Raden Trunojoyo of Madura was only 28 when he successfully led a rebellion against the brutal governance of Mataram rulers, but Nero was not even in his 20s when he became a tyrant.
Ki Hajar Dewantara was 40 when he scrapped his royal title to show his solidarity with the people after years of educational activism, but the reign of King Leopold II in Congo, characterised by oppression for his personal gain, lasted until his death at the age of 74.
If age is the sole reason for an uprising, perhaps the uprising was not thoroughly thought through. Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was not wrong to point out the lack of youths in the political arena, but he was not in the right either to initiate a movement of youths to tackle the issue.
What is obvious in this situation is the romanticisation of rebellion by the privileged. What had always been the means for the oppressed to counter their condition is now diminished to alleviate the pain felt by a youngster when older people dismiss his arguments in the Dewan Rakyat. If youth is the only variable considered by Syed Saddiq in his disregarded significance, wouldn’t starting a collective of youngsters to overthrow the elders alarm them in the wrong way? When the only difference between the old ways and a proposed youth movement is age, what is absolute is another volatile force without a clear stand, composed of different bearers of virtues with differing viewpoints on how policies are conducted.
Would youth be enough of a compensating factor? Wouldn’t it diminish the significance of youths everywhere to assume that they would only be attracted to their own kind, and that their votes are already compromised by the youth movement? The citizens are tired and weary. Not just the youngsters, but those weathered by time as well. Youngsters are significant stakeholders but they’re not the only ones. The movement itself is a blatant show of privilege. While the representation of gender and race is praiseworthy, most of those involved in this movement are urbanites. There is a lack of representation from the lower socioeconomic classes.
The urban poor, sexual minorities, academic dropouts and unemployed youths comprise a significant number of all marginalised communities. When will they be a part of politics instead of being politicised? Will this movement address the needs of the youth and reflect this demography?
But Syed Saddiq is adamant on the representation shown by this movement. Quoting the names of a few members along with their rural upbringing and activism, he seems to think that coming from an underprivileged background will be enough to anchor people to the movement. What good would it do if those backgrounds are only quotations that do not reflect the direction of the movement? Will these few members play a significant role in policymaking relative to their backgrounds, or will they simply be a popularising factor as a show of pluralistic movement to be exploited by Syed Saddiq?
There are many familiar faces in this movement, including those with whom I have interacted and admire. They deserve a movement that doesn’t use them just because of their age. Their contribution holds an infinite goodness that should not be limited to the realm of political gain.
It cannot be denied that this movement is synonymous with the image of Syed Saddiq. Will the youth activists and experts within the movement be able to shine behind the shadow cast by his giant figure? “Gajah sama gajah bergaduh, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah.”
The giants in the political system are in constant pursuit of power, and it’s unfortunate that the youngsters seeking to reclaim their throne are misdirected in their intention.
What would become of Malaysia if the youngsters were in power? Would the dismay of the trans community over discrimination be resolved? Would our education syllabus be neutralised into a narrative that does not disregard the left? Would the vernacular system be left alone by politicians looking to score easy points?
A rage against a flawed system will inevitably create another system that, in time, becomes flawed as well. What we need is a sustainable political system that works in everyone’s favour, not a superficial coup d’état for a transfer of power.
Now that the movement has been registered as a political party, the expectation for Syed Saddiq to prove its validity as a force for the people is further entrenched. The people need to know that Muda is more than just a gimmick and an attempt to appeal for power. They need to know that the slogan and hashtag “MasaKita” is more than just a campaign to be taken at face value, and that “kita” means everyone – not just Syed Saddiq and the movement. Nevertheless, the justification given by Syed Saddiq has been disappointing.
To go on would be to emasculate the people only for emancipation from a very narrow and specific flaw which has yet to be proven as the source of all detriments.
We understand that the political arena should be cleansed of corrupt elders, but the key word is “corrupt”, not “elders”.
Can it be guaranteed that this movement will not fall into the same pattern?
What should be guaranteed is not positions but rather an accomplished hope for all.
We may say, “Let the youngsters try”, but politics shouldn’t be based on probability and we are all tired of trying.
What’s the worst that could happen?
For Syed Saddiq and those within the movement, they could lose their seats and reputations. But for the people below, they could lose their livelihoods.
The worst is already upon us, we think, but it could spiral further if this continues.