The library of Alexandria hosted a conference recently under the title of ‘the Arab Youth Forum for reform and thinking,’ that was held 8-10 February 2006. The conference dealt with ideology, reform, youth leadership and the like, concerning the future perspectives of the youth.
The participants of the conference were a distinguished selection of various intellectual trends of Egyptian society. They all spoke of excellent ideas, if only they were to be implemented! They summarized the problem of the Arab youth in several presented papers, that looked at a range of issues but similarly and most importantly, the necessity of respecting the youth.
One participant, an academic, elaborated on this issue as he drew comparisons between two approaches of dealing with the Arab youth. He stated, “We should not look at the youth as a subject that needs to be educated and shaped as if they have no opinion of their own. We tend to think that they are to be molded through the tools of social adjustment that are school, family, and religious establishment. This would result however, in an ordinary and recurring society that is unaware of creativity. The second approach, which is better, is to see view them as vital elements with independent feelings, aspirations and fears. They may have a troubled or unclear vision of the future, but at least they have one.”
This participant added that he is a supporter of the second approach. He said, “We should not treat young people as subjects but as active parts of society. They do have problems such as unemployment, violence and a backwards way of thinking but the youth itself is not a problem. They have varied responses to these challenges that range from drug addiction to religious fundamentalism. However, with will power one can face these challenges.”
The conference concluded with a number of rhetorical statements that were made such as, “from tomorrow, the youth will be our leaders,” “we should look at the way the youth think about their reality and their future,” “we should move from the culture of fear to a culture of liberty,” “from the culture of backwardness to one of progress,” and “from the culture of ignorance to that of knowledge.” I do not suspect the sincerity of these slogans; however, one cannot forget that we are a nation that loves such mottos, one that prefers talk rather than action. Over the past seven years I have read about 32 different conferences in our region that have been concerned with the Arab youth, some of which I took part in. However, none of the propositions that concluded the conferences has ever materialized. Enough of the slogans let the action begin.