The 16 June is a public holiday in South Africa. I’d like to think that it’s a very important public holiday; because June 16th, is celebrated here as “Youth Day”. Of course like many good things, this public holiday goes back to a tragic day, 36 years ago. It was June 16, 1976 , during the horrendous Apartheid era in South Africa when innocent school children were shot and killed in Soweto for protesting against the implementation of Afrikaans as the language medium in schools where people did not speak Afrikaans as a first, or even second language. Those children who were killed deserve to be remembered, their sacrifice needs to be celebrated, so this is one of the few public holidays that I actually don’t mind celebrating.
But while we’ve become a nation who seems to be over consumed with celebrating, we have in the process forgotten that celebrations cannot take place without any reason. All we have to do is look at our youth today, and we will realise that something has gone terribly wrong. Let us go back 36 years and look at the passion, the interest, the concern about important issues that were displayed by the youth of the time, and compare them to the youth of today.
It’s sad to say that most of the youth of today are self-consumed and couldn’t be bothered about anything that happens around them, unless of course what’s happening around them has something to do with their favourite celebrities, TV shows, PS games and so on. Today’s youth can easily be seen walking around with their faces glued to their cellular phones and their fingers typing away incessantly. The youth of today could not be bothered about politics or what happens in society, and as far as social change is concerned, the youth of today wouldn’t know where to begin.
But let me not be too harsh and let me not generalise. This of course does not apply to all the youth of today, there are a few of them who have their heads screwed on the right way, so I’ll give them their due.
The thing is that real change can only come about through the youth. They are young and have fresh ideas and they speak the language of today. Youth are able to get through to people in a way that other people can’t. This is why we can still remember June 16 , 1976 with pangs in our hearts, even though we were not born at the time. It’s because of the innocence and the brightness of youth. It just seems that youth has so much to offer and so much to give to society.
I know I kind of sound like an old lady here, but I really think that the youth of today do not know their true worth. They have been sucked into an abyss where they are taught to be self-centred and materialistic. Their lives revolve around the latest cell phone technology and they have been led to believe that the only form of communication is through facebook, BBM, twitter and so on. They do not know that they are the ones who hold the keys to the future. The youth are the ones who are able to be the most productive members of society, and yet they have somehow become the least productive. Instead of working with parents and other adults, they have been brainwashed into believing that they need to be out there, having fun, trying new things (which most of the time are not good new things). They have been convinced that parents are the enemies and they only wish to stifle freedom.
Yes, the only idea of freedom that most of our youth have is about freedom to go out at night and meet their friends and have “fun”. Talk to them about freedom of oppressed people, or freedom to dress the way you want to, or freedom to work and so on, and they will laugh at you.
SO let’s go back to the youth of 1976, those innocent youth who lived in oppression and poverty but were willing to fight for their freedom to be taught in a language that they could understand. Those youth gave their lives protesting for an education, when our youth find education boring and basically throw it away. Those youth understood what our youth cannot even begin to understand. Those youth should be celebrated; will people be able to say that about our youth 30 years from now?
I sometimes think that when life is made easy for us then we become complacent and lazy. When we are given freedom, then we cannot understand that there are people who need to fight for their freedom. When we are given rights, then we do not look around and realise that there are people whose rights are taken away from them. When we have ease and comfort, then we forget that there are others who are suffering and going through hardship. Alhamdullillah for our ease, and May Allah never give us hardship, but the thing is that through all our ease, we must not forget that we have a duty towards others and a role to play in society, even if the role we play is small.
Yes, youth should be celebrated, but our youth should be reminded of their worth every single day, so that they can stand up and be the people that they are able to be, and maybe one day, people will look back and remember the youth of today with fondness and admiration.
May Allah guide us all, Inshaa-Allah for we cannot achieve a single thing without the will of the Almighty Allah.
Image from here