course, adults played an important part in the success of the two youngsters. But it was supportive adults who helped create their success, not adults who had no trust in their potential, who suppressed their creativity to keep them under control.

It's an insult to say the young Thai protesters cannot think or make decisions for themselves. In fact they are likely to be more capable thinkers than many of their peers who are indifferent to social affairs.

This is not to say that their thinking or decisions are always right. But if they make a wrong decision, they should be responsible for any consequences and learn from it. It's called growing up.

Unfortunately, the younger generation is growing up in a world that is vastly different from the one their parents and grandparents grew up in.

The world of older generations was one of plenty, a world in which people stripped nature of its resources to grow wealthy.

The next generation is inheriting a world in tatters, a planet suffering from a fever that is growing hotter by the month with no end in sight.

This is their own future, and it's a bleak one. And it seems the adults don't give a damn. All the adults care about is amassing wealth and power, at the expense of the younger generation.

The latter is worried that technological disruption is creating a world of uncertainty for them. Industries are in upheaval. The workforce is being trimmed as new technologies are installed. Will they be able to compete in a shrinking job market when they graduate?

What's more, they are expected to contribute to shoring up a rapidly ageing society in a world that is increasingly inhospitable.

They have a huge stake in the future and they are demanding a say in managing that future. They need freedom, some autonomy to chart their own path, which they cannot find in the feudal, patriarchal, authoritarian society they call home.

That's why they have decided to rise up, to take a stand. The dissolution of the FFP, a party they saw as a torchbearer for their hopes and dreams, was the final straw that shattered their complacency.

A social media user of an older generation said recently: "We had been led to believe we were living in peace. But in fact, we have been led by the nose and our brains messed with. … We've been kept on a human farm, trained to be docile and believe whatever they feed us. It is us, not the young people, who have been led blind."

And so a youth movement is born. It is demanding a genuine democratic system where freedom, liberty and social justice are respected.

They are standing up -- as a twitter hashtag declares -- to "Fight for the Future".

Wasant Techawongtham

Freelance Reporter

Freelance Reporter and Managing Editor of Milky Way Press.

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