The youth don’t have much to celebrate or bemoan
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Like the other commercialised holidays, the commodification of holidays is lamentable. Commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas and people into commodities or objects of trade.
Capitalism, in its contemporary form of globalisation, expands into all corners of social and political life, with devastating consequences in the form of commodification.
These glory days for business-people cut across moral principles and good values. We should celebrate the important people in our lives every day. The bare-faced and shameless parading of the profit-motif makes a meal out of the disappointments that inhere in oversights or unwanted re-prioritising along personal lines.
As an example, what do single-parent mothers say to children who ask questions about this nebulous creature called “father”.
I am not advocating scrapping the gestures of respect that are due to our mentors, guides, advisers, friends, support structures. I am just asking, as I have done over the past few years, for us to redefine our relevances.
We could redefine how children feature in this world that had gone pear-shaped. For instance, Angie insists that the schools go back in full cohorts no matter what the facts show.
The second celebration is Youth Day. Granted, there are questions to be asked about the disappointments that followed youth action in 1976 and 1985 as posited by a fellow columnist this past Monday (The class of ’76 and ’85 are still waiting). I started teaching as a youth of 18 in 1959.
In my very first term of teaching I explained to a Grade 7 (Standard 5) class that Johan “Jan” van Riebeeck was not the father of this nation. And this while a (white) school Inspector was visiting my class!
He cut the lesson short, sent the children outside to play and summoned the principal to the classroom to see the dastardly deed I had perpetrated.
He made it very clear that (a) I teach the material in the books that the Education Department provided and (b) that I could shelve forthwith all notions of promotion, leastways, at least while they were in power. I spent the next 22 years teaching as well as I could and worked on improving my qualifications, which at the time was Matric and two years’ Teacher Training at Hewat.
The point of my story is that I am never mentioned as a “Struggle hero”. We have add-water-and-stir heroes for that. Hector and Ashleigh were not the only youths who died for their cause.
There were the non-poster-waving proles like me who got on with the business of education. I am no doyen, but already I saw how sell-outs flourished, followed by a few generations of youth that were falsely nurtured on the misbegotten promise concept of instant gratification and entitlement.
That is where we lost the plot.
Many like myself used what we could to rise in the ranks. I ended up as principal of a high school, but not because I conformed.
Indeed, my high school principalship of 10 years was a psychic nightmare of balancing political expectation that carried the fatal slogan of liberty before education and continued empowerment of those who wanted to go ahead on their own steam, often against the tsunami of defiance.
To cut a long story short, the youth don’t have much to celebrate or bemoan. They abdicated in the 1960s in favour of visible resistance, with the expectation of reward when freedom came. That gave us the present and dangerously flawed ANC. Then we inherited students who demand that everything be free. No negotiation of free national education and then paying back on qualification and salary-generating employment.
So, to risk be hung, drawn and quartered for this week’s pontification, let the dice fall as they may. There are no free lunches. Genuine, focused, dedicated self-improvement is the way to go. In a word, we can live without Father’s Day and Youth Day. What we need is a daily input day of fresh effort, every day. Right up to and past the coming election.
* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.
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