OP-ED: A Provocative Sermon to Youthful Liberia

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.’’ – James 3:16

Talk trash against the government under the canopy of advocacy or political commentary. Get attention and followers. Get a petty job. Compromise your integrity. End of advocacy. Betray the struggle! Steal!

Young people, we ought to caution ourselves. In a time of limited budget and competing priorities, we often bash the government for deliberately failing to invest in education – girls’ education, youth development, infrastructure, the economy, and so forth.

These are all good points. Our country is trailing the rest of the world in every facet of socioeconomic standards; therefore, we must always remind public officials – lawmakers in particular – about the rhetoric which brought them to power. But we must do this in a collective effort, forming sectional groups or emerging with groups which share similar ideals as ours instead of forming our own alliances, pushing our own agenda, and placing our ego far above people.

Sycophants. Bootlickers. Lackey. Flunky. Illiterate. Incompetent. Dull. Corrupt. These are tough, trendy words on social media often used among Liberian youth in expressing frustration about social problems.

These words paint pictures of absolute vexation, anger, poverty, inequality, and most importantly, the need for sustainable change in the lives of every single Liberian. Unfortunately, these words do very little in solving these problems.

Social media is a powerful tool for bringing awareness to social problems but working together offline is much more powerful for addressing these problems. Let’s get engaged offline. Let’s engage the struggle in unity.

Our country is very old and small – pint-sized in terms of land and population. There is no need for division among young people and even the older folks. In any case, it’s never too late to declare national war on poverty and illiteracy. We need to come to terms collectively with identifying our country’s problem in a yearly national dialogue and map out amicable solutions for a sustainable future. Young people should be constructively enraged right now; we all should be enraged. Constructive and collective anger has a unique way of bringing about positive change.

Liberia has a very youthful population. Young people amount to more than 59 percent of Liberia’s total population. That’s great. Despite that, linking youthfulness to absolute future prosperity is kind of weird, vague, unmindful, and oblivious when the youthful fabric of our country has yet to be woven into the collective consciousness.

We need education, innovation, social entrepreneurial skills, and integrity. And in slight divergence, the disunity among advocates, civil society groups, and even religious groups, and other groups of social importance must stop. Let’s be not so desirous of self-empowerment. Wouldn’t it be cool if we all put Liberia first above everything else? The culture of greed in our politics and society has a long history of destroying the entire social fabric of our country.

Although Liberia has a very youthful population, one could mindfully argue that youthfulness isn’t interchangeable with future prosperity, because the future isn’t one that was perfectly engineered by fate, it’s one that we collectively strive to achieve by deeds. What is a better future when it has no sense of direction from the past and present? Youthfulness is an apparent likelihood for advancement; success is an optimism which fuels and sparkles vibrancy and vitality.

For Liberia, in particular, and Africa in general, there lies a huge prospect. But we all must unify in whatsoever movement that we desire to engender.

We often hear that young people are the future or that the future of our country rests on their shoulders. This is a fact. In every global section, young people are the alternatives in prospect; they’re momentously leading change.

Even so, how are we going to carefully and smoothly inherit a better future when the vision toward achieving this future was never mapped by leaders in the past and leaders now. It’s too early to play the blame game, but the hardcore facts must be told because facts don’t care about one’s feelings.

“History is more than the path left by the past. It influences the present and can shape the future,” John Bercow advised. Liberia’s past was undefined. Liberia’s present is undefined. Liberia’s future has yet to be defined. Definition of a country’s future has to do with a sense of national vision, direction, roadmap, tangible agenda, short-term and long-term goals.

How do we envision Monrovia over the next decade? How will our school system evolve? How are we going to curtail the evil of corruption in public service? How do we seek to educate and empower more women and girls? How will we get our lawmakers to reduce their salaries? If questions like these are empirically answered, models are crafted, and the necessary social policy is documented and implemented, then we have a defined future.

Now it’s a responsibility upon us all to right the wrongs of the past, to define our present, and evaluate our collective approaches to addressing every problem we face.

Foremost to the idea of defining Liberia’s undefined present and its confusing future, public officials, too, ought to change their minds and attitudes. The long history of accommodating corruption, greed, nepotism in Liberia’s politics must stop. There’s no time for jokes, identity politics, and compromise of integrity. Change can only be effectuated when our minds and attitudes are changed. Liberia needs a focal point in order to arrive at a sustainable and collectively defined future.

Isaiah Quiah

Isaiah Quiah is a college student, born and raised in Liberia. He currently resides in New Jersey, U.S. Isaiah is a volunteer and co-founder of two organizations: Association for the Advancement of Education Initiative and Noah's Ark High School Alumni Association U.S.A. He recent founded a blog ''The Spotlight'' which seeks to unravel social issues.

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