We are not yet all equal

2011-06-16 00:00

YOUTH day is not the same for everyone. For the person who grew up in a township and walked 20 kilometres to school every day, and then struggled to be accepted by a university, it means an unfinished struggle. To a person brought up in the suburbs it is another public holiday, an opportunity to walk around the mall.

We live in different worlds. There is a spiritual and physical apartheid between us.

I never stop thinking about the concept of equality. It haunts me. Everybody loves to talk about it, but nobody lives it. We are all equal, I am told, but I know some of us will go to private schools and some of us will go to rural government schools with broken windows and absentee teachers. If I am a rural or township pupil I will be told about the Rainbow Nation and wonder at its reality. I will be told about equality and feel uncomfortable at my own lack of possibilities. I will be taught about morality in life skills, but observe that in the real world, money is the determinant, not spiritual ideals. Money will open the doors of a private hospital for one, and a government hospital for another. I will question the presentation of facts and search for a role model to guide my frustration into action. I will be misunderstood and called naiv­e. I will be patronised and pitied. Those who drive the gravy train will tell me to be patient, 16 years is too short a time to build houses but long enough for a generation of the well-connected to gorge contentedly, all the time spouting revolutionary rhetoric when the revolution truly belongs to the people, who are hungry for the true African Renaissance.

This is why the youth who live in townships are angry. It is patronising for those of us who have benefited from being born in better circumstances to talk to them about being patient or the Rainbow Nation. What do we project in our media? We are afraid to face the true reality.

I have always believed we are interlinked. A negative action or omission by one person will result in another person suffering the consequences. Young black people have high suicide rates and become involved in violence because they are surrounded by violence. Violence in the compression of their living spaces. Violence in the fact that they are in a poor living environment. Violence in that we sanction discrimination on the basis of economic class. We cannot say that there is nothing we can do about that. When we hold economic power, transformation is in our hands.

I am aware it is difficult to ensure all people receive fair treatment. Nothing can change in one day. But it is not impossible. It is our responsibility. Who among us has the balls to make this a reality? Who is prepared to share his or her power with the powerless, and become truly liberated?

The Rainbow Nation many talk about is commercialised, an advertiser's gimmick. It is the mask for many to hide their passivity behind. The true Rainbow Nation is owned by its people. If we are serious about a rainbow nation, then we must act in wisdom and true empathy, not patronisingly and rationalising our grip on the status quo. We must open our eyes to the world around us.

On Youth Day, remember this. The revolution we need is a transformation of attitudes. Fight unpatronisingly for the power and rights of every citizen in this country. Remember our youth, resilient against great odds, hungry and desperate for meaning. They will struggle through lies, betrayal and omission to their destiny.

On Youth Day, and every day, keep your eyes open, for you will see both the beauty and ugliness of this country, and you will know you are not powerless, but are the potential for change.

• Kyle Allan is a 24-year-old poet, writer, businessperson and festival organiser.

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