Despair (source:
Despair (source:
Despair (source:

MY NAME IS TAN SHANG NENG, I AM 23 YEARS OLD. I hail from Klang, Selangor. And I am from the ‘betrayed generation’.

My elders have often used my name, together with my peers of my generation (what may well be the youth today), to justify a lot of their actions. They say they are doing this for the betterment of our future, they are doing that to ensure that the youth will have something worthwhile to inherit.

They say that they have the youth’s, and the youth’s children-to-be’s, best interest at heart.

And that is when they degrade our education system, making a foolery out of it.

That is when they conduct government awards of businesses behind closed doors.

That is when Chief Ministers become billionaires.

That is when they destroy our rainforests.

That is when they agree to allow Lynas to open a rare earth processing plant.

That is when they close both eyes when there are still thousands homeless; people go hungry every night, even in the heart of KL.

That is when they rig our elections.

That is when they insult each other, degrade the women, kill the men.

That is when all they teach us do to, is to hate one another. To identify with the colour of our skin first, and being Malaysian second.

They did and still do all those in the name of the betterment of the youth.

Recently, they have promised us change. March 8 tsunami. RPK. Anwar. KJ. 1Malaysia. Birth of alternative media. Sure-fire two-party system.

We bought into all that, all of us youths. We were hopeful dreamers swept up by the promise of a new world order, or at least a new Malaysian order. One based on merits. One built again from the blood and sweat of those who promised to keep our futures secured, to return us to the path of guaranteed glory.

Years on, we are nowhere nearer to finding that path.

We are the betrayed generation.
Our trust has been betrayed.
BN, PR. Look at them.
Mainstream media, alternative media. Look at them.
MCA, DAP. Look at them.

They are out there for number one: themselves.

We are the betrayed generation. We are taught to be subservient. To kowtow. To have blind faith.
That is flying in the face of what we have been promised.

The truth of the matter is, Najib, Anwar, KJ, Karpal, LKS. They are old fools, their minds blurred to our needs. They see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. And we, the betrayed generation, are far from their plans. Their world is one of pure politics, expedient survival being the key. They are politicians.

We are at a time when politicians are what we need least. We need statesmen. We need real heroes. It is time for another revolution, but we need a beacon to come together. We will not find this beacon from the delusional oldies. Their version of politics is a very different one to what we aspire to one day have. They are the lost generation, by their own doing.

Are you going to be my beacon? Or are you going to run away, be lost like them all? I need a point, a focus, a flag I can identify with. To lead me on. We, the youth – the future – need this.

We need a leader from amongst ourselves. Young, hopeful, daring to dream.

I look to my Malaysian peers who have had the opportunity to go abroad. The UK, US, Australia, India, Indonesia, Russia. We have had the benefit of the impetus from abroad, we have seen the world from without the tempurung that is Malaysia.

Will one of you be my beacon? Or will you, like our forefathers, allow the generations-to-come to continue being the betrayed generations, finally one lost to the winds.

My name is Tan Shang Neng. I am 23 years old. I hail from Klang, Selangor. I am Malaysian, and I am still hopeful.


1) The phrase “…kill the men…” has been used for poetic purposes. To date, no person has been literally killed, not to the best of my knowledge anyway.

2) Terms such as “old fools” and “delusional oldies” have been used for emotive invocation purposes. In hindsight, it is extremely disrespectful to have grouped some names above in these categories, for this was neglecting the fight that some of these honourable names had taken on. For this reason, I do apologise.

3) This article was initially meant as a rant on Facebook for personal friends. It is non-partisan, and more of an emotive summation than any attempt to espouse political ideologies. I believe in a two party system, and for transparency and education to pave the way. But I personally want to start with hope.

Shang Neng is an optimistic humanist. He often finds no better comic/humour than the front pages of mainstream newspapers quoting our dear YBs. Often ranting about the shortcomings of his country, deep down he knows no other home like Malaysia, and is a true-blue budak Klang.” Believes in a Malaysian revolution brought on by the youth.

14 replies on “We, The Betrayed Generation”

  1. sometimes i feel loyarburok is too depressing. everybody is complaining and no one is being grateful for what they have. yes,there are many flaws with the goverment but let's not forget that they had done lots too.

  2. Shang Neng, first of all congrats on a well written piece.
    I think I understand where you are coming from. But don't think that you have the qualification to belittle the struggles of LKS, Karpal and the likes until you have actually walked the talk like them for a few decades .
    You wrote so well yet you are looking for a beacon? Why not be a beacon unto others yourself ? If these people like LKS, Karpal, LGE , Anwar etc are not beacons then who else can be considered as beacon to you and your generation. Until some worthy one from your generation appears ( and I don't see any yet) please have respect for those so-called 'oldies' . For now at least I will lend my support to Pakatan, that is until they prove they no longer deserve my support, which BN had already done.

  3. I too am a member of this betrayed generation. Will you, someone that is 2 years wiser than me, be that beacon that you spoke of?

  4. Sheng Neng, at least you are aware of the pathetic state of affairs. Most youths your age are indifferent to politics, immersed in advancing their careers and social lives, believing that their one little contribution won't contribute anything. However, 'little drops of water and tiny grains of sand do make a mighty ocean and a lovely land' so as an elder trying very hard to do my little bit to protect Malaysia for my children and grandchildren, I encourage you to now stand up and be counted politically as only political reforms will move all other reforms, social, cultural, educational or economically. I encourage you to motivate your peers to also stand up politically and choose from amongst yourselves youth leaders

    to move this nation forward with us, from the older generation .

  5. Shang Neng – look for the beacon within yourself. It is your turn not to betray the next generation.

  6. Shan Neng, well written bro.

    I had my secondary education and tertiary education in a 100% Malay/Bumiputra institutions. However, the environment did not make me a colour first Malaysian 2nd type of person, rather I treasure that in Malaysia, we have so may cultures and races living together. That is why I join an NGO and also chambering in an office, where I can feel the 'Malaysianess' feeling.

    But you are true enough, we were all deceived by the politicians. Maybe the opposition is an alternative to the current-decades-long-ruling BN, but yet, some of the old top guns are fighting for themselves, for them to have the powers. Instead of listening to the youths' voices, they choose to shut our mouth and think that they knew better, because they live longer than us. As the Malays say, "makan garam dulu", they choose to ignore us and shape the way of life for us.

    I really hope there will be a change in Malaysia. Youths in Malaysia must have a critical thinking, so that we can shape a better future for Malaysia. Youths nowadays tend to enjoy a lot, they ignore the important things and just wanna have fun. That is why the quality of education is also deteriorating. We must change. For the sake of Malaysia, change our attitude and be a youth who can contribute a lot to our motherland.


  7. You're only 23?! Gosh, I only started "waking up" in my late thirties! Congratulations on a well written article.

  8. Shang Neng, I agree with you regarding supply and demand.

    Malaysia, at its heart, is still very much a feudal society. There is an ingrained obsession with swearing our loyalty to Datuks, Datins, Tan Sris, Yang Berhormats and Tunkus. We tend to act like old-style peasants and look up to Barisan or Pakatan lords for protection and favour.

    The unconscious language of both Barisan and Pakatan tend to reinforce this: 'Support me in building my fiefdom, and I'll let you have a few crumbs off my table.'

    When Malaysians vote based on this, they shouldn't be surprised that they get a 15th-century outcome as opposed to a 21st-century one.

    Personally, I don't believe that any leader, any chosen ones, can somehow miraculously change Malaysia. Rather, change has to come from the people themselves, and they have to be willing to join hands and endure hardship in order to affect change.

    Let me give you an example: New Zealand used to have a very profitable business exporting livestock to Muslim festivals in the Middle East. But when videos emerged of those animals being dragged and whipped and butchered cruelly at the side of roads, all exports were discontinued as a matter of principle. The country lost over $1 billion of revenue because of this decision. But New Zealanders are at peace with it because they have stood up for what they believe is right.

    Most tellingly, every Malaysian I have met has condemned the Kiwis for being stupid for passing up the chance to make easy money. But that's just another sign of our feudalism, isn't it?

  9. @John Ling: Interesting, never saw it from the shame/guilt perspective. Definitely worth pondering upon. I do agree with you on that point. The obvious problem to me is the politics, but it is the culture domestically which informs the politics. There will only be supple when there is demand, and there won't be any real change until there is real demand. Thanks for the input!

  10. Shang Neng, I'm a Malaysian living in New Zealand, and I share your sentiments. I've seen both sides of the fence, and I've observed that the problem is cultural, not political.

    First of all, Barisan has been in power for 54 years. That's two generations and a half. Even if reforms take place at warp speed right now, you will still need one generation (20 years) to really change things.

    Secondly, Malaysians generally practice a shame culture, not a guilt culture. Shame is external; guilt is internal. Guilt: 'If I give a bribe, I won't feel good and I won't be able to live with myself.' Shame: 'If I don't give a bribe, my business will not prosper, and I will not be able to face up to my family at our next Chinese New Year gathering.'

    To put this into perspective, I used to have a lawyer friend who was a fierce critic of the government and a staunch defender of human rights. This friend later joined Petronas and became as corrupt as the people he once opposed. His excuse? 'My family pressured me into it.'

    He is not alone. Many career- and business-minded Malaysians fall into the same trap. It is perhaps endemic of Asian culture — loyalty to one's own trumps all else.

    Until and unless this culture changes, politics in Malaysia will not change.

  11. Dear Khairy J, Would you be brave enough to stand up for the lost youths or do you prefer to close all eyes and ears like all the old men who are leading our country and people nowhere? A highly educated and intelligent guy like you is doing a dis-service to the country if you enjoy hanging around those oldies who are actually amusing themselves until drop dead,nevermind the mediocre the people are misled into going for each other's throats, suffer the country.You can be the next PM but you still haven't found the guts to ask those lawless cowboys to sit down shut-up.

  12. True, heartfelt, and simple. One of my favourite Lowyarburok pieces ever. And my answer is, I ain't seeing no beacon any where near right now.

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