The youths are proactive, and even more. For quite some time now, we have had several youth organisations in Bangladesh. The young adults of the nation have been running around, doing and organising voluntary activities to create more awareness, to inspire youths to become more proactive. Working hard to find answers for some very difficult concerns and issues, like corruption, crime, inefficiency, lack of education, security. Only recently, One degree’s ‘Active citizen’ project ensured decentralisation of volunteering, outside Dhaka and beyond (Isn’t decentralisation one of the elements to bring down corruption?). The point I’m making is that youths, the young people, are everywhere, selflessly doing a lot of things, even when few or no one has their back. When the Rana factory collapsed, the youths rushed to the scene, this time, to help in ways they never thought they would have to—save lives. Literally. Not through education or leadership programmes—but actual lifesaving.
Let me tell you something. Living and studying abroad can be quite frustrating at times, because it is like living in a bubble. In my case, Sweden is nothing less than a pretty socialist bubble. And I feel one of the requirements (to sustain the pretty features of the bubble) of Swedish socialism is that the government and the media ‘want’ people here to live in a bubble. One of my Swedish Algerian friend informs me, slightly flustered, how the news in Sweden are structured in a way that is meant to prevent the viewers from getting anxious about world events (line up a news of a musical right after the ‘bad’ news). I find it extremely annoying when I realise and see students abroad, living in a bubble, because I genuinely think that at times they lack perspective. For most, it would be near impossible to comprehend a reality like Rana factory incident. When Boston marathon bombing took place, I saw (on Facebook) few friends in the USA taking part in a vigil of some sort, where people thought of coming and talking about feelings and emotions, to deal with their trauma. I think I chortled a little after reading that.
The active presence of the young people—young students, paramedics, electricians, social entrepreneurs, musicians, at the Rana site gives out a very important message, that they, youths are not backing out. With the use of social media, they have kept nation and the world active and informed. Can we trace back to the initiation of youth organisations like Jaago, BYLC, One degree, Community Action to understand the way these young people have managed to live outside the comfort zone, because these youth organisations are initiatives of some very young people who had and still continue to have visions. Can we say shouting out slogans at Shahbag Chottor has made the youths more confident and bold? Maybe that was a leadership training experience by itself. Or is it the Lungi March, deemed ridiculous and stupid by many? Why did the youths run to save the other youths, you know, the unacknowledged cheap lot, who bear the economy of the nation? Perhaps to say no and resist against one of the most pernicious phobias in our society?—classism. Classism that doesn’t allow rickshaw pullers to wear lungis in rich neighborhoods. The youths are in this, together. And they are ready to not only save lives, but also raise some very difficult questions. Questions about inequality, greed, systems that are pushing the country to a crisis. What will happen to Rana and plenty other criminals like him who constitute this cycle of corruption and greed? Will the government and corporates finally take responsible, humane measures instead of saying the most uncouth things? Will Economics text books expound a critical take on the term ‘cheap labour?’
Visions– something that the young people have. Vision that has made the youths selfless, beautifully kind people. Vision that has made the youths restless, maniacs, zombies. Vision that has been prompted the youths to take both small and big steps, because they believe in the change that will come. Maybe not very soon, but will come. For now, there is the vision. And sheer recklessness. A recklessness that is calm, wise and powerful.
(The writer is a Reporter, Star Campus, currently doing Master’s in Gender Studies: Intersectionality and Change at Linköping University, Sweden.)