The Malta Independent 1 March 2021, Monday

19 is a good age to start (possibly even younger)

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 17 February 2021, 06:55 Last update: about 12 days ago

This week a controversy flared up after Carlos Zarb was appointed Governor on the FinanceMalta board (Government representative).  The ‘socials’ were alight with comments being thrown around that he doesn’t have the age and hence the experience to hold such an office; ‘How could a 19-year-old offer anything of substance to a Board?’, many claimed.  

ADVERTISEMENT

An argument that circumvents on competencies, lack of transparency in the way the appointment was done, lack of space for women candidates, the procedure used, party nepotism - all of that I will take, and the Government should be held responsible and accountable. But that 19 years automatically disqualifies you and makes you ineligible, with that I have a gargantuan problem.

Most of the people who commented based their analysis, not because they knew him or because they were aware of what the Board’s role was, but simply on the fact that he was 19-years-old. According to ‘them’, he did not have the experience to make him eligible for this role. The assumption that age makes you wise is, from where I stand, a puny argument.

The legal age of adulthood, for most duties and responsibilities, is gauged at 18-years-old. Not only, we have now introduced obligations as a country and taken a collective decision to have young people in the driving seat, in areas like voting, amongst others, at 16 years old. 

The moment I tried reacting to the shallow argument that 19 is ‘equal to incompetency’, I got mugged on Facebook. But as you can see, I’m not in the least bothered, because;

I believe that if young people are given responsibility, they will not let us down;

I believe that young people can take and make decisions, if given the space to do so;

I believe that young people have enormous potential that needs to be unpacked, and this will only take place if given opportunities where experience rubs off;

I believe that it is good to have young people around because they think outside the box and can see, interpret and analyse problems in a completely different way than adults do;

I believe that young people do not carry the toxicity and negativity that one finds in adults;

I believe that young people have the energy, the freshness and the stimulation to analyse issues at another level;

I believe that young people can think beyond the confines of the mainstream argument;

I believe that young people can stand up to the insubstantial wiles of adults;

I believe that young people have the right to carve society in their image and likeness;

I believe that young people don’t need lip service and cajoling that they are ‘the future’, that ‘we believe in them’ - when at the first opportunity for them to shine we back down.

I believe young people should be the ones sitting on boards and it should be mandatory to have young people on all the boards in our authorities and entities (private and government). 

I reiterate what I have been saying for years, that we should have another committee within Parliament whereby all legislation is analysed from the optics of young people and children.

I corroborate that young people should be at the forefront of how this country moves forward. 

The irony of it all is that we accuse young people of not having an interest in anything that is happening around them.  We blame them that they are alienated with their PlayStations and video games and for being completely disinterested (mhux kif konna ahna!) with what is happening around them and the moment we try to engage a 19-year-old, all hell breaks loose.

Now that I am past the 50-year mark, I realize more than ever what a letdown our generation has been. The ‘fabulous’ generation X that stood up for the adults at the time claiming they were unfit to run the country, a country which was brought to disrepute, almost civil war, a lack of respect towards the institutions with a political class in disarray, disrespect for the environment, hardly any consideration towards civil society…  But we have hardly learned anything it seems – history repeated itself very quickly. 

Our generation (now adults) gave back a country that has (yet again) no respect towards the environment, that has played around with governance as if it was children’s play-doh, that has perpetuated hatred and spewed intolerance, that has split the Island in half and all of this whilst so many adults are in key positions in our country – the architype of déjà vu.

It is the time to let go. It is the time to hand over the baton to young people. They might mess things up a bit in the process, they might make decisions we do not agree with, they might make us feel uneasy as they will seek to take us out of our comfort zones – but that is a risk I am perfectly happy to take. 

As we speak, there are 1.2 billion young people in the world aged between 15 to 24 years. The Council of Europe website states; The Network advocates for youth participation and encourage their meaningful inclusion in decision and policy-making processes. (https://www.coe.int/en/web/north-south-centre/network-on-youth-and-global-citizenship). The UN also speaks copiously about the role of young people in their relationship with their communities. 

This is a golden opportunity to make it right and give young people a leading role in our society and move beyond lip-devotion.

  • don't miss