My father has told me, more than once, that he was dead set against having children as a young man, so sure was he that the collapse of civilisation would come about in his lifetime.
If that was the case some 40 years ago, you can imagine the tenterhooks we youngsters are on now. Every day seems to bring a new uncertainty — are we past the point of no return on carbon emissions? Is world war poised to make a comeback? Are even our most incorruptible leaders being won over to the dark side?
The young people of South Africa — and indeed the world — would be forgiven for being overwhelmed. After all, when the whole house is coming down, how do you choose which card to throw your weight against?
And yet, I continue to come into contact with young people who haven’t given up hope for a better future. More than that, they are actively working to make that future a reality.
In a recent conversation with Fentse Malatji (23), a digital communications officer at Youth Capital, she summed up the challenge of pushing forward as a young leader, despite the harsh realities she is confronted with.
“You can have pessimism of the intellect — so you can read up about all the statistics, you can see all the structural fractures and everything — but you can still act in a way that brings about change. So, you can have optimism in your actions,” she said.
Malatji’s philosophy is inspired by Noam Chomsky’s book, Optimism Over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change. In an interview with CJ Polychroniou from 2016, Chomsky is quoted as saying: “We have two choices. We can be pessimistic, give up and help ensure that the worst will happen. Or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist and maybe help make the world a better place. Not much of a choice.”
Perhaps it is not much of a choice, but it is still a choice… and I see young people make it every day.
I see it in the throngs of teenagers and young adults who flock to every climate justice protest, holding signs with cheeky messages such as “Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend deserves a future” — bringing humour to even the most dire of situations.
The Tuesday Editorial was written by Tamsin Meterlekamp.