The rebirth of cool, truth and Malaysian youth

What has become of Bro Najib’s intention to make Malaysia cool again? Mostly lost in the spin-cycle of playground politics, no doubt.

But reach out and touch the youth he must, if the campaign for cool is not to be lost in flip-flops over the University and University Colleges Act, the suspended animation of Aziz Bari and academic freedom, and Najib’s own historic, glasnost-like announcement on September 15 to repeal the ISA and herald the Malaysian enlightenment.

If you remember those, that is.

Yeah, cool is smart, and smart is sexy. Sexy girls like smart boys and vice versa and LGBTIQ just like. Reach out and touch the youth!

But how?

No less than KJ, probably the brightest still-young thing in Malaysian politics, has called for the BN’s campaign for the youth vote to be rethought. Don’t just advertise on TV like you did in the Seventies, he says (rightly); try to get hip with it by signing up for fb, maybe, and even broadcast over Astro! Change your tagline from “Vote BN” to a more Coke-like “BN the choice of the Young Generation” (but avoid the fatal misappropriation of the ancien regime’s Dulu Kini dan Selamanya.).

KJ said this after he had opened the Selangor Open Futsal 2011 tournament in Subang Jaya last week, organised by Petaling Jaya Selatan Umno Youth, MCA Youth and Ramza Adventure Team Management. Now, that’s the way to do it.

“We respect the people and give them a choice and hopefully they will choose us. We are not forcing them,” he told Bernama, adding that Umno Youth has registered a spanking 80,000 new and presumably youthful voters this year.

Vote BN? / Image by MeiTeng

But it’s easy to presume to speak for “they” and “them”; we all do it. Just get a few dozen “NGOs” to lodge a few hundred police reports against one event of high moral-panic potential, and walla! (voila!) the event is banned and, “the people”, “they” are saved by their beatific government. We digress.

The question, to be cool, is: who knows what lurks in the hearts of Malaysian yoof?

Do we even want to know?

And after we do, do we still want their hearts and minds, or whatever it is that passes for those nowadays?

Some glimpses of enlightenment might come from a recent survey by the McCann Worldgroup, aptly titled, The Truth About Youth, “a quantitative study of 7000 16-30 year olds conducted in April 2011 across 7 markets – UK, USA, Spain, China, India, Brazil and Mexico which was then confirmed qualitatively in 17 markets globally,” says McCann.

And so we reproduce, below, verbatim, the synopsis of the Malaysian bits of the survey. (Reading note: “Millennial” is what McCann calls the brats of today, just as“Baby Boomer” describes the self-indulgent post-World War Two generation that has enriched itself beyond belief by raping Planet Earth). Here goes:

Global vs Malaysian Millennial
Malaysian youth are fundamentally similar as social economy binds them with [their] global counterparts. However, there are some variations we can notice. These are mainly driven by [the] culture and the social environment of Malaysia.

Competitive spirit
In a world full of opportunities and ruthless competition, being successful is a non-negotiable imperative in Malaysian millennial life. Youth in Malaysia is very competitive with a real ‘Boleh’ or ‘can do’ attitude whereas, on an average, youth globally is believing in a balanced life and emotionally fulfilling life (with a few exceptions like India, where youth wants to be rich).

In the Truth About Youth global research, the concept of ‘gauntlet’ or the need to ‘win at all costs’ resonated with Malaysian youth (Ed’s note: also known as Kiasu).

Malaysian millennial understands success as having lots of money, big houses, cars, foreign holidays, and a comfortable life. [However] youth in different countries have different wishes for success. Young people in the US are most interested in finding love, and young people in Mexico are most interested in starting their own [families].

While many of us would assume that young people these days are a generation of attention-seeking fame obsessives, only 6.3 percent globally are interested in being famous. Actually, their aspirations are pretty grounded. Their top wishes for future are to maintain good health (40 percent), be successful in their chosen career (40 percent), meet their soul mate (36 percent) and look after their family (34 percent). Interestingly, Malaysian millennials (more than 50 percent) are driven by a strong competitive spirit to succeed and achieve.

Malaysian millennials want to be materially successful.

Symbols of success

For Malaysian millennials, possession of brands is a statement [of] intent to be successful, not a sign of arrival (Ed’s note: read, credit card bankruptcy). Desire to own high-profile lifestyle brands dictates many of their efforts and activities. Despite their social consciousness, luxury condominiums, the latest gadgets, new cars, regular overseas holidays, and an ostentatious lifestyle is the end-goal.

Premium brands such as iPhone, Rolex, Gucci, Mont Blanc and Prada help in dealing with life’s perceived woes , and act as emollients for relationship issues and work-related stress.

Green consciousness
Malaysian millennials can be termed green-literate but they are not intensely green-active. They are vocal about sustainable living. They are concerned about what their peers think and want to be seen to do their “bit” for the environment (Ed’s note: emphasis ours). They avoid using plastic bags, and switch of lights and other electrical gadgets when not needed.

Interestingly, their concern arises out of fear of facing natural disasters that may directly impact their lives. However, they are not willing to trade off convenience and lifestyle to protect the environment. (Ed’s note: emphasis ours.)

They favour shopping in malls instead of traditional markets or wet markets, and invariably use their personal vehicles instead of public transport. (Thank you, National Automotive Policy, Proton and Mahathir Mohamad). Whereas youth in many parts of the western world are not only conscious but socially active towards green living.

And now, back to our hosts, Komkini
You might now be shocked or pleasantly reassured in your belief in the time-honoured canard about Malaysian youth going to the dogs and, the country, flushed down the jamban.

But, to paraphrase the real estate agent: context, context, context. The McCann Worldgroup’s Truth About Youth shows a global trend of inhumanising philistinism among Malaysian yoof’s global counterparts.

In- (and not  de-) humanising, because they would rather lose that most primal of senses — the sense of smell — than technology. Philistinism, because for all the self-produced food porn that now permeates the blogosphere, these philistines cannot smell.

This global trend cannot apply to epicurean, polymath Malaysian Yoof, surely? Don’t just take our word for it. Here, FWIW, is McCann’s Truth About Youth verbatim, for the benefit of the spindoctors tasked with cooling our politicians. YMMV (and other inanities).

(Apologies for the missing links which will be inserted once the website feels better)