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Generation D

As I sit here at 5:00 a.m. at the business center in the Marriott hotel in downtown Singapore I hear the pounding beat of the music from the nightclub next door. That’s right. The nightclub music continues until 6:00 a.m., and this is Sunday morning….so it is still the Saturday night crowd that is gracing the lobby of this elegant Asian hotel. Exotic young women in designer shoes and short, tight-fitting skirts slink around with young men with spiky hair, chiseled jawlines and baggy jeans. It is a totally 20-to-30 something scene; quite different from the daytime business and tourist crowd. But this is not the only place I’m struck with the youth of the population.

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Yesterday while strolling along the wide pedestrian walkway of Orchard street I could see before me a sea of people….all in that same age-range. This area appears to be the nexus where the young people are making their mark in S.E. Asia. Ubiquitous are the mobile phones and head-sets for listening to telephone conversations or music from the device.

Shifting now back to a theme I wrote on over a year ago about the force of Twitter as a tool for social change and revolution in Iran. Here again, the ubiquitousness of the mobile phone was a force to be reckoned with. Indeed, the authoritarian leaders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have found that out in the past several months. This new Digital Generation, or the D-Generation as I call them, is no longer willing and able to stick with the status quo. The young men and women of this generation all around the world want more. They don’t want to settle for the ossified mental, social and political constructs of a failing past. They want to take the future into their screens and shape it in a way that will provide them with the happiness they seek in life.

As an American that has grown up with the privileges and responsibilities of free speech and freedom of the press and the right to worship, I can only hope that these dreams are, one day, fulfilled and that their efforts are not thwarted by the older generation that seeks to keep them oppressed and subject to the whims and wishes of political power, wrongly executed. The international press is rich with speculation about the prospect of a radical Islam arising in the MENA area. I don’t share that view. From where I sit it appears that the young are using the secular forces of technological devices to change their worlds in ways that suit their own sensibilities, not those of their parents. Jobs, security, a happy and peaceful life; these are the goals of the Arab spring.

The well-functioning urban environment of a place like Singapore can serve as a model for the new Arab leaders that emerge. Here the young are well-fed, well-clothed, have jobs and hope and the basic infrastructure for transportation, communications and basic sanitation. As simple as it seems, the governance issues around the provision of basic services is so much a part of the creation of a harmonious society that it cannot be overlooked in the newly emerging quest for power and control by the new political elite of MENA. These invisible frameworks do much to set the stage for success. This is what I call sustainable globalization.

But that is enough said. The beating of the music is drawing me out to the lobby so I can relish the beauty of the youth scene here in Singapore. May the hopes and dreams of Generation D be fulfilled, where ever in this transparent world they may reside.