As you will realise by the end of this posting, it has been a rather fiendish task to put a title to this piece. Merely because, as the SG of the ANC once said, the political atmosphere is polluted. It is so polluted that I know I risk being misunderstood. But this won’t be my first. It is no lesser a risk given the context of this very piece. But it is one that needs to be taken nonetheless. And I have intentionally used “he” and “he” interchangeably. So here goes;
The years of the Tambo, Luthuli, Biko, Sisulu, Sobukwe, Nyerere, Luther-King, Fanon and other such giants, this question was very critical to realizing the liberation we now enjoy. It was clear as it should be right now that the war against segregation, colonialism, apartheid, was not only physical. The war was fiercely intellectual as it was physical. These heroes and heroine knew that not only were they going to have to defeat unproductive and sick laws by spear, armory, mere petrol bombs nor tanks. In tandem there was to be a war of intellectual dominance in full force, hence Steve Biko’s I right what I like, Fanon’s the wretched of the earth, etc.
There was the black consciousness movement which sought to instill the idea and reality that the battle is as much intellectual as it is confrontational. The black mind was at stake. With only their simple stones and resolute hearts, the 1976 class stood firm to defend their rights. They declared that Afrikaans was not going to be the subject that was to be foisted upon black education. On that fateful day, they knew that they could not predict what was to happen. Perhaps some knew that their lives were at stake, but firm they stood, young people of that age, to fight for what is rightfully theirs, decent education. This they did, it appears, knowing that the system was developed to perpetuate and entrench the penury of their blackness, the absurdity of their education.
The apartheid government was hell-bent on winning the intellectual war. It was to arrest young minds to cleaning gardens, sweeping living rooms, clearing refuse, digging diamond and other precious stones to entrench the racial economy. All this, they had decided, was the position of a young black person in South Africa. They were then to do everything to see it through. So clearly, the issue about contestation of the rightful owners of the mind of the young person has a very reach history.
In the 21st century, little has changed. Suffice to say that the platform is not as closed as during the apartheid years. We are haunted by a different arrest, a form of repression redefined. The enemy dons new attire, pretty much what we also wear, only that his is a thousand rands more expensive. He does not look so much like a monster. He no longer dons old khaki shirts, short pants and spotting elongated beard. Neither does he any longer rides in immaculate horseback. He looks much more sexy, drives sleek cars, smoke Cuban cigars, insist on Johny Walker Blue or Hennesy, but making sure to take the whisky out of it with cola or something that unpalatable, he has a strange obsession with that overused and condescending “our people”… very confusing, he even wears similar pigmentation to that of mine, so clearly he is slippery to the extreme.
You dare mouth anything that sounds pristine… that sounds more like it was given a good original thought…that veers from the generalities of today’s political rhetoric. The sleek angel pounces on you. Calls you names, bourgeois, middle-class and impertinent affirmative action beneficiary, and so on, as if he is himself not the epitome of exactly what he accuses you to be, as if being middle class is itself a sin, something that needs to be regarded with the greatest contempt, the most treacherous being ever conceived, someone that can’t be trusted. For this sleek angel, only one thing absolves you from his uncouthed venomous tongue – bellowing incoherently from his hymn book, while humbling your mind to total exhaustion, until we can’t make a difference between the leader and yourself, the last comatose stage, where the brain can’t think more than the “leader” can.
You must echo their long stale vocabulary, making sure you pepper it with insults; the more ridiculous you sound the better. You must gesticulate as She does, your speech must adopt that very cadence, you must use the same phrase, you must use that same boring “our people” language, you must subject yourself to her vile language, her “intellectual” rigger, her arrogance, her self important complex, you must insult others, get fashioned into besmirching, mudslinging, only then are you a true devotee, a leader in the making. You are set for the future, soon to be seen in that sleek car, muttering that same drivel about how others have “bourgeois tendencies”, how they don’t care about “our people”, apparently because being the “leader” makes you more concerned and in touch with “our people”. It is said, it is indeed sad that we are on course to create a zombie nation.
You dare say something of a discord; you will see a flood of fiery incoherent drivel, from the very young people. The responses, so bad that however true you try to find a response, you soon realize that the likelihood is that the author isn’t really listening to oneself or simply, the author seek employment. Which one understands, times are hard, plus that’s also what the leader is about – that uncomfortable issue of wage. So the young person becomes a slave to wage – a topic that is bigger than this posting (a topic for another day).
The leader today does not have time to entertain young minds trying to find and develop their own intellectual make-up. The wage trapping, what I call the ‘pie question’ rears its crude horns. The focus is on winning the ideological battle if only it creates a milieu for enlarging one’s pockets. The leader, who is the teacher, becomes the poison. She becomes the hunter of her own servant, those who will protect her loot. She preys on their “discipline” brains. After all, the course is about her cut of the pie, and as usual, it must be defended with sweat and blood, if so happens. And since there are all sorts of contestation about who gets which pie, the leader ought to spend significant part of her time crafting subterfuge and counter subterfuge on how to outmaneuver “the enemy” from snatching this critical pie. Young people are buffoons in her stupid play.
There can’t be time and space for the young to think, to express themselves freely, to allow them to be creative, to produce, to innovate, to invent and leave remarkable legacy for the posterior. This leader is an anathema to progress, is the new enemy of young minds, the maggot that eats greedily into productive intellectualism. The leader is out to arrest all manner of creativity. She celebrates and distributes kudos to those who sing from her hymn book. Those ones are progressive; they have the rarest sharp eye to see the enemy – that is mostly her enemy. They are to be made leaders, to reinvent the boring wheel that the leader started rolling. This is to the leader, who is the teacher, what our society needs – the replication of self. The leader is the enemy. The leader must not be trusted. The leader does not mean any good, because the leader does not imagine young people having minds of their own – Ideas that change mankind.
The leader does not say, like ben okri says, that even though we all live to carry on the unfulfilled dreams of our mothers and fathers, we also have the responsibility to add our ideas to try to be better, to be creative, and to pass on the responsibility. The leader today does not imagine we can add our ideas, hell the leader only sees in us, an extension of self, and so anything to the contrary is the crushed, its propagation is to be annihilated. This leader owns the young minds today – she must be seen as the enemy, for with her, young people can’t dream, they can’t think for themselves, for they must also bother themselves with that issue of putting food on their table, lest they subject themselves to the all so traumatic penury circle that we so fear, having grown up with it.