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OP-ED: The price of youth

  • Published at 01:12 am February 8th, 2021

What can be done to minimize the loss of young lives?

The rule of social evolution states that society never remains static with one set of norms; the outlook changes with social creed. Society will transform and nothing can stop it, but what is disquieting is the inexorable rise of an urban culture dominated by dissipation. 

In recent times, there have been several cases involving people and these have common features: Decadent behaviour, alcohol, drugs, and family backgrounds that permit such excesses. 

From the hacking of a husband in front of his wife by the latter’s secret lover to the burning of a young girl for repudiating indecent proposals, to the death of a girl during a date with her boyfriend, to the demise of two university students due to the consumption of spurious alcohol -- all these unfortunate episodes speak of a warped social ideology which the modern day young seem to be pursuing with gusto.

The young will be wild -- that has always been the rule; we were also rebellious when growing up in the 80s, but in our engagements there was more innocent mischief than macabre instincts. College students in the 80s and 90s had their share of fun -- clandestine meetings with girls, drinking beer once in a while, watching adult films with pals, and even bunking classes to catch movies.

While transgression of rules appealed to all of us, in the 80s and even in the 90s, no teenager ever lit up a cigarette in his area fearing that he would be spotted by a senior or a local elder and reprimanded. Every family, from low income one to high income ones, taught children to be courteous in front of seniors. That culture to honour the elderly has completely disappeared -- an indication that parents are not teaching proper behaviour to children.

In the latest case of youth indiscretion which involved two deaths due to contaminated alcohol consumption, we see an unrestrained hedonistic lifestyle which has entered the youth circle a little too prematurely. There is nothing wrong in having a drink, dancing to music, or consensual intimacy but once the line of moderation is crossed, accidents are bound to happen.

Some clips related to the latest incident of the death of two university students are available on YouTube and are being shown by TV channels. These clearly illustrate an urban culture which tears down all inhibitions. Having fun is not the problem, failing to draw a line is. 

The question of alcohol

Then there is the question about alcohol. Whether we admit it or not, drinking alcohol has crossed from a condemnable vice to acceptable social behaviour which the veneer of conservatism cannot stifle.

But responsible drinking has not been taught because just like a taboo on sex education, no one wants to admit openly that drinking is a part of life in most cities. With too much cloak and dagger, misconceptions proliferate.

From several youth-related tragedies the issue about too much liberty plus luxury at an early age has come into focus. 

The young have the right to make their youth memorable. Perhaps a few transgressions can also be overlooked because rationally speaking, strict moral upbringing is another deadly trap which turns children into bullies later in life. 

What is essential is an open discussion between youngsters and parents about adhering to certain rules. Having fun with a sense of responsibility is a topic which has become very important and needs to be discussed in schools and colleges.

Imposing a set of rigid rules is never the solution because society cannot be restricted within an outdated structure; it will evolve, and to minimize loss of young lives, youth culture with its myriad dimensions has to be analyzed.

Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka.