Around the world, many revolutionary movements and counter-protest movements saw the light through the combined efforts of youth leadership and political movements. Whether it’s the election of Emmanuel Macron in France or the mobilization of young politically active organizers in Latin America, most young people take an interest in politics early on. And why shouldn’t they? Many understand that their inherent well-being and happiness depends not on only on the dynamics within their microcosm but also on the macrocosm-society, politics, economics and so forth.
Across Africa, young people are vocal about their political views and affiliations, for the reason stated above. Feeling the brunt of economic hardship and not being able to fend for themselves in a highly unequal society, has the effect of imbuing a sense of political activism in youngsters. Ask someone from Zimbabwe what they think of Mugabe and they will unleash a torrent of emotional opinions on you. Ask a young destitute slum boy in India what he thinks of Modi and he will surely give you his 2 cents, even if theoretically he doesn’t have any.
But ask a youngster you’ve randomly picked out from the street what he thinks of politics here, in Mauritius and there’s bound to be a disconnect. Not just between the reality of politics and how they perceive it, but the whole notion of how important politics truly is to the country. A great amount of discomfort arises in that instant because of just how indoctrinated the youth seems to be. An indoctrination that starts from the very beginning of their education, and ends in the tertiary institutions of the island that fail to reckon with the human condition in Mauritius.
Most of it rests on the vague assumptions that young people only need to learn the required skills for their trade of choice, or parrot away talking points learned by rote with no actual relevancy to the actual world. This disconnect is even more entrenched than we’d like to think as voter turnout among those in the age group 18-25 is alarmingly low, and continues on a downward path. As the media fails to tackle youth issues, including but not limited to; scarce opportunities in the economy, brain drain sparked by a lack of sophisticated educational and technological infrastructure and relatively low wages, it’s fair to surmise that young Mauritians have become a disenfranchised entity in terms of Mauritian politics.
And this announces a bleak and dreary future, marred by the complete ignorance of an important faction among the population. The reality is tragic enough as it is since most Mauritians, regardless of their age group, are oblivious to the schemes and machinations of the ruling party, or too meek to act upon them and thus let them slide. With the youth condemned to a protracted indifference, we’re going to have a hard time explaining to our children why democracy in Mauritius is eerily redolent of medieval monarchy.
But this isn’t the moral failing of the youth per se, it’s a direct consequence of a popular agenda; an agenda prized among those intent on conserving what little power they have to increase it beyond recognition. It’s a consequence of an education that’s decided by people in politics and not by the experts in the domain. It’s a consequence of an upbringing that fails to include initiation to ideas, philosophical standpoints and an appreciation for the struggle of humankind. It’s the bane of our society; a society that’s simultaneously indignant at and hamstrung by their own languor.
What can we do to change that, to remedy this chaotic situation? If young Mauritians continue to ignore this urgency for political activism, there’s never going to be a change in the current dynastic political reign of this country and this will entail years and years of quasi monarchy, with established oligarchs filling their pockets and the vast majority of Mauritians reduced to near serfdom, scraping the bottom of the barrel for an exiguous livelihood.
To instill political activism among the youth remains a challenge but it’s not impossible. Just like football matches disputed among regional groups in England can spark unparalleled devotion and excitement among young men in Mauritius, we need to help them channel this energy toward more worthy causes, like the future of their country ergo, their own future.