By: Siphamandla Sithole
As the nation gears up for Mandela Day, it is long forgotten that just the previous month it was, youth month. This quick forgetfulness comes to as a result of many things, the youth or not the most favourite of people this nation has at the moment. But being in the month of July, the month were the world celebrates an icon of peace and a champion of Human Rights, I felt that I had to pen something down, and it would be an injustice to myself if I did not. Mandela, Tata uMadiba as he is affectionately known, become quite the activist in children’s rights and wellbeing once he stepped down from his tenure as South Africa’s president, in his valiant call for each a better life for all, I thought it would be worth an effort to exam the month of June, Youth Month, and see what we can draw from the events of that month and forecast a picture for the future and see if it does promise a ‘better life for all’.
The Betrayal- A Failed Youth?
Not so long ago it was June 16, we the youth had an entire month dedicated to us but something was different this year, something was missing. It is undeniable that youth month came to an end with a lacklustre shine and without the usually hype and rousing fanfare that it usually comes with. The youthful exuberance that was to be expected to arrive within this month was largely unfelt; the youthful spirit had absconded this year it seems. This youth month was very much subdued although the nation along with the youth (some) luckily enough did not forget to commemorate June 16, the most sort after and well appreciated solemn holiday in the whole month of June.
June 16, is an important day and must be must celebrate for it is of great importance in contemporary South Africa. It is date that serves as a remembrance of the collective history that this nation has, it is a day that remains a stand out example of the great lengths and sacrifices that the youth of 1976 were willing to go through to secure a better education system and add to the fight against the oppressive system of Apartheid. June 16 stands as a day of great inspiration, a day that rouses the spirit and calls one tackle the challenges that lay ahead.
But on this June 16, (truthful and the ones before), June 16 presented a perfect holiday, a sort after day of rest. Falling perfectly on a Saturday, this June 16 fell from its normal heights and merely became another Saturday, a day of recovery and preparation for or after a night of heavy partying. Youth Day brought what seemed to be a well welcomed twist, it provided a good excuse to drink and party while in your old school attire, not that this is limited to those a ‘post-matric phase’.
These type of celebrations these days are very much ‘democratic’ and do not discriminate along age lines, young and old, from those even younger than 12 years of age to the elderly with grey hairs. Drinking is a favoured past time in this nation! We have a national tradition of binge drinking, it appears.
And so the fate of this year’s Youth Day was set already, the agenda was predetermined, a celebration, a jubilee of drunkenness was in order. Thousands were to march to the nearest watering holes and a declaration to get ‘sloshed’ was to be met out at all cost. This was the sweeping resolution that had been taken up holistically, throughout the nation, the traditional ritual of partying and doing everything else in between was to be met.
With Youth month now behind us, it was though a month where the youth, this generation come under great scrutiny and was thoroughly assessed, and off-course was to be evaluated in an attempt to compare and contrast with the generation of 1976. With all the now recycled political renditions given in the form of speeches given throughout the month of June, we have come to learn a great deal about the youth of that time, we could quickly summaries that there is a great distinction between that generation and this current one.
It is these distinctions that are ‘great’ that have seen many voices of disproval, disappointment and displeasure about this generation of ours. The dissatisfaction is so great; we as generation have been accused (attacked) for having betrayed the struggle for liberation of this country. It said that we have trivialised the struggle of the youth of 1976 that we have defecated upon the graves of those that lost their lives to obtain the freedoms we enjoy today. In essence we are viewed as a disgraceful generation, they have gone as far as labelling us a failed generation.
These bitter words that have become hard to swallow originate from the manner in which we the youth conduct ourselves. It is said we do nothing to honour the sacrifices that the previous generation have made for us, many had laid their lives down to pave the way for this democratic dispensation, that has offered us liberties, they dreamt of achieving. That was a generation of individuals that were willing to die for their ideals, to die to see a better South Africa, a new South Africa for all, abundant in possibilities of a better life for young black Africans in their homeland.
This backlash of anger and frustration levelled towards us raises out the fact that we are the custodians of this new country, to inherit and continue to take it to greater heights and be the ones to lead the majority of our citizens, our families out of the clutches of poverty. This is the unspoken but well known mission for this generation, which is to summon the spirit of the youth of 1976 and go forth to lay claim and ownership of this countries destiny, our collective future and establish a better South Africa for all.
It is this realization that has seemed to have escaped my generation, and this is specifically the catalyst that sparks this hostility our generation is met with from the older generation. This condemnation that we receive is particularly directed at the callous manner in which we conduct ourselves and agreeably so, it leaves much to be desired. Great expectations are on the shoulders of this generation, much hope has been invested within us, but upon reflection the reality is worrying.
The youth of this country are undeniably in a state of crisis, they (we) find themselves in many situations that will condemn them to continuing living a life of poverty. The black youth of this nation are the ones worst compounded by this crisis, a self-inflicted crises, a directionless, un-motivated and uninspired youth. As if poverty is not a great enough motivator to inspire one to try and attempt to improve their material conditions. Parents are up in arms, dumbfounded at how their children have veered-off into a direction that will continue to shackle them in poverty, as education takes a backseat to the joys of the flesh.
The binge drinking amongst the youth, the drug abuse, the teenage pregnancy rate and the continued proliferation of the HIV/AIDS virus amongst us young people all add up to paint a rather bleak future for this nation of ours. We are faced with a crisis yet many of us do not even realize it, we are too pre-occupied with other non-essential activities.
Have we really forsaken our destiny, and have willingly accepted being labelled the failed generation?
Have we indeed betrayed the nation, our parents and all those who have lost their lives in sacrifice for the days we live in now? Do we not recognize our mission??
We should reflect upon ourselves as the youth of this country, to assess ourselves and see if we are equipping ourselves, with the tools to continue to build this country, this world into greater heights. Or are we equipping ourselves with all the tools that will only destroy and ravish all the work that has been done, and regress as a people. I leave you with a quote below that haunts me every time I read and think about it:
“Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth