Romanticized Old, Underestimated Youth

A while ago, I read a speech by Khaya Dlanga in which he talks about the fight for this generation. He talked about how the previous generation fought for the independence of the country. Individuals risked their lives to get to where we are now, and it’s the responsibility of this generation to build on that, but we seem to have no mission in life “besides partying”. It brought me to one question: why is the current generation constantly being compared to our fathers and forefathers?Looking back, it seems that the previous generation were all united around a common cause: to bring freedom to the nation. The collective risked their lives and lived sacrificially to make sure that the next generation would have the best possible life. These heroes of the day did everything in their power to get us where we are now, and because of the sweat of their brows, and the determination of their hearts, we have all kinds of opportunities to do whatever we want with our lives today. Not so?

The problem with looking at a collective is that we generalize. We look at the past heroes such as the OR Tambo’s, the Nelson Mandela’s and the Beyers Naude’s and they become the representatives of the collective. Truth is, not everyone was a freedom fighter. Not everyone lived sacrificially. Not everyone risked their lives so that we can have the opportunity to do so much today, and it should not be expected from everyone today.

Every society has its heroes. But every society also has its post office clerks, and its nurses, and its street sweepers, and its entrepreneurs, and its criminals. Not everyone will be a hero, or a society leader, but everyone will function in whatever area they are placed in, and their functioning will ensure we have a holistic society ( criminals excluded of course). Most social functions reach fulfilment at the point of maturity, just as each member of the older generation fulfilled their respective “life-missions” at the point of their maturity.

The youth of this society is progressing along just as the youth of other generations staggered along, trying to figure things out. Mandela as a youth wasn’t the same Mandela after prison. Julius Malema as a youth will be a different Julius Malema in future. The different elements of our youth collective are developing to become the elders of society who will in turn look down on the youth of the next generation, saying they are not doing enough.

My plea is, before everyone looks at the youth of this nation (South Africa), or any other nation, and starts complaining about how it isn’t as it was in the “glorious old days”, think about how far this collective is compared to where the previous generation was at the same time, and be glad that this country is definitely going to be in safe hands.

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