There are wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a climate change crisis and international terrorism, interfaith conflicts and a flawed economic system, widespread natural disasters and rife and unalleviated poverty.
The young of today have dreams and they are increasingly of a world that is without these problems. These problems that we are familiar with and that the promises and actions of the last 20 years have failed to solve.
Perhaps following these failings it is correct that the hope for solutions must now pass to the next generation…
Our correspondent, Ed Hughes, comments on the inaugural ceremony of OneYoungWorld…
On Monday 8th February 1,000 young delegates from 190 countries throughout the world gathered in London for OneYoungWorld to discuss what might be done by the next generation to make the world an increasingly safe, stable and equitable place. The young people that gather here have been selected from all around the world on the basis of their youth, their talents and their achievements. Many of them have already achieved incredible things and have barely arrived at the age of adulthood.
I have often heard imaginative young people complain that they are born in to a world where everything has already been discovered or been done. However, I would argue that the clear conclusion of the last five years is that the world faces increasingly larger and more worrying problems. And that this adversity in itself provides an overwhelming and unprecedented need for fearless and intrepid young people to “unreasonably” lock horns with the unknown, to discover solutions to these problems and to do the right thing where none before have.
Surprisingly, the most difficult question for many inspired young people is not what the answers may be, or whether they want to help but actually how to go about seeking the changes they desire. Is the correct answer to be an activist and protest, to go to university and study your talents, to become a politician and influence policy or to aim to get rich and wait to wield that power?
Undoubtedly it is important that these 1000 young people, and in fact all young people, get the chance to answer this question correctly and in a way that allows them to realise the dreams that they now have…
To guide these young people in this task, these 1000 are fortunate enough to have wise and/or experienced men of the previous generations; Archbishop Tutu, Muhammad Yunus, Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof to name but a few amongst the leaders in politics, religion, social theory, business and charity.
“It is more important to develop the minds of the young than to change the minds of the old”
Investment in the young is something that has always been central to human society through history, yet this generation for the first time have an alternative; which is to guide themselves…
A unique generation
A key theme here this week is that this generation is different in a key way… and that essential difference is connectedness; connectedness that spawns from mobile phones, from urbanisation and air travel, from the spread of shared languages but above all from the internet.
It is commonly cited in support of our greatness as a species that the human brain is the most complex thing to exist in the universe and that this complexity is principally due to the number of connections that exist within the brain.
These, to all purposes, limitless connections are what have allowed humans to create cooperation, society, agriculture and electricity and to develop wisdom and religious understanding and to carry out acts of selflessness, compassion and forgiveness. But our brains have also invented machines of war, economics of inequality and systems that destroy the very mechanisms of nature upon which we rely for life. From whichever way you look at it, the human brain has had a monumentally powerful impact upon our world.
We are all connected
However, something that many of us have not yet fully grasped is that in the internet we have created something far more powerful; a limitlessly growing set of connections – connections that have at each and every end… a brain… a connected web of brains. It is in this tool that we place our high hopes for the achievements of the next generation. And the questions we must ask are:
- Can this powerful tool be harnessed in the hands of a moral and well-educated generation?
- Will it help create a more just and harmonious world or will it, and they, fail?
- Can we dare to hope?
Hope is indeed a nerve-wracking thing; if we are let down by it too many times it can all too easily cease to be an ally. Yet here, amongst this diverse gathering of young people there is an overwhelming sense of hope; for great things to be achieved and for wrongs to be corrected.
Each generation’s hopes and fears tend to end up focused upon their children’s futures and, while the adults of today have been for a long time scared of the world that awaits their children, you can’t help noticing that there is also a growing sense of hope for what it is to come. That it may in fact be this generation of children who solve these problems more than they suffer from them. The outcomes of this event and the actions that follow from it may well allow us to judge whether this hope is well founded…
Let us all watch these young people, be inspired by them and join them in great deeds…