Despite problems in the current political and civil structures, and the lack of faith in the systems of democracy by many of the people of Latin America, both the increasing population of young people and their growing ability and willingness to participate give reason for hope.
Young people are increasingly gaining knowledge of the world’s problems through improved access to information due, in general, to the internet and, specifically, to social media. Social media will become even more important with time and evolution. Social media levels the playing field so that anyone can have a voice without paying the high cost of entry into the commercial media arena, now only available to governments, politicians, and their supporters. Social media allows any voice to be heard and offers a platform for the free exchange of ideas, both local and worldwide. No longer can the media be contained and controlled by just a handful of players. Improved information access, along with movements to include crowdsource voting on issues as well as representatives will put government more into the hands of the people. Young people have always been the hope of the future but never has information and communications been as available to the world as it is today. As young people move into and persist in politics, old ideas must give way to broader worldviews and new ideas. Perpetual conflict is not compatible with perpetual survival.
Democracy is increasingly becoming accepted as a universal value around the world as well as in Latin America. Democracy is the most common form of government in the world today with most of the world’s population living in a democratic political system. Democracy has expanded from one third of the world having democratic systems in 1973 to almost two thirds (121 democracies) in 2006. In this same period, Latin America went from a few democratic governments, many of them unstable, to an almost universal acceptance. Only Cuba rejects the model of electoral democracy. And more of the world is beginning to recognize the importance of universal suffrage, access to education, employment, and healthcare as fundamental rights. This will encourage acceptance and help to insure the stability of democracy. The increased access to information and the exchange of ideas can only help to spread these views.
Unfortunately, the question of democracy as well as the solutions to a host of other very complex world problems falls to our children. The youth of today also face complex world problems whose solutions will affect the very fate of mankind. They can and must work together to solve these problems or their children will face a very bleak future.
We are leaving them with centuries of philosophical, sociological, and scientific knowledge to draw from and almost 300 years, since the dawn of the industrial revolution, of examples of how not to run a world. We also leave them a myriad of technologies that just a few decades ago we could not even imagine. Our love of the bright and shiny, coupled with the profit motive, may have blinded us to some of the possibilities that these technologies may do for the greater good. We do not appear to have accumulated the wisdom to properly control these technologies.
Given all that is available to the youth of the world and the increasingly dire need for solutions to the world’s problems, we must not only believe in the youth of the coming generations; we must use all available means to help them on their way. This means universal education, nutrition, and health care, as well as global communications. Higher education, as well as elementary, must be equally available to all; and not only education in math and sciences, but also in the social sciences, philosophy, ethics, world history, and government.
Given the legacy of history we are leaving behind, with both the good and bad examples, and the range of technologies available, all that is lacking is the education, nutrition, and health care. These issues belong to us. If we adequately provide our youth with these basic needs, we have no reason not to be optimistic about the future of democracy or the future of humanity.