It is time the youth put their stamp on politics. It is long since that has happened. Long gone are the days of the 68 generation, who has developed an alternative lifestyle and questioned many of the established wisdoms in the sixties and seventies. Not all youth who protested at that time were socialists, but many were and much of the soul-searching had to do with the glaring shortcomings of the capitalist world order. Then in the eighties onwards, the conservative wind swept again and most of the youth from the 68 generation became unsteady on their feet and slid into the seats of power little by little. They have taken part in administering during the decades that led up to the financial and economic crisis today - a worse outcome of the capitalist system than we have seen in a long time, worse than in the 1960s because then everyone was in the mode for change: The colonies had become independent States by then; racism was on the decline and USA had abolished its segregation; the welfare State and massive education expansion developed all over Europe; there were initiatives to establish a new international economic order, as we called it optimistically, and the new international information order. We began realising that environmental issues were important for humankinds survival and greater gender equality became an obvious theme. Without the active participation and even leadership of the youth, little of this would have happened. Can you imagine Green Peace without the youth, or the Womens Decades? Looking back, I think my generation is quite happy with the achievements up to the mid-eighties. After that, we have less to be proud of, those of us who are getting old now, and even those who are still in their best years. But what is happening to the youth today? What have they been preoccupied with in the last couple of decades? In a more and more competitive world, the youth have been forced to be conformist if they want a fair share of the pie, and a say. However, they focused too much on that. They could have refused to side with the establishment so massively. Some fell off the bandwagon in the competitive race, often because of substance abuse in their families, which were negative aspects from the lifestyle of the 68 generation. In the West, the welfare State looks after their physical needs, but most of them will never get into mainstream society, doomed to an underclass life. In some cases, they are joined by immigrants, refugees and internal migrants, and others whose backgrounds make it difficult to compete with those who have had it all from childhood. Why did the youth accept all this? Why did they seem to become more selfish than we were in my youth, not noticing the poor and downtrodden in their midst, and showing lesser solidarity with the poor people in poor countries? But some did, you may say. The problem, though, is that it was never developed into major interest organisations and political parties save for the green parties, environmental and womens interest groups. Recently, I became aware of a new youth movement in Germany, questioning the old ways of politicking. They want a much more inclusive and participatory democratic system, with frequent and real hearings and consultations with people before decisions are made. They recently got 10 percent of the vote and their first seats in the Berlin State Assembly and became a new force in the German political landscape. They want broader communication between the rulers and the ruled to include, for example, free internet access for everyone, and they also want free public transport for people. The youthful leader of the Pirate Party, as it is called, Sebastian Nerz, was recently interviewed on BBC World, and his ideas seem to challenge some of the shortcomings in the democratic system until now, without being a protest party. In Pakistan, what is it that holds the youth back? Why doesnt the older generation give the youth room to find their place? The establishment in Pakistan - as everywhere - seems to have run out of ideas and compassion. New ideas will have to come from the youth and others who are alternative thinkers. It is important that ideas are constructive, not just protest and critical. In a country with 70 percent of the people below 30 years of age, I am optimist, but the youth must be given room and funds to participate. Old people, who keep criticising everything in politics, as often happens in Pakistan, should help the youth to become active participants in the countrys economy, social and organisational system, and other fields of the democracy. It is important to realise that the youth will not learn how to participate without participating. It is like learning to swim or stitch, it can only be learnt by doing it. So if we want more and better democracy, there must be given a chance for the inexperienced to learn on the job. Thus far, I have not mentioned the class differences directly. If we talk about including the youth in democratic development, or any other group for that matter, say, women, people from underprivileged and remote areas, religious and other minorities, we must make sure that all are indeed included. We must not just give opportunities to those who come from the upper classes among the youth and the other groups. Todays leaders, and most of them are from the upper classes or the military, must take special notice of this. Allow me to draw a parallel to the Arab Spring, the North-African popular uprisings that led to the toppling of several heads of State. I dont want the Arab Spring type of change in Pakistan. Yet, the Arab Spring was a youthful way of making change happen. We must learn lessons from those recent events, and Pakistan must find solutions to include the youth before anything similar happens here. Until now, we have rather been afraid of the youth. True, some of them have been extremists and even terrorists. The rest became conformists and joined the establishment without murmur, be they young boys getting into jobs according to the expectations and classes, or be they women. Women are supposed to work in the fields, houses, and so on, if they are poor, or sit pretty in the mansion or apartment, if they are higher up in the class hierarchy. University degrees and professional ambitions dont help them much; the social pressure is so hard that they will end up in the drawing room, get bored, overweighed, and what have you. This is a terrible waste of beautiful talent - and so is it not to include the working class men, too. I am sure, it is only a matter of time before Imran Khan and other political aspiring leaders will fish for the vote of the youth. But that is not the right way to do it. The youth must be part of the movements, not just used to support the older leaders. Complaining aside, I am optimist. The last couple of days I have had the pleasure of attending the annual conference of the Population Association of Pakistan, or PAP, in Lahore. I was impressed by the positive intentions by the old guard. However, too few youth attended, in spite of youth being the main theme. The old guard should help find funds for the youth, and then get out of the way. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist based in Islamabad. He has served as United Nations Specialist in the United States, as well as various countries in Africa and Asia. He has also spent a decade dealing with the Afghan refugee crisis and university education in Pakistan. Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com