Mil­len­nial ap­a­thy?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Kelly McIn­tosh Guest Colum­nist

THIS PAST week­end, a pop­u­lar talk­show host, in re­sponse to the alarm­ing re­ports of a rapidly in­creas­ing mur­der rate in our Sec­ond City, Mon­tego Bay, shared her thoughts of frus­tra­tion and alarm in a se­ries of tweets. She sug­gested some crime-fight­ing strate­gies the State could adopt and she called upon stu­dents in our ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to protest and march, as a stand, I sup­pose, against what was hap­pen­ing and as a call to change: “Where are the stu­dents of Uni­ver­sity of the West Indies, Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Ja­maica, Uni­ver­sity Col­lege of the Caribbean, etc, ... you should be stag­ing is­land­wide demon­stra­tion to force the govern­ment to act NOW on crime.”

The mil­len­ni­als on my time­line re­sponded. And they ap­peared, for the most part, to re­ject in full the talk-show host’s ral­ly­ing cry.

Oth­ers on my time­line, closer to my age (not mil­len­ni­als), be­moaned the ap­par­ent ap­a­thy of the younger gen­er­a­tion and were quick to call them self-ab­sorbed, shal­low and ap­a­thetic.

I think it is im­por­tant, though, to go be­yond mere la­bels and seek to un­der­stand why this younger gen­er­a­tion ap­pears to have no fire in their bel­lies.

First of all, our mil­len­ni­als are prod­ucts of Ja­maica. What they are to­day is in­formed by what they have seen around them for sev­eral years now.

One mil­len­nial re­jected the call to march, stat­ing very defini­tively that she is not in­ter­ested in “empty sym­bol­ism”. Why empty? Why merely sym­bolic?


The State lacks le­git­i­macy. Our young peo­ple see chaos and loss of life when the State, when it suits it, re­neges on in­ter­na­tional agree­ments on ex­tra­di­tion. They see the State fail­ing to fill the void cre­ated with the ex­trac­tion of the don from the com­mu­nity and the re­sult­ing up­swing in crime. Jus­tice looks dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on who you are, who you know and where you come from. They see this. They see laws be­ing passed in record time when pres­sure is ap­plied from alien na­tions to which we are be­holden.

They see govern­ments ap­ply­ing fis­cal dis­ci­pline only when a for­eign third-party holds the han­dle. They hear about kick­backs on na­tional cap­i­tal pro­jects and then hear noth­ing more about in­ves­ti­ga­tions and reper­cus­sions. Cou­pled with this, they see a re­luc­tance on the part of the pow­er­ful and those who want to be pow­er­ful to speed­ily en­act cam­paign­fi­nanc­ing leg­is­la­tion.

Our mil­len­ni­als face high un­em­ploy­ment. They see a glo­ri­ous pic­ture of their coun­try in the doc­u­ment that is Vi­sion 2030, and no fur­ther ref­er­ence to the vi­sion go­ing for­ward. They hear talk, talk and more talk, but see preser­va­tion of the sta­tus quo, which ex­cludes them and ex­cludes real im­prove­ment un­less those with power stand to ben­e­fit.

Their ap­par­ent ap­a­thy is pos­si­bly sim­ply a re­jec­tion of our pre­oc­cu­pa­tion as a na­tion with form and ap­pear­ance at the ex­pense of real sub­stance.

Ja­maica reached where we are un­der our watch. Why do we, there­fore, ex­pect our young peo­ple to rise up and push back now? They are sim­ply mod­el­ling our own be­hav­iour.

Do all Ja­maican cit­i­zens have an equal voice? Is en­force­ment of the law pre­dictable? Are our au­thor­i­ties seen to be fair? To an­swer any of th­ese ques­tions in the neg­a­tive is to sup­port the ar­gu­ment that the State lacks le­git­i­macy.

Our young peo­ple will con­tinue to demon­strate this so-called ap­a­thy, be­ing true to our own ex­am­ple in al­low­ing gov­er­nance lack­ing le­git­i­macy.

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