Winds of change
A message from the youth, challenging inequity and shaping the nation
There are new winds blowing and the politicians just don't know how to react. The ongoing student or youth unrest does not belong to an opposition party, it transcends partisan beliefs, ideologies and institutions, instead it belongs to all of 'us' and efforts by politicians to paint us to one side or the other have failed. While we lack a leader, a party or even organisational cohesion, we certainly have an abundance of well-meant concern for the future, as you have never known or delivered. In some ways, it is 'anti-politics', as the youth are appalled with the conventional ways of politicking where one thing is said and a complete opposite is implied, your running with the hare and hunting with the hound is so obvious to us. You know why? It is because we are a generation with an accompanying instinct that you haven't cracked in your calculations, it is called Gen Z (born towards the end of the '90s).
The bulk of street angst today is getting expressed by Gen Z who in India are the post-90's-liberalisation generation, the 500 million 'bloc' that will shape the results of 2024 National Elections. Contrary to popular belief, we are not quoting Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street as the philosophy of winner-takes-it-all is not about us. Surprise-surprise, we are actually rediscovering Gandhi, Constitution, Faiz, Ambedkar, Bhagat etc., and try as you might in order to diminish even these holy cows with your perverse insinuations, we are reading, re-reading and constantly reminding you of your Constitution, our Constitution, the Indian Constitution! This rote 'go to Pakistan' at the drop of a hat of facing dissent is so boorish and unintelligent. When we should have been celebrating our societal and civilisational expressions like a liberal, intellectual, secular, democratic etc., you mock them with spiteful counters like libtard, pseudointellectual, sickular, etc.
Our idea of 'youth' is not force-retiring ministers of 75 years and beyond, read the ironic writing on the political walls in the United States. The man who owns the youth imagination is Democrat Bernie Sanders, almost 80 years of age and a Jew! He is not even the favourite boy of Israel or Wall Street for he speaks of democracy, economic inequality, labour rights, international cooperation (sounds familiar from the India of a few decades ago?) and for us especially, he passionately pitches tuition-free tertiary education, global warming, green deal agenda, etc. While he may not become the President, he truly speaks our language, fears and aspirations and perhaps the timing of 2020 is too soon for him to tilt the scales, but 2024?
Greta Thunberg stormed into our collective conscience in 2019 and what are the lessons for you? We are outraged at the societal impasse and are willing to show it by dissent and protest. We take responsibility and feel empowered to be the change (remember Gandhi?). We feel increasingly unrepresented by our politicians, their causes, their campaigns and above all, their true agenda (read, 'true' again). This is an aware generation that constantly questions and seeks answers (blind-faithful, please excuse). We are also more accommodative, liberal and open to contrarian ideas, we call it perspective. We do not wish to be defined by religion, caste or political parties as it is suffocating and regressive. We do not like binaries. I can happily subscribe to various sides on the scale on different issues without necessarily being BJP, Congress, AAP, Left or anything else. Size no longer impresses us and it is the inherent values and agenda of a political party, media house, newspapers, corporations, celebrities, etc., that we bear in mind before making our personal preferences. We want to know what each entity and brand stands for, as we readily call out the offensive expressions, biases and deliberate distortions. I even consume my toothpaste for what it simply is, it only needs to be an effective, safe and quality product from a 'responsible' organisation, for that I do not care if it is 'Swadeshi' or multinational ('responsible' covers it all and not some glib talk, period). Above all, majoritarianism as a concept against the proverbial 'other', is instinctively distasteful. We feel very responsible to hold the 'other' and not allow their concerns and tribulations to be only theirs, as we make it about 'us' in the collective sense. Reality check, look carefully at the clothes of the protestors. You may actually be surprised by the unity-in-diversity.
Our biggest fear is our future, talk to us about that in your agendas and allay that fear. We know history is important but it does not need to be reinvented. Tell us your plans on protecting the planet, creating jobs, socio-economic development, reducing inequities and societal-evolution. Can you spare us the talk on Aurangzeb, Jai Chand and Macaulay! You see the recent phenomenon of fear-mongering and polarisation is actually having an opposite impact on us. You may have weaponised the language of your core constituents like never before but you have also woken up and riled up the common man on the street who may not share the hate of your agenda or bloodlust. Our uprising may still seem small but there is an unmistakable groundswell and the fence-sitters are looking at us haplessly and empathetically. Signs were telling in the recent electoral results, where no one really won, all politicians and political parties lost their face in Maharashtra for it showed that there really was no party with any difference. Needless to say, our grouse is not directed exclusively to any one party but if it seemed so to the reader then that party must be more obsessed with the politics of the past, rather than talking about the future. Today Gen Z is only reacting on the streets but by 2024 it will no longer react but act, assert and determine the future of politics, and our country.
Sanah Singh is a first-year law student. Views expressed are strictly personal