When entering a billiard lounge in a Jakarta mall on a Saturday night, you’d expect a relaxed atmosphere where you can unwind with friends. Don’t get your hopes too high because the reality is you’ll only step into a smoke chamber so packed you need to shove through girls in skimpy clothing and guys with excessive hair gel to get to a pool table – that is, if you get through the lengthy waiting list. The worst part is, the place is full of teenagers – young, fresh-minded people who came yearning for a ‘good time.’
Lately, the teenage nightlife scene is in the spotlight with recent events where ‘innocent’ bystanders become a catastrophe, such as that of the Olivia Dewi debacle. The young model was burned alive in her car after she hit a pole while driving intoxicated – she was only 17. Another 17-year old high school student, Raafi Aga Winasya Benjamin, was also the victim of a tragedy with similar origins. He was partying with his friends when conflict rose between him and other partygoers resulted to a stabbing that cost his life.
From tragic incidents like these, it’s inevitable to question the guilt-loaded question of who is to blame?
The growing issue of teenagers and nightlife has been an age-long conflict and when clubs are no longer the sole place where teens can go to party (more precisely indulge in the freedom of cigarettes and alcohol), it’s hard not to start pointing any fingers. After all, cigarette and beer are never a good combo for someone who barely has two decades in their lives.
From a legal perspective, underage drinking and smoking is strictly illicit, though like other laws of this country, they are not well enforced. Sure, the government restricts age limits and requires identity verification when purchasing age-restricted items – but isn’t this what they have trying to do so far? (to no avail, obviously). When it comes to such matters the authorities are the last people you could rely on, especially when it’s about the money. As long as you can afford a pack of cigarettes and a round of drinks for you and your friends, then all is good. With weak legal enforcement, we move to another authoritative figure in a teenager’s life: their parents. Are the parents to blame for carelessly letting their children go out? Not so much it seems.
It’s one thing to give (or not to give) permission for your child to go out to clubs, it’s another not knowing that these sort of locales are present in even more family-friendly places such as malls. From billiard lounges to shisha bars available out in the sun, it’s no wonder when kids could claim to ‘just hang out in the mall with friends’ and end up half-wasted by the end of the night from a bar. Nightlife is no longer associated with clubs. As our city grows, a new form of nightlife submerges, and this type sucks the lifestyle perspective from our next generation like hungry leeches.
Don’t get me wrong, not every adolescent favors the party scene – not people in these sorts of venues are teens – and not all of the teens there to cultivate their dark side. Some of them are actually seeking for a really good time with friends, and most of them are actually bothered that other people misuse places like these as a retreat to nurture their future lung cancer and liver complications. Put aside the issue of underage clubbing, now the issue in question becomes whether it is appropriate for the nightlife atmosphere to be in family-friendly places like malls.
I, for one, believe that the teenage years are where you get curious and want to try something new once in a while (which probably was the grand motto of a teenager); but seeing that this habit is evolving culture, I’m becoming quite apprehensive. In addition to that, allowing (or in this case, perplexed) parents and a frail legal system are showing weak signs of any support to keep teenagers in-line.
I’m not going to sermon about how morally unrighteous it is, but I stand my ground when I say that the worst part of teens and the new night-life scene is that it is downright annoying to find jaunty teenagers nesting in malls when they look and act like they belong in a club somewhere. But the kids are not to blame for, at least not in this article. The reason behind teenagers and their behavior will vary with regards to complex psychological explanations that I’m not here equipped with; but let’s just look at the obvious culprits who we can blame, the vendors – the malls.
Malls should regulate their entertainment venues since they clearly haven’t got their target market straight. They are supposed to be a place where all kinds of people can come to and have relaxing time, not to be the host of a mushrooming industry that is slowly penetrating life values of the next generation. The least they can do is to have an appropriate conduct when it comes to nightlife in a mall.
After all, it’s where people of all ages come to – not only thirsty adolescent teenagers or partygoers. The scene is not appropriate to be placed in the setting, and an arrangement such as time allocations or vendor placement should be arranged as not to interrupt other mall visitors. As age restrictions could be challenging to maintain, alcohol restrictions are the way to go. Identity verification for purchasing products such as cigarettes should be enforced – even though now attendants are not keen on saying ‘no’ to their superior buyers.
To restrict something in Indonesia always seems like a myth. But with recent talk of building a better Jakarta – a better Indonesia – I hope this issue will be addressed because it’s important for the next generation to know their place in society – as future leaders with successful careers, not half unconscious bimbos in shady dim-lighted bars.