Dashiki Dialogues: Today’s youth face the hardest challenge

2013-06-16 14:00

If you thought apartheid was a hard mountain of trouble to have to confront, think again.

All the deaths and detentions, and all the maiming and kidnappings, will seem like a walk in the park against the backdrop of what this generation must confront.

An older man with a taste for radical banter said something along these lines to me last week as we discussed the meaning of Youth Day in South Africa and the continent’s evolving political economy.

Obviously, since he was in his teens in the 70s, he was best positioned to reflect on this holiday which, by the way, is observed to honour the sacrifices made by his generation.

Though he is much older now, this geezer still keeps his fiery tone and temperament.

I insisted he elaborated further on the sociopolitical dragon that he claimed confronts the current generation of young South Africans.

He stroked his jutting beard and gave me a beady eye, then proceeded to explain.

“Apart from the absence of real collective social commitment to each other, you lot can’t even count on your leadership to be honest when dealing with your dreams,” he said, and then went on to point out much of the doublespeak of leaders who speak left but walk right.

His examples included communist leaders who insist on driving luxury cars when they visit their downtrodden constituencies.

He then went on to tell me about how the lefties’ fight for the rights of individuals has been bastardised and now mean vulgar individualism of the self-serving sort.

Now moving to sit on the edge of his seat, the old timer gave me a whole spiel on social cohesion. “What happened between 1989 and 1994?

Because before then, one didn’t even need to remind people that their fates were connected.”

There seems to have been a rupture that was brought by the little material gains of our post-apartheid reality.

Children of people who fought and died for black people to be included into corporate power have become the defenders of capitalist social crimes in the name of profit viability.

Further complicating this generation’s imperatives to transform the nation and humanise it is that their opponents also have legal claim to the rightness of their actions.

This is unlike the apartheid years, when the enemy of the people was a clearly defined apparatus of a repressive state and the big business that propped it up.

“As you celebrate or commemorate the massacre and protests of June?16 1976, meditate on what is easily a harvest of thorns,” he said, settling back into his easy recline.

The dialogue felt a bit cynical against many visible achievements, but it is all part of our dashiki threads.

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