Watching television reports about the Freedom Day celebrations last week, one channel interviewed a teenager who spoke of a real lack of understanding of our political history among her peers. There can be no doubt that South Africa is as well-known across the world for its politics as it is for any other one cultural bit of heritage.
Germany has the holocaust, we have apartheid. But is the significance of the struggle dying out due to lack of interest by our youth? I am assuming that they are being taught a typical school version of the events in their text books. However, the passion, commitment and suffering we had to endure to secure this new found freedom should never be forgotten. It remains up to us, their parents, to ensure that they remember the context of how they now come to enjoy multi-racial schools, or multi-racial neighbourhoods, or even now being allowed to date across the colour line.
It is quite bizarre when you take a second to sit and think about the injustices we had to suffer. When I tell my kids that white and non-whites were not allowed to sit in the same carriage on a a train, or that could not go to the same beaches, or were forbidden to date or get married, they (my kids) look at me like I am retarded. They actually cannot fathom that this really happened. Which is why it is vitally important that we keep the context alive, by getting them to realize how important the struggle was, and how valuable those lives lost in the battle actually were.
I think it’s safe to say that the ex-“residents” of Robben Island will probably all be going up to the big Freedom Park in the sky within the next decade or two. What does the next generation of politician hold for us? And looking ahead to, let’s say 40 or so years from now, will our politics still be race-based. Will we still be singing songs about the struggle? Will our apartheid past still be relevant? I wonder. I wonder because I probably won’t be around to see it.
It also bothers me that in certain cultures, children are indoctrinated into the political beliefs of their parents and previous generations to such an extent that they end up hating someone else, based on their parent’s generation’s values, to the point of becoming a suicide bomber.
Should we maintain the dark side of our history? Should we contextualize it, and if so in what context? Or should we let it fade out as a bit of our past we no longer talk about when it’s finally lost its significance? Or is South Africa resigned to be forever known as the country that legalized apartheid, and we all continue to live our lives along racial lines forever?
The answers will evolve on their own I’m sure, and life in South Africa will be starkly different in 40 years time. Admittedly there will always be a sub-culture of hard-core “struggle-sympathisers” who will fly the flag of our apartheid history and still be found toyi-toying in 2051. Is it our duty to make sure our children understand and be grateful for what we had to suffer? Or is that our heritage alone, and will our kids only see their country for what it is now, and forget about its past, purely because it was “not relevant to them at the time”, as someone commented.
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