Feb 23, 2017
THE accident in Johor Baru last weekend in which eight teenagers died and several others injured has generated different reactions from different people, while some who should have said something are curiously keeping silent.
What everyone knows, though, is that these mostly school-going children were from low-income households that form the foundation of the service economy that makes cities like Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur so attractive to people of affluence.
It is one thing to have an opinion, but whether that opinion would make much of a difference depends on how much it can contribute to make things better or whether it is just a useless judgement call that can create no positive outcome.
One thing that we cannot deny is that our environment shapes our character.
It is our environment that provides us with the societal values and shared experiences that condition our perception and temper our natural inclinations.
Therefore, unless we are subjected to the very same conditioning as those whom we are judging in instances such as the tragedy in Johor Baru, we are actually not qualified to make judgement nor criticise.
Even so, it is far better to offer solutions that can make a difference than to simply air our views of what is wrong without offering something positive in return.
Our society may have grown collectively more affluent since we first gained self-determination, but a society will always be made up of the have and have-not – it is the natural structure of a capitalistic economy.
We have a Youth and Sports Ministry dedicated to the development of youth and sports in this country, and we have seen a lot being spent on sports development.
The question remains, however, how much development was actually dedicated towards ensuring that our youngsters grow up into well-adjusted adults.
The ministry, which was relatively quiet in the wake of the tragedy which killed scores of youths, by right should have been working with the Education Ministry to ensure that relevant, appropriate and attractive youth development programmes are well-incorporated into the educational environment to cater for differences in interest, capability and affordability.
These programmes should then be extended into the youths’ daily lives outside of the school to provide positive and safe entertainment for children with too much energy and short attention span.
Bearing in mind that most of these youth programmes are probably determined appropriate by adults’ standards, there should then be consideration on how attractive they are from the perspective of the youngsters they are designed for.
There should be ways that we could capture the natural curiosity and enthusiasm of youths with programmes that challenge their sense of adventure and stimulate their natural instincts to develop creative, well-rounded individuals, instead of simply forcing them into an accepted mould that adults consider as appropriate for them.
We have built numerous sports and youth facilities throughout the country but it seems that we failed to ensure their accessibility and appropriateness for young teenagers with a rush of adrenaline for adventure and excitement, regardless of their social background.
There seems also an insufficient number of social counsellors with stature that are approachable for teenagers, too intimidated by their parental figures that can be their go-to reference before their natural youthful curiosity lead them to experiment with new experiences.
It is easy to talk about the responsibilities of parents in making sure their children grow up without becoming a burden to society, but we collectively failed to consider that some parents and guardians do not have the leisure of quality time to spend with children under their care because of economic pressures.
When the harrowing tragedy in Johor Baru struck, many of us seemed to fail to even consider the environmental challenges of children growing up in poor single parent or guardian households and how different personalities would react differently to these challenges.
The crux of the matter is that we have apparently not done enough for our youths to even qualify to judge them.
This is what we should address most instead of being overly busy finding a place to place the blame when such a tragedy happened.