I am angry at you, Democracy
Can SA in its modern image of itself accept the is no longer a relevant narrative for the country’s born-frees?
Is it me or has 2015 thus far been the year to be young and collectively angry? Young people like me seem to be graduating to a new level of heightened awareness and rigorous engagement. We are responding to the legacies of oppressive systems and structures countrywide. Institutions of higher learning have decolonisation and transformation on their lips. Spaces of hegemony are being disrupted and challenged. We are definitely reaching new heights as a young nation, which is slowly dismantling the lie of the rainbow nation.
Though I welcome the nascent progress we have made as a young conglomerate of citizens, I find myself enveloped in an anger that has nothing to do with anyone but you, Democracy. This is an intangible anger. Maybe a selfish anger. I am angry at you, Democracy, and there is nothing anyone but you and I can do to mediate a resolution. You piss me off.
I am angry with you because I have had to inherit a narrative that does not belong to me. The collective story you have forced South Africa to tell itself is one of struggle. You said that all good things would come from austerity. Bloodshed before freedom. Poverty before wealth. Enslavement before emancipation.
South Africa’s unity project requires that all its citizens be harmonically wrapped in the same kind of struggle to provide itself – as well as the rest of the world – with a substantial story to tell. Though it is true that all of this is a part of South Africa’s history, it is not a direct or complete representation of who is penning this letter to you today. I do not have scars on my legs from falling in the fields trying to evade police dogs. My emotional library does not possess encyclopaedias of melancholy only apartheid could bring. The sounds of struggle songs evoke memories I find myself vicariously wishing I could have. But as a so-called born-free, I am tired of having to live my life with a sense of elusive unworthiness, just because my narrative is not rooted in a real or relevant struggle.
I do have legitimate struggles. You are just not ready to receive them.
I am angry with you because you caricatured a representation of my identity before the beginning of my existence in 1995.
I am expected to be proud of you labelling me a born-free. I am expected to be grateful about being regarded as a poster child for freedom and economic emancipation. I am the supposed custodian of this apparent post-apartheid, multiracialKumbaya society.
You have paraded me as a success story. As a peaceful end to what most say should have been a tragedy. I am a miracle in the eyes of the world.
But you see, Democracy dearest, I am none of these things. My life is filled with my own triumphs, tragedies and successes, which have been negated for the sake of you telling your story. My problem is that you will never know what it is like to be silently uncomfortable with society.
You will never know what it is like to be told that you inherently have no real issues to cry about because you’re a rich black kid from northern Johannesburg.
You will never know what it is like to second-guess threats imposed on your sexuality just because you have been indoctrinated to think freedom will always offer a hypothetical escape.
You will never know because you choose not to see it, Democracy.
The final reason I am angry with you, Democracy, is because you just cannot acknowledge, accept and accommodate my truth. More so, I am angry because my truth seems to have no valid place in the process of freedom. I cannot tell my story because it confuses, confronts and disrupts the hegemony you have created to my detriment.
I am young. I am black. I am gay. I am upper class. My autobiography is not available for purchase because I am unconventionally tweeting my story as I live it (@SuburbanZulu). I have an oscillating privilege and an intersectional identity. As you can already see, I am too big, too necessary and too important to be caged by your ideals, Democracy. My struggle as a young person is to seize freedom as my own – to use it as a tool to find my voice in today’s democratic era. Therefore I am divorcing myself from the myth of national unity. The cause of my life is to generate the necessity for my existence. From using the skills from my degree or blogging about the honest, necessary and inconvenient stories of my lived experience in contemporary South Africa, exploring and narrating the truth of who I am is my version of inner wealth. It is my brand.
I could never negate that it takes a collective to build a nation. But could you receive the possibility that the struggle of young people today could mean walking away from each other to collectively find ourselves – our own stories and struggles?
I have been too scared to admit that your hands have harmed me because they are the same ones that nurtured me.
But I had to allow myself to be unashamedly mistrustful of you. I am glad about my unashamed anger with you. I now realise how much you actually need me.
More young people should be furious with you, Democracy. It will help. Macheke was born privileged, not free. He is a journalism
student at Rhodes University