An Opening into The Nature of Youth
“Why aren’t young people more involved in our contemporary challenges?” What is it about youth specifically that separates us from our surroundings? Both myself and other members of Over to the Youth have been pondering the answer to this convoluting matter. By taking a gander into the nature of youth, I believe we may be able to conceptualize some solutions to this multi-layered puzzle and prepare the future generations to embrace personal accountability. So, humour me, and let us analyze my hypotheses.
We are the centre of our own universe
I continuously hear that young people like us perpetually ponder what our identity is. Who are we? What is the meaning of our lives? Where do we belong? What these thought processes all have in common, is you.
You go through life perceiving things through your eyes, you do not have a choice in the matter. You cannot pull a “Freaky Friday” and spend a day in another individual’s body nor mind; you will only ever experience the world through your perspective and perception, your cognition and consciousness. We cannot help but be the centre of our own universes; it is all we know. Due to this, we seemingly forget there is a world outside of ourselves. We begin to think, and therefore act, as if the only thing that matters is what occurs in our immediate realm of life.
Self-Centered vs Self-Indulgent
I would like to differentiate between the terms “self-indulgent”, and “self-centered.” Hearing something like “you’re self-centered” from someone always put a pit in my stomach, but I believed the statement “put yourself first” held validity; like airline safety guidelines, if you do not prioritize your own oxygen-mask first, how will you help another put theirs on? Thus, I deduced there is a positive side to being self-centered. The chief difference between being “self-centered” and “self-indulgent” is, nobody can sustainably escape being self-centered; neither us young adults, nor full-fledged adults.
Being self-indulgent however, is a popular practice commonly associated with youth. I specify “practice” because it is something we can choose to do. Young people would sooner indulge their own judgements, biases, and impulses, than think twice about the alternative options or consequences that follow thereafter. Where they could seek counsel in their homes, souls, and history, they turn instead to societal idols who are just as lost as they are. Where they could form inquiries as to the who, what, where, when, why, and hows around them, they are led to apathy for its convenience, and the misconception that they do not have a choice.
The accountability is not all on the youth. We live and participate in a society that coerces us into the wasting of our vitality; a society that exploits our vulnerability of being impressionable and ingenuous to mold us into profitable pawns on a chessboard. It turns us from integrity to play its fraudulent enterprise version of King of the Mountain, and steers us away from forging a family to be enveloped in its seductive syndicate. To top it off, it then assures us that we are young and therefore need not hold all the responsibility of our decisions and actions.
We are lured through our ancient limbic system of the brain through dopamine feedback loops via the apps we use, the sites we read, the education we receive. Our self-centeredness is inescapable and practical, but our self-indulgence is grown like a weed by our surroundings and poorly managed by our own lack of awareness.
The Frontal Lobe Contribution
The frontal lobe is the most recently evolved part of our brain’s neocortex. It is responsible for our decision making, thinking, planning, self-control, what perspectives we adopt, and so forth. Where it takes up approximately 7% of a dog’s brain volume, it occupies 35% of a human’s.
Are you aware that the Frontal Lobe is not fully developed till about age 25? Part of our cognitive process is still in development! This is not to say that we should all take a deep sigh of relief, kick back our feet, and drink from the cup of a false sense of security because the fault of our fallibilities lay within our brains. This is, rather, to state that there is still a lot to learn about what we are, along with the continual negotiation process of who we are. We still have self-sovereignty, which entails taking responsibility for our actions and being accountable for our decisions. Personally, I do not think we will ever fully understand ourselves, and I hope we never do; because, from a sanguine perspective, that means we keep changing and evolving.
To really answer the question of why young people are not more involved in our contemporary challenges, we must travel through that labyrinth of who, what, where, when, why, and how, we are. Introspection is not an easy endeavour. Often we uncover aspects of ourselves that we wish had remained hidden; we seldom see any of our gold medals till we have first angrily thrown around all our participation ribbons. It can feel perpetual and futile. The way I see it is, no matter where you go, there you are; that stretches out through your lifetime, so no better person to rectify you, than you.
“Youth are the future” is a common anecdote thrown around at my generation. Duh! We are younger than you. As a member of this demographic, I do not think we have been well prepared for that. Our society by-and-large has become increasingly more narcissistic over the last few decades. The lack of specific attention from my demographic along with humanity, has caused humanity’s state to slip and has, candidly, led to collective suffering. We are less connected with our history than we have ever been. Even those who came just a mere generation before us seem to be a galaxy away despite them constantly reaching their hands down to help us up onto their shoulders.
“For lack of knowledge my people were destroyed” is a yoke previous generations have been heavy laden with. This lack of knowledge leads to repeating the cyclical nature of disconnect from reality that we do now. There has always been a war in a particular field of battle that was late to being conquered for each generation; that is how we got to this state as a species in the first place. The lack of critical thinking from each generation regarding their unresolved challenges of the past, leads to domino-like mishaps.
We do not know ourselves let alone our surroundings. How could we possibly expect the youth to be involved in the future if they are not even involved now? With our frontal lobes not yet fully developed, a societal structure that exploits our fundamental evolutionary instincts through marketing and manipulated education, and the lack of self-awareness as to what our brains and body’s do, we fall into a labyrinth of mirrors: constantly uncertain as to when or where our feet will touch the ground, with nothing to indicate there is a world outside of ourselves.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien
Is it all worthwhile? Have we passed the point of no return? To answer these questions, I turned my eyes to my parents. They are double my age, way past the point of their frontal lobes being fully developed, and have only in the last few years become “awakening wonders” as Russell Brand so eloquently puts it. They, like so many, spent their seemingly infinite youth dancing the nights away as if time were not a constant. It was not till the latter years that they realized it would be more prudent to take their time and sway. Many of our predecessors have learnt their lessons and now seek to share their seasoned experiences with us up-and-comings. Some still try to equalize their failure-to-success ratio, the impact of which we all carry.
These fallible master craftsmen of ours are still around to be witnessed, mimicked, and heeded. Many were late bloomers, made their mistakes, and yet persisted onwards to critically think. They had, and continue to have, hope. So too can we, and the ones thereafter us.
This is not contempt for youthfulness. Youthfulness is the characteristic of being uncertain and incomplete, which I would suggest everyone in Over to The Youth is; there is a hope to be had in that. Hope because there is potential, and nothing is more hopeful than potential. This is a call. A call to self-discovery, to openness of others, to awareness of the world, and above all, the humility to play the fool.
Co-hosts Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying of the DarkHorse podcast, both of whom hold PhD’s in evolutionary biology, like to coin the phrase, “welcome to complex systems.” People, individuals, communities, humanity, we’re complicated. Period. Now add the youth factor, the frontal lobe factor, the smoke and mirrors of society factor, and the quashing of familial connection factor.
Our job from here on out is to pick up the load in front of us that is yourself. Understand yourself. Pursue yourself. This endeavor should consume your whole life and all noble efforts as it will certainly do mine; anything less should be considered a folly attempt. Patterns and proclivities seen through the world and from within individuals, will always be distilled by the brain and the spirit of yourself. If not now, then when? If not you, then who? The answer to “why aren’t young people more involved in our contemporary challenges?” is discovered where much else can be found; within.