What kind of past are we creating?
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