The importance of youthful activisim

Rising Youth

By Farhan Muhammad


By design, modern politics can often be complex and overbearing. It can be an easy facet of life to ignore and not consider, especially if the decisions made by parliament are overseas or not relevant to the reader. However, in recent times, external forces or governments have continued to make decisions that affect a future which will not be shared by those very decision makers. From recent memory, changes to how copyright works with the SOPA bill, to privacy issues relating to the Facebook scandal (yeah that was only 2 years ago), to climate change and the black lives matter movement. All these events share a compounding similarity in that the senators, officials and government agents involved lack of awareness for anyone but themselves. Through this outstanding members of any community can shine, but emphasising the youth helps draw in attention from an often left out and side-lined category in politics.

John Boyega, a young talented actor, whose appearance in the London Black Lives Matter protest was covered extensively by various media outlets. The Imagery of him speaking passionately was inspiring to say the least. It was his impromptu speech followed by his remarks online that helped encapsulate the entire BLM movement:

‘Conversation’s about black businesses, ownership and support are happening, and I will continue to have these conversations with the full intention of birthing ideas that are sustainable and tangible. Let’s increase our knowledge!’

While disingenuous offers of peace have been brought forward, none address the cacophony of failures that sparked the recent wave of protests across the world. George Floyd, a name that has been etched into the minds of millions was murdered whilst in police custody on the 25th of May. Protests erupted across the world in unification chanting to the same rhythm while beating the same drum standing proud against the abhorrent acts that have been plaguing the United States for too long.

Boyega’s remarks emphasise what the BLM stands for and what it means to be a black person in the world right now:

‘At least you understand how painful it is to be reminded every day that your race means nothing.’

His comments resonated with many, in that long-term solutions must be made in order to help address and fix the systemic disadvantage that black people face in almost all facets of life. He received support shortly from the likes of Jordan Peele, and Mark Hamill (and delayed support from Trashwriting) that reassured his concerns about losing his career due to his statements.

Boyega is an already established and successful actor; his comments have helped tie in interest into the movement that before was not present. More so, his unapologetic attitude towards the movement is positive for young people to follow. To rise and to stand for what you believe in, helps show that young people are demanding change and can bring it upon the world.

Much like Malala Yousafzai, a unique activist who emerged from tragedy in 2012 caused from a shooting and subsequent air lift into the UK. Malala has sustained a growing campaign in favour of equal education for all. Her foundation (Malala fund) has continued to fight for girls in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Syrian Region with a clear message:

‘We need to encourage girls that their voice matters. I think there are hundreds of thousands of Malala’s out there.’

It is, however, imperative to address Malala’s critiques. Foreign policy argues that ‘Pakistan hates Malala’ whilst Al Jazeera dubbed her a ‘polarising figure in Pakistan’ whereas USA Today writes that ‘many in Pakistan have come to hate her.’ Above all, according to these articles a considerable population of Pakistanis dislike Malala, as she is seen as a pawn for Western Journalism to propagate hate against Muslims and to justify the war efforts against her native country.  By funnelling hate for Malala, from the entirety of Pakistan, it enables a narrative that treats violence as inherent to a people (Pakistanis) and feeds a ‘good Muslim’ vs. ‘bad Muslim’ dichotomy.

Whilst on the other side, Phyllis Ryder from GWU comments on Baigs’ remarks on the Huffington Post. As he states that the story of a native girl being saved from the savage men of her country is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Ryder identifies that this shared criticism and coverage of Malala may purposefully avoid her actual view. Malala had publicly spoken out before the attack and her and her father were frequently on Pakistani Radio promoting their goal of education. Furthermore, in her book ‘I am Malala’ and on meetings with President Obama she has stated that the drones ‘fuel terrorism,’ and she has openly stated that she did not seek revenge against the Talib or any terrorist group. Instead she stated:

‘I want education for the sons and the daughters of the Taliban’

It is this unadulterated compassion for others that makes Malala stand out as a Youth activist and is why voices like hers are imperative in producing actual change. Whilst her incorporation into mainstream Western media is clouded in critique from different corners of the globe, her message still stands and is echoed in every schoolgirl that has benefitted from her fund or has been inspired from her work.

Whilst on the surface, I a Singaporean first generation immigrant have no clear way to attach myself to a murder that happened across the world, nor a Pakistani girl campaigning for equal treatment in education. It is obscene to assume that I was not enamoured, by my peers who chose to use their platforms to encourage change. The presence of young activists allows their peers to see a face that they can relate to in socioeconomic issues that could not be further away from their individual lives. 

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