What kind of past are we cre­at­ing?

CityPress - - Voices - SIM­PHIWE NG­WANE voices@city­press.co.za

In the thicket of living, be­tween swigs of cof­fee, early morn­ings of read­ing and in­dus­tri­ous hours of work­ing, do we – as Gen­er­a­tion Y – ever take time to look back and ac­knowl­edge those who came be­fore us, and re­flect on our own strug­gles?

We young peo­ple need to re­mind our­selves that the fu­ture re­quires us to be wor­thy fu­ture an­ces­tors, as our pre­de­ces­sors – the youth of 1976 – have been wor­thy an­ces­tors for us.

As we re­mem­ber June 16 1976, per­haps we should muse on a philo­soph­i­cal thought shared by Ja­cob Dlamini in his 2009 novel Na­tive Nos­tal­gia: “The fu­ture of nos­tal­gia is not what it used to be.” The youth of 1976 imag­ined a fu­ture that pro­vided qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion taught in English, which would be more in­clu­sive.

We have had the priv­i­lege of en­joy­ing the fruits of their strug­gle, but ev­ery gen­er­a­tion has its own strug­gles, and ours are diver­gent, with­out a clear com­mon source.

To­day, we ought to ac­knowl­edge their sac­ri­fices and the bur­den we carry in the name of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. One of the most dom­i­nant strug­gles for most mil­len­ni­als is the strug­gle for em­ploy­ment.

Re­spected scholar Sarah Nut­tall once de­scribed Gen­er­a­tion Y trans­form­ing into sin­gu­lar be­ings through them stylis­ing the self. We are slightly older now, hav­ing gone through uni­ver­sity, and most of us have sur­vived stints of un­em­ploy­ment. I had a two-month stint of un­em­ploy­ment, which felt longer than it was. With a mas­ter’s de­gree from an em­i­nent uni­ver­sity, I joined the throngs of fel­low un­em­ployed Gen­er­a­tion Y grad­u­ates.

In the spirit of self-styli­sa­tion, I stud­ied a med­ley of things. With a BA in his­tory and clas­sics, an honours in me­dia and cul­tural stud­ies and an MA in in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary me­dia, I chose to leave uni­ver­sity and use my hodge­podge skills to en­ter the work­ing world.

Once in a blue moon the stars would align and I’d be called for an in­ter­view and – once again – would have to try to con­vince the in­ter­view­ing panel that they should em­ploy a young black guy with limited ex­pe­ri­ence but myr­iad qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

A year later and it was on to my sec­ond ca­reer, with lessons learnt and ex­pe­ri­ence gained.

As Gen­er­a­tion Y, our strug­gles tend to grav­i­tate around the self – for­ever eras­ing, build­ing, re­build­ing and re­defin­ing the self in pur­suit of some­thing tan­gen­tial and ephemeral. Those who do find em­ploy­ment are now try­ing to build wealth, and the self still takes cen­tre stage in this pur­suit.

Frank Mag­wegwe, a reg­is­tered fi­nan­cial plan­ner and avid blog­ger, once noted that young pro­fes­sion­als should “un­der­stand that they are their big­gest as­set, thus they should de­velop them­selves and, fur­ther, they should pay them­selves first (save and in­vest)”.

What does this me­an­der­ing tale have to say? The uni­verse doesn’t owe us any­thing. As a young per­son with agency, the self is in­deed your best as­set. Per­haps we don’t have a clear, ar­tic­u­lated ral­ly­ing point as Gen­er­a­tion Y, but to be­come “wor­thy an­ces­tors” we need to find that which we are good at and excel, in the hope that the fu­ture youth will judge us with hind­sight. Ng­wane is a young mem­ber of Joburg’s

black mid­dle class

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