June 16 2015, marks the 29thanniversary of the 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising. This was a time when the black youth of South Africa gathered together to put their fate in their own hands and create a future they believed in. A mobilized, driven, focused and ambitious youth. They had all the things, supposedly, lacking in the youth of today. The youth of today seems to have fallen off course. Where are they now?
Having been a youth for a nine odd years now, yup I should be getting a gold watch for good service soon, I think myself to be somewhat of an expert on being young. So to begin, I believe we should address the defining difference between the youth of 1976 and those of 2015. The youth of 1976 was fighting against an oppressive regime, while the youth of 2015 is fighting against…uhm…wait…uhm. Well ain’t that something?
It seems we have no purpose. This is where the first phase of misunderstanding is found. The youth of today is not fighting against a single tangible body that is the obvious cause of conflict. There are many battles to be fought. The youth of today has to fight against sexism, racism, economic inequality, corruption, elitism, homophobia… the list is endless. Are the youth mobilized? Clearly the youth of today does have a battle to fight but this fight is no longer streamlined, there are many beasts, all of which need to be addressed in order to shape a better future.
A take away from what the youth of 2015 fought for is so that we would no longer have to fight. Purpose and drive are not only found the destruction of systems and ideals. Were the ideals of those young protestors driven towards the aim of peace and stability? How are we looked down upon because of a gift that was given to us? How are we looked down upon because of a gift that was given to us? One cannot give a gift and use that very gift to be the basis of why an entire generation has faltered.
Another vast difference between the youth of then and now is that we live in a global world. In as much as it has connected the world, it has also intensified the divides. We are able to feel like we belong, but our belonging may be on the other side of the world and in such intensifies the alienation from our neighbour. As it is difficult to connect with ones neighbour it seems that we have forgotten to be social and basic human bonds. This is not the case with us all nor is it a new concept. We hide in our phones just as previous generations hid in their books. We do not talk to those we pass on the streets because it has become emotionally taxing to invest in people that you may not see again. We do what we must to protect and preserve ourselves in this global space. We are not mindless zombies, I promise. We connect in different ways, we reach out in ways that previous generations may not fully understand. We try to retain our humanity in an increasingly globalized world.
I once heard that the children born after the revolution are the angriest. Why? If they did not sacrifice, why all the anger? It is simple really. The youth of today has looked in the eyes of those who sacrificed and are knowledgeable enough to demand more than what has been given to them. The youth of today has been promised the moon and the skies above and is deemed to be lucky if they have some moon rocks in their pocket. Promises were never met. Finally the youth of today bares so much pressure as a result of having all the opportunities that others never had. This weight is crippling and petrifying and worst of all, no one knows how to show us to deal with it. This is new to all of us.
There are thousands more things to be said about the psyche of today’s youth, and I am but one woman and cannot delve in to them all. We are not a broken generation, we are our own.