What is actually wrong with this generation?
In the wake-up of the societal catastrophes and hubbubs of the 19th century which broadcasts the credo in the death of God and the decadence of morality down to this day, the meaning of survival as seen in the life of men seems to have taken another name as the atypical and uncharacteristic have now converted the normal and usual to the detriment of the absolute and conjectural relation of men to the divine.
This is a generation whose rakishness was superbly echoed by Saint Pope John Paul II of blessed memory, in his post-synodal exhortation, “Reconciliatio et Penitentia” (1984) as “the loss of the sense of sin”, giving credits to secularism. In this, the ugly face of secularism and relativism is enthroned, as man becomes the God of himself and judge of his own actions.
An action is now said to be right in as much as it corresponds to the interest of the self without any reference to its positive or negative influence on the other. Here, egoism is promoted and altruism is thrown into the trash-can and consumed by flames.
This is a generation that glories in man’s achievements in science, politics and economics without little or no reference to the Grand Creator of all things, God. It is an age where man tries to explain the physical out of the spiritual- an age of scientism and secularism.
Consequent upon the evils and social disorders of this generation, the place of the youths in the society begs to be redefined as they find it difficult to grow well in virtue and right judgement. But should we actually put the blame on the youths?
Today is not what it used to be, there has been a drastic change in character and formation among the youths in our today’s community. A writer recounts that the Nigerian youths today have grown beyond reason and commonsense. None of them see anything wrong in what they do.
There is a great decline in discipline as the call for obedience has already been laid on the line. Children esteemed their parents, elders, and all above them in the hierarchical scale in the past. On the contrary, today children have no respect for their elders and causing them to lose the respect of themselves. Not all are guilty however, but some are. What is the issue with this generation of youths? Is youthful exuberance actually an excuse for sin?
There is essentially nothing to be skeptical about the manner the present-day youths conceive sin. This is because of its obvious reasons in the world today. I must remark that there is a great eclipse of religious worldviews, emanating from the secularistic-spirit which has resulted to a great loss in the sense of shame.
It is in this light that the concept of sin has been restructured or modernized just with the notion of flowing along with others. Anyone who does not do what his or her mate is doing is well thought-out to be a neophyte. How can we salvage this loss in the sense of sin?
In reality, what is stirring the future of Nigeria in the face these days, is far-off from what the status quo has been in the past. The today’s youths are never fretful of the style of their clothing. They do not even consider whether it is shameful or to some extent, unbecoming of the very fundamentals of the nature of man or it promotes it. All of this happen in the name of fashion, thereby making fashion a tormentor of the sacredness of man.
The high rate of obscenity and indecent dressing among the youths in our churches today is another problem posing the Nigerian society. I still cannot fathom the reason the Nigerian youths prefer to wear clothes that expose their confidential body parts. Some of them do it just to seek attention among the congregation, while some do it just to look for life partners. This is very common among the female folks. They anticipate days of worship to put on see-through clothing and enticing apparels so they can seek the attention of men. This is a despicable act that must be checked.
What about the manner at which young boys, even girls, smoke cigarettes on the streets? Even if we say that smoking of cigarettes among the youths is an issue that affects countries worldwide, the case in Nigeria is a peculiar one. I think it is high time the Nigerian Government puts in place a comprehensive regulation to reduce the affordability and accessibility of tobacco products. Go to the streets, you will even find youths smoking pipes, hookahs, smokeless tobacco, or bidis freely without fear of what impact it makes on the growing community. These things were done in the dark before, but it has become a common practice for everyone, even children of about eight years and above are not left out of this menace.
I can still link the great intake of tobacco to cultism in our Nigerian society. Cultism is one term that has been ingrained in the essence of people in this part of the world. I have seen and heard of cult groups release irreversible loss, agony and discomfort on our youths, families and society at large. Someone once shared that before a young man can say he is a man in our today’s society, he would have to blend himself with a cult group. What a total loss in the sense of the sacred!
I am also sure that someone cannot be a cultist without killing people. Go to the streets now, you would find small boys parading themselves everywhere and causing trouble in the community all for the seek that they are cultists. Victor E. Dike in his article “Understanding Cultism and the needs of Youths” argues that “the environment that an individual interacts with shapes the person’s behavior”. That is a valid statement. But I still blame the youths for allowing themselves to be influenced by their corrupt societies. One man can begin the transformation in the society. You must not do what others do.
Sometime ago, I was walking along the street and I heard a group of little girls of about 14 to 16 years of age arguing in a very loud voice. I was keen to know what the argument was about. To my greatest dismay, these little girls were arguing about their relationships with boys and who had the finest of boys. They did this without a sense of shame. In fact, they were pleased with what they were saying. This is to show you the rate at which our youths today have lost the sense of shame. It is now a thing of pride for a little girl of 14 years old to say she has a lover. What a world we are into!
Are we going to talk about sexual immorality among the youths? Sexual promiscuity is now the order of the day. It would not be a mistake to say that the dignity of some women has long been thrown away. Young men, also, do not have control over their libidos any longer. Is there a way out? Yes, there is, Jesus Christ is the way. Young ones would need to surrender themselves to Jesus and obey what the bible instructs.
If we say charity begins at home, then every parent should take up the responsibility of aiding their children to properly channel their young excitements to positive doings.
John William Fletcher, popularly called English Divine, a playwright and the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day, puts it clearly when he said; “charity and beating begin at home”. I think each home should try to create adequate time for their children. Parents, these days do not carry out their primary functions of nurturing and forming their progenies into becoming responsible fellows. We should not be quick to forget the biblical injunction on if the foundation is destroyed, the righteous can actually do nothing. Parents can strongly begin to inculcate the necessary moral values on their children. The book of proverbs says “train your child in the way he should go, and when he or she is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22: 6)
Good governance is required for the growth and development of every nation. Since the youths occupy a prominent place in every nation, then there is a paramount need for the government to allocate much to the needs of the youths. I think if there is employment for the youths in Nigeria, the restiveness which has led to the great loss in the sense of shame would not be there. This would also go a long way into eradicating poverty in the country.
With quality education too, they youths would come to know that indecent dressing and other immoral acts are evil inclined. The youths would become responsible and dress decently to church celebrations and social events. At that point, the right value is promoted and enhanced.
The school teachers have a great role to play in the right character formation of the youths, this is because a teacher is a person of different responsibilities and jobs blended into one. The point is that a teacher is a moral educator. Teaching is not a profession but a calling per say. A teacher has the power to pass not only knowledge but skills and right attitudes. I think teachers need to be calculated and astute in their conducts, because the youths see them as models.
It is also true that one of the causes of youthful exuberance in the society is the influx of information gadgets. I know that information plays a vital role in capital progression. I also think that the youths on their own should use the information they get from the media positively. That information should be able to instill in them the very fact that the future belongs to them and that it must not be destroyed by them. They should be able to understand that the future and its nature is hinged on the decisions and selections they make now.
The House of God is a moral community, it is a place of prayer and not a fashion show center. The youths must be encouraged, at all times, not to put on those half-clothes to church celebrations. They must also learn not to be carried away with their phones during church service. This is where church leaders come in. Church leaders should be able to correct the immoderations of the youths whenever they come for church services.
Finally, the holy writ says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Youths of our days need to fear and reverence God. I know that living as a youth can be very difficult because of peer pressure. But living a godly life as a youth pays more than living as a worldly youth. Youths must have to seek God now that they are young, for tomorrow might be too late. If this is done in sincerity, youthful exuberance would be properly channeled and there would not be a loss in the sense of shame in the society as we have it now.
Fr. Akowe John-Duke ‘Selime is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria.