Andhyta Firselly Utami
Last month, Newsweek published a provoking feature entitled “Generation Screwed” on how today’s American youth is running out of jobs and opportunities — a rare commodity that has been excessively devoured and hardheadedly retained by their indebted parents, forcing younger people to put careers on hold.
The article quickly raises eyebrows: Some people strongly disagree with the argument presented and claim the piece to be one-sided and unreasonably too pessimistic.
“The wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record,” said Joel Kotkin.
The older generations, he added, were “the beneficiaries of good timing in everything from a strong economy to a long rise in housing prices. In contrast, quick prospects for improvement are dismal for the younger generation. One key reason: their indebted parents are not leaving their jobs, forcing younger people to put careers on hold.”
The case might be true for the United States, but not quite the same for the rest of the world, especially Indonesia.
Putting more emphasis on observable progress and real actions taken by today’s Indonesian youth, this piece of commentary seeks to keep our optimistic side on fire by arguing otherwise — that in fact, Indonesia is having its gold generation at hands.
The Generation That Starts Early
In an endless marathon of international race, nobody remembers where the start line is. That being said, the only thing that matters is to start as soon as possible. It does not take a lot of time to mention young entrepreneurs who started their own business years before they even finished college — I believe each of us has a couple of friends under 20 who have started their own online shop.
For instance, Iman Usman, a youth activist who has just been awarded as National Most Outstanding Student 2012, has started volunteering since he was 10. Angelique Widjaja won her first Women Tennis Association award when she was just 17 years old, while the 12-year-old Armada was entitled by Microsoft as The Youngest Microsoft Certificate IT Professional. These names are just a few Indonesians who did not wait for someone else and made their own kick-off since early age.
The Generation That Cares
Despite all the fast tracks to worldly happiness that a liberal market offers you, let’s admit poverty still exists because some people are not as equipped with the tools to survive. In order for a nation’s generation to not get screwed as a whole, you will need the people who have access to resources to care about those who don’t.
I am personally very proud to see the rapid proliferation of social youth movements or youth-led organizations across the country. To name a few: Indonesian Youth Conference (initiated by youth activist Alanda Kariza), Indonesian Future Leaders (whose chapters spread in Indonesia’s four biggest islands), Suara Pemuda Anti Korupsi (an youth anti-corruption community whose persistence always amazes me), and dozens more to follow. These people are working their sweat off to make betterment, and I think Kotkin is doing them an injustice by declaring they’re “screwed.”
The Generation That Works With The Government
Despite the questionable programs of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on how he would like to absorb fresh graduates and enable them to secure their future, today’s young Indonesian start to realize that it takes two to tango. The critiques made by our society will not bring them anywhere unless they channel these ideas to the right ears and hands and subsequently, the government requires our inputs to understand to which direction we want them to advance the ship.
It pleases me to learn that the current generation does work with the government, particularly after the launch of Open Government Indonesia initiative (@OpenGovIndo on Twitter) that aims to accommodate such needs. When the government does listen to the country’s youth and we appreciate them in return, I fail to see why we have to get screwed.
Indeed, it might take some time until the “Gold Generation” takes charge of the country and the road is terribly winding to get there, but I have every confidence that when the day comes, Kotkin’s prediction will sound like an ridiculous idea.
Indonesia still has millions of go-getters, innovators, as well as creators — and we shall not let belittle their existence. Let’s be realistically optimistic and work hard to break the jinx of “generation screwed.”