Three Months

I entered an essay writing competition earlier this year. The title everyone had to write about sounded like an exam essay; 'Teenagers Today.' As always, I did things last minute, writing my essay 24 hours before it was supposed to be sent in.

I lost. I don't mind losing, but apparently the winner wrote about Malaysia's multi-cultural society. How fascinating. Like we've never read about Malaysia and 'masyarakat berbilang kaum' before. 

Definitely not my best writing, but I was pretty satisfied with it considering the time I put into it. Oh, and yes, I had to throw in that MGMT reference at the end. 'Twas a must.       

          Perhaps I’ve been misled. I use the word ‘misled’ because the words ‘lied to’ may come across as a little too harsh in the eyes of the people I’m about to criticise. Misled is much softer, it conveys the sense that I was lied to in an accidental way. I don’t particularly care for liars and charlatans, but the blatant hypocrisy that is displayed does sicken and confound the best of us. Mum and Dad, I want you to know that I love you. However, in my opinion, both of you are part of a global problem more detrimental to our society than a fast food nation. It is a problem more harmful, in fact, than reality television. Parents worldwide are tyrants. They are the bullies from the playground, the Stalins to our comrades, the Toms to our Jerrys.  The most tragic thing about this is that parents today were once the teenagers of yesteryear. Parents of the present have forgotten how it feels like to be youthful. They treasure the memories, yes, but they have forgotten. They have forgotten how it felt to watch one’s very innocence ebb away as their own innocence was exposed to the trials of adulthood. They have forgotten how to perceive the world as it seemed, undaunted by fears of taxes, marriage and stock market fluctuations. They have forgotten that teenagers never change, that teenagers today are the same creative, rebellious individuals as the teenagers of the past. With the widespread availability of internet and a limitless amount of knowledge at our fingertips, this teenage generation should be the one which impacts current and future events. Firstly though, we must remove the tyranny of parental obligation.                

         The entertainment industry has played an important role throughout the past century as a unifier of the teenage generation. From James Dean to The Beatles, a large number of illustrious figures have seen out their role as their generation’s preacher of who the masses congregate. Every teenage generation has craved for the same freedoms as today’s teenagers do. The parents of today were those teenagers who rebelled without a cause, the same ones who answered John Lennon’s rallying cry to ‘Imagine’. Why then have they conformed to society’s will, consigning themselves to the same mundane tasks they once promised they would never submit to? This is the challenge that today’s teenagers now face. We must at all costs avoid the mistakes that our forefathers made, which is the restricting of the creativity and expression only found in the innocence of youth. Pablo Picasso once poignantly pointed out that ‘Every child is an artist’. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. We have today infinite possibilities for the future. Do we really want to limit them by limiting what can be achieved by our teens? We must learn from our mistakes by making sure parents do not deny the same freedoms they were once denied as teens. What is the world, if not explored? Imagine if Christopher Columbus’ parents had told him that there was only one way to India. Imagine if Sun Tzu’s parents had warned him that fighting was for scoundrels. All of humanity’s progress has its origin in the boundless curiosity of Man. Ask yourselves this. When else are we more curious than at the peak of our adolescence? Imagine if today’s teenagers were allowed to ask questions and find the answers without the restraints of logic and common perceptions. Our civilization would surely develop at a rate more rapid than any before us. Parents today have the opportunity to realise their very dreams of idealism, optimism and expression. Not through themselves, but the ones they nurture. Roger Lewin summed it up by saying that ‘Too often we give children answers to remember, rather than problems to solve’.  

            Though we often ignore this fact, teenagers are the world’s most valuable natural resource. What makes them so valuable is their curiosity which is not locked down with reason and logic. We need this to be capable of envisioning a better future for the entire world. As with other resources such as oil, coal and natural gas, if mismanaged, teenagers can cause disastrous environmental effects. However, with the right planning and strategic thinking, we can avoid the mistakes of parents of the past and make sure the potential of today’s teenagers is fully realised. As I have mentioned, over the centuries, teenagers have continuously been portrayed as scapegoats and rebels. The irony of it is, the parents of our teenagers today were once given that very same label. It is a vicious cycle we can term as ‘Animal Farm Syndrome’.  In the book ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, there happens a revolt as farm animals overthrow their human oppressors. Led by a pig named Napoleon, the animals succeed in wrenching power from their former human masters. However, Napoleon’s thirst for power turns him into the same tyrannical leader he once worked so hard to oppose. It is a tragic case of the repressed becoming the oppressor, and though the parent-teenage situation comes nowhere near as close to that gloomy circumstance, it is very similar. As quoted by Karl Menninger, ‘What’s done to children, they will do to society’. Parents who conform must not force their children to. Our generation, all of us, must be the ones who end the twisted cycle. It sounds na├»ve, as teenagers always do, but we can change the world. 

           Perhaps I have misled you. I may have been a little melodramatic by insinuating that parents share the same moral standards as Muammar Gaddafi, but my message is clear. For too long, the youth have been restricted by the artificial pressures of money and materialism. Not this time. We must break free from these shackles of greed and power. We must break free from the shackles of conformity if we are ever to progress. Teenagers are told to get good grades, work hard, and retire. That is all. Should it be? Life isn’t tedium, and should not be defined as such. Teenagers have a creative spark; they have that potential to imagine. Potential is one thing though; realising it is another. The great thing about it is, simply put, we can. Currently, teenagers have their voices in the mouths of the world-renowned indie band known as MGMT. In their song, The Youth, they ponder that, ‘the youth is starting to change, are you starting to change? Are you?’ We must.


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