Pierre Yimbog is President of DIT Students’ Union. He explains what he believes are the biggest challenges facing young people today and why we all need to be more tolerant.
This question is quite broad as I could list several challenges facing young people today. For example, the challenge of being able to make it through college without having a mental breakdown because you’re so under pressure with fees, work, affording accommodation, and balancing study and social life all in one. However, that’s a reality that can be overcome with the right support.
The real challenge in my opinion facing young people today is expressing your opinion.
We live in a very open and liberal society which celebrates the right to free speech. However, sometimes this can be a challenge for young people. It’s not simply being able to express your opinion but not being afraid to express an opinion because you may be shunned and despised depending on the issue.
Young people like all humans enjoy friendship and want to fit in. But if a topic comes up which others or your friends may have a differing opinion on, this could make you an outsider and leave you out of the group.
This was apparent during the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Although the majority of young people voted in favour of repeal, there was also a small proportion of young people who would have been afraid to speak up among their friends or campaign to keep the amendment. In that case they were the minority who couldn’t express themselves as seen by the toxic nature of the referendum.
Afraid to speak
I have seen this through my involvement in the Students’ Union. Most young people get an opportunity to express their views and challenge the status quo when they engage in student politics. However, if their opinion is outside the ‘norm’ they may feel they can’t speak out, due to fear of being ostracized. Their engagement should instead be welcomed.
I believe the best way to tackle this is for society as a whole to fully embrace the differing opinions of others. We should not judge or reject the opinions of others if we strongly believe in another way. The best way to form your opinion is not only with facts but being challenged by others. It is not about winning the argument but fully hearing both sides which may ultimately challenge your own views.
Young people are able to overcome any obstacle and bring about change in Ireland and internationally. If it is social change, then the opportunity to fully express your opinions ensures it is fully challenged so that it can bring about the right change. This is the real change that society needs.