Plight of the Malaysian Young Adults

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jotham.lim

I had a discussion with a friend about rising property prices. Both of us are in our late 20s.

“We have it tough. During our parent’s time, homes could be bought with cash. The economy was booming back then, and that’s how affordable houses were.”

Someone older heard us and came over. “Yeah, but have you seen current interest rates? You young people have it easier. Housing loans are so cheap now, and easier to obtain.”

I was stunned—enraged, even. As if lifelong debt to the bank is preferable to saving up to outright own your own home! But my anger soon mellowed into confusion, then settled into disappointment.

After all, he’s not alone in his perspective. The things we take for granted, like private vehicles, air conditioning and computer devices, were considered luxuries back then. My parents had none of these, and no doubt, our lives are better thanks to their hardships.

But does that mean we have it easier?

In the end, this isn’t a conversation about which generation has it worse; it’s a moot topic with the only outcome being a race to the bottom. Each of us has our own plight regardless of race, religion, age, or gender.

The truth is, there is never really a bygone era that is “better” or “worse”—only unique circumstances we are facing today. The better question to ask is, how do we operate under these conditions? When looked from this perspective, perhaps this era is ripe full of opportunities for us young adults.

  • We live in an age of access. I have plenty of friends freelancing for overseas companies from the comfort of their gaming chairs, benefitting from the exchange rate. I can access lectures from Ivy League on YouTube for free. I can get in touch with my local MP with a Tweet or WhatsApp message. We no longer have to wait hours in line to complete a simple bureaucratic task. The world fits in the palm of our hands, and we are just as accessible to it.
  • We live in a web of ideas. In the past, our belief systems were formed through our education, community, and surroundings. But on the internet, we are exposed to all forms of media from all corners of the earth. Every stupid statement or nugget of genius is constantly contested, defended, and scrutinised. Exposing ourselves to these ideas and seriously contemplating them builds character, empathy, and tolerance.
  • We live in an era of productivity. Not everyone has financial access to a highly qualified personal assistant. But today, I have A.I. and automation software that automatically schedules my calendar, transcribes and summarises meeting notes, writes my emails, and organises my files. It is entirely possible to run an entire company as a solo entrepreneur using the right tools.
  • We live in a time where change is attainable. It’s now easier to mobilise movements and create impact as an individual. A village girl can highlight issues with internet connectivity in rural areas, compelling the government to speed up digitalisation efforts. Students from the UNDI18 movement have successfully lobbied Parliament to amend the federal constitution. We’ve changed our government several times now, something that was unfathomable many years ago. I can easily publish this article to thousands of readers with just a few clicks—try doing that using pen and paper.

I don’t deny that we’re moving towards adversity, but we’re also equipped with the resources to better our situation.

We can choose to upskill ourselves and demand a self-respecting wage from our employers equivalent to the value we deliver. We can choose to point out and respond to everyday injustice with a “ 👁️ 👄 👁️”. We can choose to break down the racial, religious, and language barrier with a smile and a nod. A simple kindness can go a long way in humanising people across a divide.

Because what is change without action and willpower? Would we rather live in undesirable circumstances than do the undesirable work? We all play a role in deciding who we are and who we want to be. We all can decide what this country is and isn’t—so don’t let other people be that voice for you.

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