Every now and then you come across a news that young people have been arrested for harassing women on the streets by taking video clips of their shameful activity and posting them on social media afterwards. This is just one example of something gone wrong that the vast majority don’t agree with. And the efforts that the authorities undertake to identify, locate and then punish offenders are greatly appreciated. Unlike other societies that seem to encourage this kind of behavior, our culture is very straightforward in rejecting such attempts.
But who are these boys and what about their journey? Is punishment the only answer to what motivates these children on the path of deviation? Punishments alone will not tell us what motivates these individuals to commit such senseless and abusive acts. Nor will their imprisonment shed any light on why some young people pursue such despicable activities.
In what family environment were they raised? Was this a case of too much, too soon, and too easy, where parents often indulge in boundless youthfulness to the point of being utterly ineffective and interdependent adults? This incident perhaps warrants further investigation by the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs or by a passionate investigative journalist.
But for each of these young deviants, there are dozens of tightrope walkers, with positive and refreshing energy. They want to contribute, to feel that they can make a significant contribution. As more and more of them join the 14-18 age group, it is clear that nationwide measures must be taken, and not just those that make our young people part of the statistics and plug them into a bureaucratic reshuffling of a job.
Perhaps mandatory community service can be part of their school curriculum during their growing years, as can debates, lectures, acting classes, and the arts. Summer programs that offer more than just spending hours or traveling to a tourist location without gaining any form of knowledge or insight simply won’t do it. Exchange programs in different countries would be far more productive.
Many Saudis still remember the harsh and often insipid atmosphere of the 90s when anything out of the ordinary was instantly targeted as a work of malice, where innovation and imagination were stifled as hobbies. vain and fruitless, and where the interpretation of faith almost had to go through a complete makeover over and over again?
Today, the government’s message is loud and clear. We cannot afford to be held hostage by archaic ideas if we are to succeed as a nation. The government is backing its words with deeds by providing employment potential to almost all Saudis in their megaprojects across the country.
There are many platforms and places available today for our young people to participate in a more stable and productive future. It remains essential that proper advice and much of it begins at home, otherwise the results will not always be what society can appreciate.
Our young people are what we are going to make of them. Ignore them and you run the risk that they will engage in nefarious activities without any contribution to the welfare of society. Provide them with the right tools and guide them towards positive goals, and watch some of them perhaps fly among the eagles in making this a better place for all of us to live.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena