Where Are the Youth Taking Saudi Arabia?

The Youth of today are going to be the ones rising in the Kingdom as leaders and managers.  They will be the generation for changes in the Kingdom.  However my question is what direction will the youth ultimately take Saudi Arabia and its society and culture?  In my own observations I have observed a large number of the youth as what I would call the “Me Generation” focused on themselves, instant gratification and little incentives to work or take initiative.

Is this an impact of a generation which has been educated with stricter Islamic guidelines and perhaps cared for by a housemaid and less interaction with parents?  Additionally many of today’s youth, even those unmarried and in their twenties are not necessarily encouraged to seek employment (even if he or she has already completed university).  It is commonly accepted that parents will always support their children regardless of age.  I’m not aware of any pressures placed upon children to actively seek a job.  And many of today’s youth expect jobs to be found for them through family connections rather than them taking initiatives and looking for opportunities themselves.

Ironically many of the young men are the ones seen out on the streets of Tahlia or Olaya in Riyadh aggressively trying to exchange phone numbers with young women.  They will also accompany their father each Friday to the mosque for Friday prayers and probably try to attend most other prayer callings at the mosque too.  These same young men are likely very particular and conservative at the thought of a future marriage and the expectations they have of a wife.  They will expect her to follow the tradition and cultures in place even though they (the young men) wish to present themselves as above reproach while they mindlessly flirt with other women. (no one blinks an eye at the thought of a Saudi male living any kind of a double life)  At the same time, it is unlikely that any of the young men will in fact have had experience in interpersonal communications with women and therefore are still quite sheltered on how to have a loving and warm relationship with a future wife.

If many youth have these attitudes, what does it mean for the future of Saudi Arabia?

10 Responses

  1. One good thing about getting older, is that one sees how bad past predictions were about the younger generations in the US. I do know conditions in Saudi Arabia are quite different from those in the US, but judging by stats the current generation of Saudis are as well educated as any in the past. I read a number of Saudi blog, mostly written by young people. They do seem level headed. So, one must have the confidence that the same processes that turned our juvenile delinquents in the1950’s into upstanding citizens will work with these folks.

  2. I teach at a tech college, and I can easily say we are not going anywhere good. The standards that the young are going by are very trivial. I really cant see how these kids can build a nation. But I guess we will have to wait and see.

  3. Hey Carol,
    I hope you are doing well, I kind of certainly agree with you that Youth here are not going anywhere as compared to youths in US/UK or even in India. One thing I’ve noticed here in less than a month is youth and even kids here are very skeptic and do not open up and learn new things in life. They do not want to get mingled up with ppl of various cultures.
    I wonder what will happen to them if all the Oil drys up? and they will have to explore countries like US/UK for jobs? How will they survive with such kind of mindset?
    (PS – Its just my opinion and not trying to comment or pin point any one)

  4. When teaching in the Gulf states, I mostly found the youth “highly unremarkable”.

    I currently reside in Yemen and despite its problems, it may actually have more intellectual capital than the Gulf States. I always encourage my students to stay in Yemen after graduation and not be fooled by the (temporary) lifestyles of the Gulf.

  5. 50/50-ish.. half (to be generous) the kids I meet are eloquent and aware of at least some of the world outside KSA and getting their education. Now, I can’t exclude the times I’ve been asked via text to google answers to university exams… The other half (or more) … no comment.

  6. I have a few thoughts:

    The “me” generation seems to be a worldwide phenom. I have seen so many parents of different cultures, religions etc complaining about the youth of today and how self centered they are. So I am not sure Saudi is unique in that. The one thing I do find a bit worrisome is the idea that they are not encouraged to work or that they expect Wasta to help them. In that they are different than a lot of other places without that system so widespread. In the USA for example, especially recently, kids graduate college and due to the lack of jobs and fierce competition many have to move back home. However, they continue to look for work and Mom and Dad are not happy to be supporting them indefinitely. To use an analogy they feel it important that the baby bird fly from the nest at some point. American parents WANT the kids to go to college, find a job and start a life of their own. For them that means that they have raised their kids well enough to be independent who will then be able to repeat the cycle and teach their own kids the same thing. That does not mean, as is commonly assumed, that the parents don’t love their kids or that they don’t value the family unit. They do. they just want them to be able to be independent and self sufficient. I think most parents would be happy to have the kids live close, they just want them standing on their own two feet. I don’t see this in KSA. The effort of having to struggle and find a job or make a life of your own, in an American mind is a good thing. It teaches patience, self discipline, sacrifice, independence, and character building…all traits that will serve them well in the long haul of life when things will not always go the way they want them to as will invariably happen.

    The young men out causing mischief with the girls might be a function of men with testosterone with nothing to do. It seems that they are a bit aimless and therefore are focusing their energy in a less than positive way.

    I wish KSA would focus more on teaching people the right choices and taking responsibility for them rather than mandating all the movements of the population. Anyone who has raised a child knows that parents are in the business of saying yes and no to certain behaviors, but the child needs to be taught to make these right choices on their own so that even when the parents are not there to control them, their internal control takes over and they make the right choice automatically. Islam teaches what one should do. The population knows what is expected of them. But if people never have the opportunity to have the CHOICE to behave in the appropriate way (whether anyone ever find out or not) and yes, make mistakes in that way as will happen, one can’t ever learn to make the right choices on one’s own. How can one make the right choice in the face of many choices when one can’t practice SELF control? It almost seems like a game of cat and mouse. The men know what is expected of them Islamically, but yet they try to get away with as much as they can it seems. I think if the kids internalized the right choices and made them because they are the right choices and not because the muttawa will be after them, there might be more mature behavior.

    Yet, youth is much the same the world over. The choice one makes at 18 or 19 would perhaps embarrass them at age 26 or 27… and God Forbid their kids make those same silly choices.(wink, wink) Amazing how it was OK for the parent at that age but not for their kids and yet the kids have to go through the same maturing process that their parents went through. The brain doesn’t fully mature until age 25!

    Thankfully, most people grow up to be fairly responsible adults.

  7. Oby, I agree. I think that most people are a bit crazy at some time in their lives. If their parents are very strict while they’re young, then at the first opportunity they get, they’ll most likely try out a few things that their parents would never have approved.

    In the end…even Bill Clinton, who didn’t inhale, ended up being President of the United States. I think that our country (USA) has become very accepting of all kinds of behaviors. I’m sure that our forefathers would have fainted at the thought of so much that goes on now. Freedom is wonderful…but it comes at a price.

  8. I have optimism in the youth for many of the reasons already cited by others given that over time reason and maturity comes through. However I would like to see more independence and ability for freedom of expression and thought of the youth (male and female) in Saudi.

  9. I have to say in praise of the youth of Saudi Arabia- in the wake of the Jeddah floods they were the ones that spearheaded the awareness and the relief efforts with the official agencies far behind.

    I have no doubt that their intial mass postings on FB groups (which sprung up in record numbers) and YouTube- and the subsequet public awareness is what paved the way for the media coverage.

    And their tireless hours collecting and delivering supplies was organized before the official relief agencies got in.

    Good for them. Good leadership, good values, good work!

  10. Excellent comment Sandy and I agree with you – they did make a significant difference in awareness and relief efforts of the Jeddah floods.

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