A call for HK youth to accept life's realities

'TREMENDOUS SOCIAL COST': Pro-democracy protesters with the symbolic yellow umbrellas of the Occupy Central movement outside government headquarters in Hong Kongon Sept 28, which marked the movement's first anniversary.
PHOTO: Reuters

A survey shows that almost 60 per cent of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are suffering from moderate or severe anxiety and about 22.5 per cent of this age group is suffering from moderate or severe depression.

The study was done in the wake of the Occupy Central movement, attesting to the tremendous social cost of the movement. This survey found that of the entire sample of over 1,200 respondents, almost half suffer from anxiety and about 15 per cent suffer depression.

Typically, anxiety occurs when there are fears that reality will fall short of what is desired, when there is a lot of uncertainty about what might happen, or when personal relations are under pressure.

During and after the Occupy movement, tensions arose and the relations between people often deteriorated as people holding opposing views confronted one another. Former friends could become foes when found to hold different views. Frustrations over the way events turned out - resembling nothing that many had hoped for - may also have caused anger, loss of sleep or even depression.

No one can dispute the fact that many young people got involved in the Occupy movement with a sense of mission and a belief in justice - though they might hold simplistic views about what constitutes justice and injustice. When the Occupy movement ended and nothing seemed to have been achieved, there was a sudden loss of direction. Many had little idea what they should do next.

START WITH CHANGING YOURSELF

My advice to them is they need to learn to accept that things might not turn out the way they want. This is not defeatist, but a code for survival.

If their dream is a better world, they should keep this dream alive, but instead of forcing other people to do things they want, they should start with themselves. They should do what they can to make the world a little better.

One can always make the world better by becoming a better person - one who has learnt to respect other people's rights, stays ready to lend a helping hand to those in need, studies hard to learn how the world works and what justice really means, and spends each day looking for opportunities to make a difference.

We all need to realise that sometimes we are right and other times, wrong. When others do not agree with us, they may be right. Sometimes, the government may make bad decisions. Sometimes, we do as well. We are all learning and that is what keeps our hopes alive. The day we all believe we are always right and others are always wrong, any hope for a better world will be dashed.

FAILURES ARE INEVITABLE IN EVERY COUNTRY

In the United States, campus shootings occur regularly. The latest one occurred in a community college in Oregon just days ago. The gunman killed nine people and injured at least nine others.

President Barack Obama, who has been pressing for tighter gun control, lamented: "Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it... We have become numb to this."

The US calls itself a democracy, but cannot protect the lives of people who are routinely annihilated by emotionally disturbed people or people who are filled with hate. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 53 per cent of Americans viewed Mr Obama's gun control plan favourably and only 41 per cent opposed it. But so far, Mr Obama and those who want tighter gun controls cannot do anything about it.

USA Today took a tally in mid July and found that 387 people have been shot dead in mass killings since July 2012, when a gunman killed 12 people and injured 70 in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado.

Activist Shannon Watts, a mother of five children, founded the group Moms Demand Action. She organised a big rally to Washington DC demanding tighter gun control in January 2013. Moms Demand Action has established a chapter in every state of the country. It has successfully launched Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organisation in the country, with more than two million members and more than 38,000 donors. Despite all this, the chances of achieving tougher gun control are still remote.

So we have to realise that in every country, disappointments are inevitable. Government failures are inevitable. We need to accept that this is a fact of life.

No matter how noble our goals may be, if we do things that hurt innocent people, we will bring further misery to an already imperfect world.

If we cannot come to terms with the fact that things may go against our wishes, we will develop too much anxiety and anger within. We could go berserk and harm ourselves and others.

So, my advice to young people is: Stay humble and healthy. Hong Kong can become a better place because of your efforts.

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