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INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY 2022: Inter-generational Solidarity (Creating a World for All Ages).

INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY 2022: Inter-generational Solidarity (Creating a World for All Ages).

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By Ejiro Gray

They said children were the leaders of tomorrow

but tomorrow came and the leaders of yore remained

So, the children stood forlorn with their canvasses

made not of wood and hide, but the fabric of the mind

Still, they had no space to mount it

and if they did, wouldn’t we have denounced it?

For the culture that stifles the depth of the mind

International Youth Day was designated by the United Nations to create awareness of the cultural and legal issues surrounding youth. This year’s theme speaks to inter-generational solidarity in creating a world for all ages. Without a doubt, if we are to achieve the SDGs and attendant global concerns such as climate change and energy transition, we must not only learn to leverage the full potential of all generations, but we must also consider all generations. Most especially, those who will be left to face the consequences tomorrow, of actions taken today, including our failure to act, now.

One of the things that make us unique in our humanity, is our ability to view the world and situations through different lenses. This cuts across generational gaps and experiences. To leverage the full potential of all generations, we must consider different generations and the peculiarities of the world they were and are being born into. Listening to their worldview creates opportunities for a fresh perspective, creativity and innovation. Whilst one may argue against overindulging the seeming excesses of the younger generation, we must admit that there may be some merit to some of their expectations and their evolving worldview. However, the important thing is to make a conscious effort not to dig in our heels and resist the flexibility and agility required to navigate today’s rapidly evolving world, under the guise of resistance to entitlement and extravagances of a generation many are still trying to understand.

One of the problems we may have in this part of the world may have to do with the age of persons taking decisions for a generation that they neither understand nor are equipped to handle. In a world where two-thirds of youth in developing countries are not fulfilling their economic potential, we cannot afford to take these issues lightly. We will continue to struggle to play catch up with the rest of the world if we continue to neglect the population demographic that will be primarily responsible for harnessing the opportunities and facilitating a permanent seat at the table where global decisions and policies are being engineered.

Society is rife with examples of how generational differences are preventing us from thinking and designing policies and social services that adopt a life-course approach and are fair for all ages. Culture and tradition are replete with proverbs and sayings of our forefathers on how the exuberance of youth cannot withstand the depth that experience of age brings to the table. Perhaps the table needs to be reconstituted to allow for cross-pollination of ideas and opinions. We like to say that what an old man sees sitting on the floor will not be seen by a young man even from a treetop. Today, albeit humorous, the blithe response is that the “young man” now has access to a pair of binoculars. Simply put, old ideologies that may have held us psychologically captive in the absence of contrary arguments and proven facts, are now being challenged by technology and innovation.

Contrary to popular opinion, where ignorance is bliss, it is not always folly to be wise. You may need to read that twice. But I’ll explain. While there is some truth as to the unique place for experience in all things, there is a form of ignorance that is required for innovation and growth. This is not ignorance born out of a refusal to tap into knowledge or existing information, but ignorance that refuses to see obstacles that experience often creates or reinforces in the mind. Therefore, youthful exuberance creates an opportunity to break mindset limitations often brought about by knowledge and experience. You may believe something cannot be done, or at best would be difficult to accomplish because you have the data, facts, and historical figures to back your assertions. Whereas a younger and more inquisitive mind somewhere, believes “impossible” is merely a word, and words were created to form the world and in the same vein can be recreated to reshape this same world.

As we commemorate International Youth Day, 2022, let’s be mindful not to hide beneath the toga of insubordination, while in fact, we may be bowing to our ego’s cry for unquestionable deference in a bid to resist the burning questions and arguments from the youth, when in fact, we know our instinctive responses cannot withstand the scrutiny of integrity and fact. Oftentimes it is in the course of being open-minded about opposing viewpoints, that we can explore the rationale and legitimacy behind the thinking, on both sides of the divide. This may ultimately lead us to a better outcome for all, or if you will, a win-win situation.

I guess the central message here is open-mindedness. F. Scott Fitzgerald is known to have said that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

I daresay, it is no mean feat; this ability to consider two opposing ideas without allowing our conscious or unconscious bias, to influence the direction of our argument. But it is an approach we should be willing to consider if truly we are serious about inclusivity in the attainment of SDGs and Energy Transition, and in our collective resolve to create a world for all ages.




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