Youth can change the status quo
24 May 2016 | Columns
Generations have come and gone, some have left an indelible mark on the society in which they grew up, some were just bystanders who chose to watch from a distance as things such as tough times and lack of courage to stand up and dust themselves off continued to steal the future away from them. As young people of this country we should recognise that time never has been on our side, it never will be and it should not try to. In describing the young people, Martin Luther King once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice”.
As young people, no one will come and build the future for us, no one will come and give us a better tomorrow. We can choose to take the back seat and watch our future being driven into a ditch by reckless drivers, we can choose to talk tough amongst ourselves expressing our displeasures and hunger at the decisions made by those in high office, we can choose to chase after money-cultured things (the Brazilians, the latest phones, the newest shoe on the market), we can chose to pretend that just because we can afford to pay the bills everything else is fine and the future will sort itself out. But I hope we don’t because if we do, then we are not just betraying ourselves, we are shying away from our responsibility of helping those who will come after us to live in a better Namibia than the one we grew up knowing.
We can make significant changes to the current status quo. We do not need to own recognisable surnames or envy those that do for us to know that some things are wrong (even if they are being done by those with power). And we do ourselves no favours by not telling each other the truth even if it may hurt because I believe it is within our jurisdiction as young people to stand up and say “we cannot let this or that happen before our eyes”.
The fathers of this country stood up when their hopes were being threatened, from Sam Nujoma to Toivo Ya Toivo to the many others whose names don’t get a mention in the history books. Those people could have easily chosen to care only about themselves and not the liberation of Namibia. They could have easily decided to let the colonial masters steal the many valuables which made them cling to the then South West Africa or they could have even joined them to steal those valuables. But they decided to do something different, they pictured a future where ordinary Namibians living in Opuwo can have the freedom to sing the national anthem without someone accusing them of doing something illegal, they pictured a future where an ordinary Namibian in Katima Mulilo or Swakopmond can attend a school of his/her choice without being told “Not for Blacks”.
The direction chosen by the past generations was to build a better Namibia where “No Namibian feels left out”, a Namibia better than the one they grew up in. The Nujoma generation is not that different from ours - they just wanted to take ownership of what was rightfully theirs, a free Namibian nation. One where freedom of speech is exercised without someone being thrown in jail for speaking up on what they thought was wrong. One where racial segregation becomes a thing of the past. And yes, the choices made by the Toivo Ya Toivo generation in the 1908s too are not that different from those of a young woman in 2016 who questions the strategy behind the proposal to build a mega struggle which will not improve the lives of children in Okakarara or Lüderitz. Tough questions deserve to be asked and those to whom the questions are directed need to provide answers and be more accountable for their actions.
If there is anything the past generations taught us, it is that as young people, we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines like a football coach and watch the future being made increasingly difficult for us and those who will come after us. We should wake up, pick ourselves up off our beds and remind those in whose hands our future lies to focus more on building this nation for the future generations instead of it being for their own satisfaction. As young people if we do so, if we define success not by the price of our cellphones, or the brand of our shoes or the cost of the Brazilian hair on our heads, but by the society we can help make better and the Namibia we live to defend then ours will be a generation whose brighter future is still there to write.
Joseph Kalimbwe is a final student studying towards a Bachelor of Public Management at the University of Namibia. He also serves in the SRC as the Secretary for External Affairs.