As a South African youth, I am THE target demographic. I am the future and I am the result of the past. I am the average and I am the unaverage. I am unique and so is everyone else.
I say this because circumstances have forced me to step back and see what every South African youth sees, or should see. I see that our youth have been trained to see the negative in almost everything; we have been told that we are different to the youth in other countries and we have been forced to see the huge divisions in the upper and lower class. Therefore the lower class envies the upper and the upper pities the lower. Now that the media presence in our lives is more prominent than ever, even the upper class has someone to envy - they envy everything that is Hollywood.
The media shows us what we don’t have in comparison to the youth in countries like America and England. The media makes us wish that we were somewhere else. And yet I also see an intense love for this country in many of our youth. One would view this as a contradiction, but in actual fact we don’t really wish to be somewhere else. We wish South Africa was better, but what we do with this desire for South Africa to be better is where our youth fall behind.
We have an assumption that the job of making our country better is not our problem; it’s someone else’s business. But it isn’t, it’s ours. Yet because we want what other countries have, we take every opportunity we can get to leave South Africa to find more promising things and because of this we are losing all of our home-grown talent to better the very people we were envious of, thus furthering the progress of these other countries instead of our own. This will leave future generations with an even stronger desire to leave this country because WE have been bettering other countries instead of our own. This cycle will keep going until we realise that no one else is going to change this country - that is our job. It’s our business. We are the future.
We are the culmination of a series of events, good and bad. Events like June 16th 1976, events that have resulted in the creation of a culturally, spiritually and intellectually diverse group of unique individuals. We are the past.
I could try my best to give the perspective of the average teenager in South Africa, but I am not the average South African teenager. In fact I don’t believe the “average South African teenager” exists, because living in a country like ours gives every one of us the opportunity to be unique. I believe we do take that opportunity and that is what gives our youth such great potential.
However there are a lot of us who haven’t taken this opportunity. A lot of us don’t care. This is because many of us don’t feel that we can do anything about our country’s situation and people blame this on the lack of education given to South Africa’s previously disadvantaged youth. This may be an important factor but no matter how much they learn, we need ambition and without that we will fail. So one must not leave the responsibility of the future of our country to someone else, we all have a part to play.
But that’s just the opinion of the (un)average teenager.
Christian Stroud is a 17-year-old Johannesburg schoolboy, who aspires to become a journalist.