Over the last fifty years, there has been a tremendous intensification in the exploitation of our key natural resource, oil. Multifarious and modern concepts applied to harness this oozing liquid and its by-products from the ground up have contributed significantly towards shaping our society today.
But today there also exists an alternate form of energy and one that we need to apply innovative concepts and direct this endless energy for a much better society tomorrow. And that is the energy of your youth, that boundless reservoir of energy that if channelled onto the right track and direction can add a significant boost to moving this country forward faster.
From time to time, one comes across a news item that some youths have been picked up for harassing women in the streets while taking video clips of their disgraceful activity and then posting them on social media. This is but an example of something gone wrong and does not sit well with the vast majority. And the efforts that the authorities undertake to identify, locate and then punish the offenders is very much appreciated. Unlike some other societies which seem to encourage this sort of behaviour, our culture is very straightforward in dismissing such attempts.
But who are these boys, and what of their background? Is punishment the only answer to what motivates these kids on to the path of deviation? The punishments alone are not going to let us know what motivates such individuals into such senseless and abusive deeds. Neither will their imprisonment help enlighten us into why some youth pursue such despicable activities.
What kind of home environment were they brought up in? Was it a case of too much too soon and too easy, whereby parents often indulge youth without limits to the point of being totally ineffective and interdependent adults? This incident may be worth a deeper look by the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs, or by some passionate investigative reporter.
But for each of these deviated youth, there are dozens of even-keeled ones, with positive and refreshing energy. They want to contribute, to feel that they can make a noteworthy contribution. As more and more of them join the 14-18 age group, it is apparent that steps on a national scale are to be taken, and not just those that make our youth part of statistics and plug them into some bureaucratic shuffle of a job.
Mandatory community service
Perhaps mandatory community service can be part of their school curriculum in their growing years, as could debates, lectures, drama classes, and the arts. Summer programmes that offer more than simply lazing away the hours or travelling to some tourist spot without gaining any form of knowledge or insight are simply not going to do it. Interchange programmes in different countries would be by far more productive.
Many Saudis still recollect the harsh and often insipid atmosphere of the 90s where anything out of the ordinary was instantly targeted as the work of mischief, where innovation and imagination were stifled as being idle and fruitless pastimes, and where one’s interpretation of faith almost had to do a complete makeover time and time again?
Today, the message from the government is loud and clear. We cannot afford to be held hostage to archaic ideas if we are to forge ourselves into success as a nation. The government is backing its words with deeds by offering employment potential to just about every Saudi in their mega-projects across the land.
There are plenty of platforms and venues available today for our youth to participate in for a more stable and productive future. It remains critical that proper guidance and very much of it should begin at home, or else the results may not always be what society can appreciate.
Our youth are what we are going to make them. Ignore them and you run the risk of them indulging in nefarious activities without nary a contribution to society’s well-being. Provide them with the right tools and guide them towards positive goals, and watch some of them perhaps soar among eagles in making this a better place for all of us to live.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena