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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University of Wellington. Vol. 24, No. 5. 1961



Way's basic budget is financed by the contributions of National Committees, according to a scale of categories. Finances for projects are raised from outside sources as well.

The Eighth Council of Way decided to hold two specialist activities in the Asian region before the next Council in August, 1962: one of these was to be a 10-day seminar on "The Role of Youth Organizations in National Reconstruction."

New Zealand has no National Committee of Way, but the Way Secretariat has been anxious for some years to encourage New Zealand in the activities of Way.

The Way Secretariat, after announcing that the seminar would be held in Saigon in January, 1961, called for nominations in December, 1960, and made available funds which enabled me to attend the seminar as an observer on behalf of New Zealand.

Delegates were present from Australia, North Borneo, Ceylon, Fiji, Indonesia, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Malaya, Philippines, Sarawak, Singapore, Samoa, Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam—19 countries.

The theme was divided into three sub-themes: "The Asian Scene Today," "Conditions of Youth," and "The Role of Youth"—on each of which three days' discussion was originally scheduled.

However, discussion on the first [Theme occupied six of the nine days' work. A lecture by an expert on a pertinent topic began each day's work, and was followed by workshop discussions in England and French-speaking groups. Titles of some lectures were "The Role of Asian Youth in the Post-War World," "Economic Planning in Asia and the Role of Youth Organizations," "Industrialization in Asia—Needs, Problems and Perspectives," etc.

The seminar was hurried to its final evaluation session, behind schedule, and with the final report not put into definite shape. Language difficulties no doubt contributed to the slowness of progress in the initial days, but much progress was made.

For me, as an observer from a country with different problems, participation in the seminar was of great value. In was instructive to exchange views with youth leaders and community leaders of other countries, hut the impression I have most strongly is of New Zealand's isolation from the real currents of human affairs.

In Europe, Asia and Africa, for the most part, youth movements—particularly since 1918—have been in the forefront of social change, of the struggle for national freedom. There, the national freedom movement was often born in a country where the large majority of the population is outside of any form of organization, and even without any political concern. But youth is more "idealist," more "generous," more ready to give itself to a great political or philosophic cause; withness the youth of East Berlin (1953), Hungary (1956), Cuba (1959), Korea (I960), Turkey (1960). To forbid youth to "go into politics"; to compel youth to agree to the ideas of "generations that are more mature because they are older" is both reactionary and utopian.

Such a Mentality Encourages Mental Laziness, Orthodoxy and Prejudices, and Robs Society of One of the Principal Sources of Permanent Democratic Renewal.

As it also clashes with the innate critical spirit of young people, it can only end in either the creation of new youth organizations, or the decline of all youth organizations.

The part played by youth in deciding the social structure of a community that has already acquired solid stability—as New Zealand—is limited. They follow the path traced by their elders and await their majority before attempting to influence the course of events.

There are, in fact, no youth organizations of any size or influence in this country, with the Possible Exception of the New Zealand University Student's Association. We have instead children's groups—Junior Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., Y.W. C.A., and so on—or at least they are organized as children's groups, and it is true that there are few groups that a 17 or 18-year-old would willingly join for the first time. Even Our Football Clubs are Run Essentially by "Old" Men or Certainly the Elders of the Tribe, Rather than by Young People.

It is possible to take the argument further. The success of the Outward Bound camps so far held in New Zealand has been as enthusiastic as the success in other countries. And it seems that its success is simply in the quality of adventure—physical and mental adventure—the adventure of comradeship, and of discovering one's country.

That There is no Desire to Form a National Cooperating Body for Youth Organizations in New Zealand is Perhaps a Greater Reflection of our Smug Isolationism, the "Peter Pan" that Lies at the Heart of Many New Zealanders than on "Individualism." The ambition of youth organizations should be to tell young people and the nation the truths they do not wish to hear told by the older generations, more sedate and more conservative. But here there is no felt need, hence no move towards catering for that need: democracy, however, is more than a natural right; it is a permanent acquisition obtained through work, struggle and responsible effort to advance the nation and the whole of humanity.

In Asia, youth has a very special role to play, especially in the field of education. Whether it be change in agriculture or industry, the essential point centres in reeducation of the people and a continuing education of oneself and the people. Youth organizations of Asia have, therefore, to rely upon new ideas and to adapt old ideas, to synthesize the past with the future.

B. Shaw.