Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Youth Ink, or You think?

I finally got to Monday's papers on Tuesday, due to work schedules. I would subscribe to the Straits Times online edition, but the thought of having to pay for something that I already subscribe to annoys me. Somedays I wonder whose idea was it, because all the reporters that I know seem to turn red in the face, as if I'd just uncovered that their sister works as a part-time stripper. A cheap one. That does lapdances for an extra $15.50 per month.

Now, I just want to say this once - oh who am I kidding - I hate YouthInk. YouthInk is a section of the Monday's papers devoted to letters/articles written and submitted by young Singaporeans, young Singaporeans being, upon forensic examination and statistical sampling, undergraduates. (Ok, I lied about statistical sampling, but doesn't everyone? That's why you should always use a condom.)

I hate YouthInk for a variety of reasons, with commensurately varying levels of reason. The first is - let's start with the bile - yes, I'm just jellus. I am exactly that jus jellus. I hate not being young anymore. I hate that I don't have half the opportunities that they will have. I hate that I'm considered too old for many student programs - for scholarship boards, for internships, for exchanges to places where the weather is cold and the women are men. Let me get this straight - I don't want to be young again, as I was when I was twenty. (Ok, I lie, I had abs when I was 20, so I'd like to be young in that respect. Alright, I still lie, I never had abs when I was 20 - still, I possessed a body that had a greater potentiality of abs than my current one.) I just want to have the mind, the understanding that I have now, with all the opportunity that is offered, and often seemingly limited, to the young.

The second reason I hate YouthInk: It's contrived. It's not representative of young Singaporeans - it's representative of the General Paper essays of an elite group of young Singaporeans. And not even first tier-elite current or future, as the contributers are mostly from local universities, and even as I complain about the opportunities offered to the young, it is nothing compared to the gulf between that of the NUS cohort and their scholar counterparts. But it's not representative. I've seen frequent contributers there - more power to them, but I wish they had something to say.

The third reason is a continuation of the second - it's contrived because they read like General Paper essays. I knew the conclusion - heck, I knew the points, the justifications, the language, the sheer blah before I got to the end of the first sentence. They read as though Mummy had cooed and suggested that wouldn't it look, oh so impressive, on your resume if you had something published in the papers? Now, go and do what Mummy says and you can prove to later job interviewers that you are Proactive and have an Independent Interest in Public Affairs.

(Unfortunately, it works. I've written too many student references to not know this.)

As a direct consequence of that - they stink. I seldom get a sense that the authors feel their convictions to any great depth. Or if they do, aforesaid convictions will come back to haunt them, the same way adults since time immemorial have winced over their youthful opinions, starting with "I did not have relations with that mammoth." Convictions that have been expressed in YouthInk include:

1. Singapore has no culture because we don't know enough about ancient traditions in China. Japan also has no culture because they changed after WW2. (I can only assume that the editor for YouthInk hates you and let it through on purpose.)

2. Media breeds immorality and it is hard for me, as a youth, to keep my viriginity in an environment chockful of media temptation. (Sweetie, it's amazingly easy to keep your virginity even if you want to throw it at the first dick wielder to come along. Then again, that's not the point - the point is that you are 19 years old, and university is about to hit your hormones big time. There's a reason why condoms are about 30% cheaper at the NUS co-op)

These are just a couple of articles, and there are better ones of course. In fairness, I would say that most of the contributers are just 20, and their convictions and opinions, however uninformed and shallow, are nonetheless their own and should be respected. And I think that it's great that the youth (however you define them), are given a platform, however limited, where they can practice getting their voices heard, and engage in at least some form of public discourse. Seeing as how many times I've gone down on my knees and offered blowjobs to anyone, anyone who would raise an opinion in a tutorial group discussion, these lot should be commended for wanting to take part at all.

Except. Except that I want it to be a lot more. I, too, am still young, and I want everything. I want real discourse, real thought, real understanding by Singapore youth. I want to hear the real voices - not some watered down PC crap generated by a recycled General Paper essay. I want to know that the youth of today, with all the advantages that I never had, are prepared to take those opportunities granted to them and grab the ones that weren't.

And I'm dissatisfied because I know these kind of youths exist. I know that what I'm seeing isn't what there is - because I've seen those real voices, and I am just young enough to remember thinking those thoughts myself. I've read excellent blog entries, articulate little essays submitted to me that while historical, were nonetheless commentaries on the present (much as all history is.) I've seen opinion pieces submitted to campus rags, though not earthshattering, had the fire of conviction behind them, as they rampaged through topics ranging from terrorism to abortion, from AIDS to child prostitution. They weren't all great. But they rang with the author's voice, and in a place like Singapore, they were the equivalent of grabbing a banner and joining a demonstration.

Maybe that's what gets me so riled up about YouthInk. Because I don't think it shows how Youth Think at all. I think it's more about presenting the articles such that the impression the casual reader receives is that Youth doesn't think at all.


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