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?

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Lelo Macheke voices@ city­press. co. za

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

IL­LUS­TRA­TION: SINDISO NY­ONI

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