Thursday, 4 December 2014

Malaysia faces political hurdle in Gen Y

BN and PR cannot afford to wait 20 years to change their ways.

Gen X stands at the forefront of politics right now. Born in the 1960s and 1970s, Gen X created a revolution through the introduction of the Internet in public life, forever changed the way we communicate with each other, and introduced some of the most dynamic industries yet. Their time has only just begun, and they are set to change the political landscape worldwide as they begin to assume power in various countries throughout the world.

Waiting in the wings, however, is Gen Y. FMT has covered Gen Y’s workplace aspirations as well as the complaints leveled against these millennials by their Gen X managers. It’s clear that there is a significant divide in how Gen Y gets things done and how Gen X wants things to be done, and that represents an issue for our future leaders.

Born to the largest middle class in history, the millennials have rarely wanted for anything because the hard work ethics of their Baby Boomer parents have ensured that they have the best life available to them. From Internet access to unprecedented access to television programming, Gen Y is hyper connected and hyper aware of cultures and issues, though many of its members are armchair warriors on the subjects they claim to champion.

This environment of enablement allows Gen Y to harbour great entrepreneurial ambitions, and also great workplace expectations, which leads us to the complaints managers have against Gen Y. But that aside, of great curiosity is how Gen Y will come to impact the world of politics in Malaysia.

The ability of Gen Y to affect change was first seen in the crowning of Barack Obama as President of the United States. With his affable charm and easy slogans, he appeared a revolutionary figure who could live up to Gen Y’s visions of how a country should be run after power is taken out of the hands of old men set in their ways. Whether he has succeeded or not is for history to decide, but this remains the prime example of how millennials can organize to shift the political landscape entirely.

The leading edge of the millennials is represented by those in their mid-30s, old enough to have established a career path, and perhaps even a family. It’s also around this time that a person begins to think of how he can give back to society, and this manifests in helping the community his involved in, or even entering politics out of a hope to serve the nation better. There’s no denying, though, that some have got into politics because they saw a chance to make money. Be that as it may, within the next decade, Gen Y will begin it’s foray into politics, and the values held by Gen Y are going to cause many complications on both sides of the partisan divide.

Social responsibilities

As with all generations, Malaysia’s Gen Y will have political leanings in all shades, with some on the fringes of both the extreme right and left, though the more educated and connected will always tend towards liberal values. This is a great point to consider for any party that prides itself in upholding the rights of the downtrodden.

Millennials in general have made social responsibilities a part of their lives – serving in soup kitchens, finding uses for recycled materials, giving a weekend or two to awareness programmes and such. This bodes well for the opposition, which built it’s name in championing human rights and social justice, and less so for the ruling party and it’s conservative elements.

Women will also play a huge role as millennials have become increasingly empowered in terms of women’s rights, and despite the “men’s rights” backlash, a large portion of millennials see the rise of women in politics as a positive sign.

This can largely be attributed to the general optimism of Gen Y. They believe that things will eventually work out if they we keep putting in the effort, but this can lead to easy disillusionment when encountering failure, which is probably why the Pew Centre found in it’s research that despite the optimism, Gen Y is more distrustful of people than Gen X.

A very important finding in the Pew Centre’s research is that a majority of millennials do not identify with political parties. This is perhaps driven by Gen Y’s tendency to be driven by issues and not by rhetoric, and since no party seems to be interested in striking a balance between right-wing and left-wing policies, the millennials are not interested in proclaiming loyalty to any party in particular. After all, despite the leanings towards liberal ideals mentioned above, millennials are also fiscally conservative.

Millennials aren’t any more partial than their elders to higher taxes, and are generally seen to be unsupportive of handouts, believing that nobody owes them a living. (This may be a little bit of a hypocritical disconnect considering their lives are more or less handed to them by their parents.) Fiscal responsibility and curbing excess spending seems to be the government trend these days, and both sides need to make steps towards reducing the national deficit as the worsening economy is a great concern for Gen Y.

In 20 years, all of Gen Y will have come of age, and some will even be leaders in government. The parties that these leaders represent, however, may not be the same parties that claim dominance today should they refuse to learn that Gen Y requires a different touch than the one that worked for Gen X.

Policy and not rhetoric. Moderation and not extremism. Rights and not repression. These are only some of the issues both sides of the fence need to evaluate to maintain relevance for the generation, and one can only assume that Gen Z will exacerbate the current issues that need to be addressed within Malaysia’s political structure.

But then again, would it be so bad for Gen Y to demolish the current political structure and begin anew once the old guard have died off?

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