The youth of 1976 stand lauded for their bravery in standing up to the government of the time. They held what was meant to be a peaceful march in protest against being instructed, as black learners, in Afrikaans. Afrikaans was the language of the leadership at the time. This peaceful march turned gruesome and now stands as a mark of some of the prices paid and lives lost to apartheid. The youth of 2015 stands accused of being apathetic, meek and lacking the boldness that those kids had, one such kid being Hector Pieterson. Hector has been martyred and branded the face of that massacre.
Today the youth engage in twars on “who slept with who for an iPhone”, “who has whose nudes” and “whose university tuition was funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme”. On the occasional public holiday the youth of 2015 engage in “real talk”, whether they are bashing absent fathers, abusive boyfriends or sugar daddies, they use social media and other popular media to voice their concerns. This crop of young people could even claim to have given rise to Fikile Mbalula’s new fame as minister-cum-tweleb. But underneath the swag, the sarcasm and ferocious cyber-bullying, what are the issues faced by the youth of 2015 and are they brave enough as the youth of 1776 to stand up to power on these issues?
I have written previously, here and on other platforms, about being young in SA and other issues, chief among them our economic disenfranchisement. I have further listened to many discussions wherein we are accused of being loyal to a party that belittles our struggles. I have read many an article pushing for young people to do something about their circumstances. Through all this, today I ask, what if we were the youth of 1976, with today’s problems. What differentiates the youth of 2015 to that of 1976? Is it our access to Twitter, Facebook and blogs? Or that we are lazy to march and should we march, we will not be massacred like they were? What makes us different from them, is it time or our issues?
Channel O ran a Youth Day promotion in which it alluded that the struggle today was for education, a higher education (judging by the graduation gown). But how do we graduate if we can’t get in? This is one of the many issues we are faced with as the youth of 2015. I stand to say we in fact have more on our plate than they did and perhaps we are overwhelmed by it all and we are not certain on how to address these issues. Rising levels of unemployment, rape and crime come up as part of our everyday issues.
As young black people we are held down by the lack of social capital and access to spaces, this means we are locked in the townships. We are shackled by black tax, meaning we are bound to our families for years before we can even think of setting up our own homes. We will be listed with the credit bureau should we not pay back the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, therefore even our own homes may just be a pipe dream. Before all this can happen though, we need a job. How do I get a job when every time I apply for one I am told I am not experienced enough or my skills don’t match that which the potential employer requires? And locked out of the economy, how do I begin to change things? And if I spend my days “hustling”, trying to find an entry into the economy, when will I get time to find interest in whatever other struggles out there beyond this one? And should I decide to revolt, who would I stand against? The government? The private sector? My family? My peers? Myself?
The youth of 1976 didn’t win the war, they only got the world to see the problem. They marched for an education, not to die. Between death and Afrikaans, we can only wonder what they would have chosen. The youth of 2015 are not protesting on the streets but would rather steal a moment in a taxi ride to another interview tweeting about the hustle and put up a Facebook update stating “sizophuma elokishini”. The youth of 2015 have their own struggles and are using 2015’esque forms of protest. My act of protest is writing this blog, not voting a certain party and going to yet another interview in which I will be told “you have a good background but lack the required experience”. What are the surviving youth of 1976 doing as 2015 adults?