Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Youth’s Decision: Chance or Change

Within a few of days each other, occurring in the Philippines and in the United States are several events which the youth’s judgment is challenged. The first is Halloween (both countries); second is the Barangay and Sangguniang Barangay elections in the Philippines; third is the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies in Washington, D.C.; and fourth is the mid-term elections in the United States.

Halloween involves some minor decision-making processes. Should a girl dress as a Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi, Christine O’Donnell or as a witch? Should a boy go as Obama, Osama, or Pope Benedict?  Should they go to the Kennedy mansion, the Cheney house, the houses where they are far apart, or at the King’s Manor where the townhouses are all connected to each other? Should it be trick or treat?
Barangay is the most basic governmental unit in the Philippines.  The Chairman which used to be called Captain (Kapitan) is elected not only to act as Chief Executive of the Barangay or in some cases the entire village, but also the representative of the Barangay citizens in the Municipal Council. He also presides over the Barangay Council and in some instances exercises some judicial functions. Electing the Chairman therefore, is a major decision because it has repercussions not only to the present but most especially to the future of the residents.

Sangguniang Barangay is a good training ground for the Filipino youth. It is also a form of self-governance for the latter. It provides them a chance to exercise executive as well as legislative powers.  The Aquino government had announced their intention to abolish the Sangguniang Barangay earlier. The fact that there is an election means that the youth is given another chance to change the course of Philippine governance starting at the most basic unit.

Under Section 13, Article II of the Philippine Constitution, “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being . . .”

As mentioned in a previous column, “the Sangguniang Barangay is an organization with a mechanism that is the only one of its kind in the world. Established by law, the SK puts the Philippines in the forefront of an emerging movement worldwide to give the youth a direct role in shaping policies and programs. It provides the youth the opportunity to learn leadership skills and self-governance.”

President Aquino also announced a plan to set-up an e-Center in every Barangay. Internet would then be accessible to residents in every Barangay.  Again, the youth would be in the forefront of the internet revolution in every Barangay. The Sangguniang Barangay members and elected officers are all without exception, what Dan Tapscott calls the “Digital Natives” or those who were “born digital”, “growing up digital”, and “grown-up digital”. Give or expose them to an iPhone, iPad, smart phone, netbook or any electronic product and they will learn on their own the features and the effective utilization of the devices.  Giving the “Net Generation” or the “Text Generation” the chance to access a broadband network would help them change the e-Centers into an effective e-Gov, e-Communications (e-mail, VOIP, Video-over IP), e-Library (e-books, audio books, etc.) e-Learning, e-Entertainment (multimedia, movies, games, etc.), e-Commerce, e-Shopping, e-Banking, and other changes that may surprise us all.
The rallies led by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to be held in Washington, D.C. would most likely attract America’s youth and the progressive or liberal segments of America’s political society. They will be compared to the rallies of the conservatives led by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s Tea Party.

The decision for the youth is to go or not to go.  Going would negate the perception that they are now less enthusiastic in supporting the change which they aggressively pushed two years ago. It would also mean that they are giving “change” a “chance”. Not going would confirm what the conservatives had been asserting all along – the youth prefer another change.
The mid-term elections is another critical event for the youth. The latter’s role is more significant than ever in deciding what course or direction should America go vis-à-vis the change which the youth espoused a couple of years ago. They voted for Obama’s promise of change over John McCain by an overwhelming 2:1 margin (66% vs. 32%). In addition, in both 2006 and 2008, the youth voted for Democratic congressional candidates about the same 2:1 margin that they gave the president in his general election victory.

Obama promised healthcare reform. Another 40 million Americans are now covered by health insurance with the passage of the healthcare reform law. That’s a change that the youth believed in and in fact, Obama delivered.  A recent survey shows that 45% of the young favors it, and another 14% want to see how it works in practice. Only 18% favor repealing it outright.

“Youth is the first victim of war; the first fruit of peace. It takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man; it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him.” (Baudouin).

The youth believed that Obama would get us out of wars. He had already started the withdrawal of forces from Iraq and is now preparing the groundwork for eventual withdrawal in Afghanistan.

On the Bush tax cuts, 34% of the young prefer to let all of the Bush 2001 tax cuts to expire, and an additional 26% favor letting the tax cuts expire for those earning more than $250,000 per year. Only 23% believe that all of the tax cuts should be extended.

The decision for the American youth in these mid-term elections then is: should they go to the polls and give “change” a “chance” or vote for another change instead?

My barber says, “the problem with another change is that given the pronouncements of the alternative, it could go back to the old policies which the youth already rejected only two years ago.”
Amidst all the events discussed above, there are actually two other events which are just as significant if not more so and which could lead to better decisions for the young. To Catholics and other Christians, one event is “All Saints’ Day”, and to many others, another event is “All Souls’ Day”.

As models in exemplary service and self-less devotion to noble causes, the Saints, Heroes, and our dearly beloved, could guide the youth and all of us to greater glory and better judgment.

As Willa Cather said, “The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.”

In God and in them we trust!  In the youth we bank our hopes!

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