Be the change we want to see
We stand at a crucial juncture of age and time.
Sixty percent of Bhutan’s population is below the age of 25. While this is a positive force to contribute to development, we are faced with the ugly realities that come with it namely high unemployment rate, sexual and reproductive health issues and substance abuse among others.
In the past three years, more than 2,500 drug abusers were nabbed of which 44% were youth. This is an alarming sign. We see broken families and youth suffering the effects. They resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms and drugs is just one of them. Others include violence, rebellion and various crimes.
Bhutan also has one of the highest suicide rates in the region which is an anomaly to its GNH image. What then can we make of all this?
It boils down to this: that glossing over the state of our youth and painting an all is well, rosy picture of the state of the country won’t do. Sure, we have to keep the tourism industry alive but we have to keep our people alive, too.
We are a people that have steadily developed a Shangrila effect of some sort. We have become so used to projecting ourselves as a happy, perfect nation that we actually believe it. This is sheer folly.
By all accounts we do enjoy a degree of stability and peace than other countries that are wrecked by terrorism, war, poverty, disease and so on but why compare ourselves to the worst when we can constantly try to better ourselves by comparing to the best?
A famous social worker in Bhutan once said that the first thing for the Bhutanese is ego, the second ego and the third ego. The parents of a child who is severely suicidal won’t seek help because they fear their reputation will be smeared. A youth who is on the verge of losing his life due to drug abuse won’t get support from his family if he wants to go to a rehabilitation center because they fear stigma. Parents will be busy gambling or drinking in bars while children struggle to tide through the night with scraps of left over from lunch. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.
High divorce rates resulting from promiscuity and extramarital affairs break homes and it seems to have become the norm in Bhutan. Nobody blinks when you say that a couple has separated. Nobody seems to care that unmonitored youth indulge in premarital sex and scar themselves emotionally and sometimes physically for life. Nobody seems to care that caretakers have become predators, that relatives and family members are molesting and abusing our youth and they will never be the same again, that their childhood has been robbed of innocence, tenderness and joy.
Then as more bars and discotheques and drayangs crop up than book stores, libraries and recreational centers, people will ask what ails our youth. They will start pointing fingers at each other. They will point fingers at the government. They will play the blame game.
But if we look at ourselves, we will know the answer. Are we as individuals, family and society being models for youth? Are we leading exemplary lives? Are we being a source of inspiration to them? To strive for everything that is good and great and noble? Do we set personal benchmarks for our personal and public conduct so that people who see and observe us on a daily basis can be motivated to be and do their best in every aspect of life?
Or have we become so slack, blind and judgmental that we keep passing the buck, procrastinating and living carelessly and have become a testimony of sheer failure and mismanagement of our talent and resources?
We must understand that youth imitate and we must give them something worthy to imitate. We cannot change others unless we change ourselves. Standing on a moral high stool and preaching won’t do. We must become the change we want to see.
And this includes cultivating a sterling character built on the bedrock of time tested values and principles.