Saturday, April 09, 2005

Post No. 9: Friends, Youths, Future Masters of The World, Lend Me Your Eyes!

“Great ambition & conquest, without contribution, is insignificant.” – The Emperor’s Club

Read this as a clarion call. A clarion call for you all, my friends, the youths (specifically the well-educated ones) of Singapore to step forward & contribute. We can, after all, be loosely considered as being members of the “elite” (for lack of a better word) of tomorrow (if not today). Undeniably, having a good education has its perks but, more importantly, it also brings upon us a heavy responsibility. A responsibility to contribute, not only to our local society, but also to the world. We have taken so much to achieve what we have today, it’s time we started to think about giving back & how to do it. As most of you all would have already realised by now: the world we live in isn’t perfect. However, we have the power to change it for the better if only we start to contribute.

Perhaps you all aren’t convinced by the argument above. Perhaps you all find it too elitist. However, there are another 2 reasons which I can think of to answer the question of why we have the responsibility to contribute towards the betterment of the world. Look around you. Is this the sort of world you all want to spend the rest of your lives in? Would it be the world you want your children to live in? A world plagued by poverty, armed conflicts, exploitation, environmental degradation & epidemics? I suppose most of you all would, similar to me, answer in the negative. If so, don’t just complain about how imperfect the world is, contribute in improving it! Furthermore, though we may not be personally affected, there are countless people out there who are. These people are real; not just mere statistics we all read, once in a while when they soar to an even higher peak, in the newspapers. The plight these people face afflicts them everyday. They are no different from us, they are our fellow human beings, only that we are fortunate enough to be spared. Although this may sound too idealistic (I suppose there is an idealist deep inside me), it is my belief that as part of a common humanity, we all have a responsibility, if not duty, to help those less well-off than us. Thus, we should contribute.

Yet, despite the reasons I mentioned above, it seems to me that many of us all are not fulfilling our responsibility to contribute. Although I cannot claim to be an expert, it is my diagnosis that it isn’t that we are not aware, do not care or don’t want to care (though some of us may be guilty of these 3 situations to varying degrees). Instead, it is that we don’t care about contributing as much as other stuff. We care more about what’s the latest mobile phone model, coolest movie or newest computer game. Or perhaps we care more about what grades we will be getting for our exams. Don’t be mistaken. As a youth (though I would soon be “legally” termed an adult by virtue of my age), I understand that we want to enjoy ourselves while we are young and that we may be burdened by so much schoolwork that we hardly have any spare time for ourselves.

However, as I have argued before, youth is a privilege. It is when we are still young, being less tainted by experience, that we have both the energy & idealism to contribute. We should not waste our youth on plain enjoyment and schoolwork. There’s more to Life. We should devote some of our time and energy to contribute.

Also, perhaps another reason why we aren’t contributing yet is that we are cynical about what impact we will really have. We see ourselves as a lonely & insignificant voice in a big & noisy world. We let ourselves into thinking that no matter how loud we shout, nobody will hear us or, even if we are heard, no real significant change will occur at all. We think: “ I am just one person, what can I do to change the world?”

Yet, to paraphrase Pascal, though you may be but a reed, the weakest thing in nature, you are a reed with something to contribute nonetheless. Imagine how much poorer the world would be if Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. or MM Lee have thought to themselves that they were just insignificant individuals who can do nothing to contribute? Though you all may think that you are just one person with nothing to contribute, the truth is that you all do have something to contribute. Your contribution may not be all that great or revolutionary, the point is that you have stepped forward to contribute and that is significant in itself.

Furthermore, there are those amongst us who, seeing the imperfections of the world, choose to “opt-out”. Yes, that can be an option but, to me, it is a selfish option. You all may have the choice & means to “opt-out” but what about those whom can’t? Do you all really think that the poverty-stricken people of Africa can choose to “opt-out” and not face the harsh reality of their situation? I say to you all, those who have “opted-out” or considering it, that instead of escaping reality, we all should confront it and try our best to change it for the better.

All in all, I must make clear that I’m not idealist enough (I remain a realistic optimist after all) to assume that once we start contributing, the world will just suddenly become a utopia. And, yes, I admit that our contributions may come to naught. However, if we don’t even try, then there will be no chance of the world becoming better. Oh yeah, you all, after reading this, may be asking: “So, what’s your contribution?” Well, I’m still looking for a way to contribute and perhaps, by writing this to wake you all up is a already a small contribution of sorts (me a catalyst? :p)

So, what will your contribution be?

“We must be the change we wish to see.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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