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Engaging young Bermudians

There is a brooding apathy among young people today. Our future leaders are immersed in a sense of disillusionment and a rejection of much of what an older generation embraces as the status quo. Political leaders attempt to bridge this divide by making direct overtures through inclusive strategies and giving young people a voice wherever possible since the youth vote is a prized vote. Connecting credibly with young people, however, requires that we better understand that which has shaped their outlook for the influences run deep.

We have a youth population that was nurtured on a diet of materialism many got much of what they wanted, sometimes even without asking. No doubt some parents wanted to give to their children things they never had growing up as Bermuda was awash in money brought in by the burgeoning reinsurance business.

Probably, equally so, some parents used “things” as a substitute for effective parenting which requires time, affection and example-setting. I am convinced that giving young people so much without requiring significant effort on their part has the effect of taking away their initiative, while leaving a sense of entitlement. This was brought home to me one day in the late 1990s while teaching at Bermuda College when a student explained to me that she didn't really need to work since her granny was leaving her a house.

Today that lifestyle has been given a reality check by the recession. While most of us struggle yet, imbued with a sense of history, know that this is part of a cycle, young people who because of our own failings with their education, have no reference point, no context for relating to joblessness, rising costs and the litany of other challenges today.

For them, the world that once was is now lost. They rage against the system; they do not rally against it. If you take the time to listen to young people they reject “politics as it is”, they are wary of the greed and destruction brought about by unfettered capitalism and they rebel by immersing themselves into a world they have created, defined by their own mores.

They reject much about society while necessarily continuing to interact with it. In many respects, they are nihilists without knowing it.

There is no obvious and simplistic strategy for reaching out to young people. With opinions ranging from those who feel the government has done nothing for them, to those who feel the whole system needs to change, to those who simply want to leave Bermuda to get away from it all, there is little that unifies.

Because a critical part of this apathy has been triggered by the recession, however, some of it will change when our economic circumstances improve. Opportunists will tell you they can bridge the divide if paid handsomely but, of course, they should be ignored.

Young people need to be involved in shaping Bermuda if only because they will inherit it. It is therefore in everyone's interest to find ways in which this can be created. The unfortunate reality may simply be that we have a long struggle ahead.

Walton Brown is a social and political commentator. Follow his blog on www.respicefinem1.blogspot.com. He can be contacted at walton[AT]researchmix.com

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Published February 23, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 23, 2012 at 8:37 am)

Engaging young Bermudians

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