June 16 2020 came as a normal day but its reality of the 1976 Soweto Uprising gave it a new life together with the images on the ravages of occupation in Palestine. In 1976 I was in Grade 1 and we lived in Evaton and the reality then was very different because I did not understand the political turmoil of oppressive rule. I recall going to school by bus from Evaton to Roshnee but could feel the tension and how my mother geared me up for school. The confidence she gave me that day is still a memory because it was a genuine feeling of care and fear mixed within the voice of hope. Stunned by the TOPSHOT above, today I wonder what would my mother’s reaction be if I were caught back then by the police and taken into custody. I don’t have an answer and I thought deeply what is the state of the mother of that boy when she saw that picture or when she still sees the picture. It is a case of the inexplicable.
Little as I was and little did I know that not in Evaton, but in Soweto an uprising was brewing that would make international news and legendary examples of the struggle against Apartheid. It was the normal bust trip out of Evaton to Roshnee only this time, we could feel the tension in the air but, I could not fathom it because for me life was school, friends and fun. The day dawned for history to bear testimony to the Soweto Uprising that led to eventual armed struggle against the Apartheid apparatus. Today, we take solace in the days of resistance that gave us the freedom we have. However, the questions that begs the mind are: “Are we, by our examples, models of the Freedom Charter or, are we doing our leaders proud?”
Two pictures grab your attention and two realities emerge – the Youth of South Africa who had the grit to begin the grind of Apartheid to a halt and the youth of Occupied Palestine who are still fighting the hard fight with sticks and stones. In this juxtaposition of two striking pictures there is the face of oppression which somehow kicks the mind into overdrive. An overdrive of raw emotion coupled with a need to resist in anyway possible. The oppressor too, has the justification of action because the script is written by his hand and the narrative is what he wants. Today and the days to follow marks the new narrative.
The new narrative is written by the youth of the world as events are recorded in real time and spread around the globe instantly via social media. The techno-savvy youth who are inclined to world events and have the fervour to voice opinion have made their mark. They have begun a narrative that reflects the need to show the world the view from the grassroots. The little child who cried before dying that he will tell Allah everything is a clear mark that the story of oppression is rewritten. Viewed in another way it tells of the hunted writing the great escape or, the chase of life and how never giving up without a fight. Remarkable in its storyline is the fact that admiration is earned and the victim becomes the iconic hero.
The iconic hero Faris Odeh is not the tragic hero of the Palestinian Intifada but, the legend that showed the world the narrative of courage. Courage is the inner strength to overcome odds greater than imagination and it speaks volumes all because it relates to seeking justice. Justice is the consequence of peace and peace can never be accomplished without justice. The youth have written pages against oppression with their blood and their blood has not dried because the exuberance of their actions has given it an eternal flow.
The eternal flow is the reality of how we are becoming more and more aware of the injustice of nation states and how we have been manipulated for so long. Injustices occur because there are just too few of us writing, fighting against it or talking against it. Our actions have become limp and insincere as a result of our continuous attachment to goalless living. The goal of the 1976 generation was to end Apartheid and the goal of the oppressed in Occupied Palestine is to free Palestine from the powerful grip of Zionism. The Israeli army made up of youth in their prime is a powerful symbol of the Zionist narrative of survival after the catastrophic holocaust. Their struggle is to ensure that the Jewish people never suffer that disastrous trauma again but, their actions against the indigenous population is making the youth around the world speak a subversive reality of the Zionist agenda. The goal of the Syrian and the Yemeni youth is to stop the wars in their lands and to alleviate the suffering of their people. These extraordinary goals drive them to make indelible marks on history such that when history is written they occupy the front pages as authors and not as victims and never as victims of a prejudiced pen.
The reading of Righteous Victims by Benny Morris represented how Theodor Herzl’s (1860-1904) narrative of the Jewish people changed the reality into hope and eventually in the establishment of the current state of Occupied Palestine. Benny Morris writes: “Herzel envisioned that settlement in Palestine, and the establishment of a state, would give rise to a “new Jew” – “a wondrous breed of Jews...The Maccabees will rise again” Herzel wrote this to respond to the decimating discrimination against the Jewish life in the Diaspora, especially in the Czarist empire. This narrative changed the course of history therefore, the argument put forward today is the reality of what the youth are thinking and writing about land occupation, oppression, wars, pandemics and the likes is going to redirect history.
The redirection of history is going to be the discourse of youth and their growing influence in the world. The youth, the digital natives, and the older generation, digital immigrants, will not be able to respond to the developing Tsunami of youth resistance and awarness. Too many young people are searching for a new world that is free of hate, rape, pillage and plunder because too many have lived and are living the horrors and ravages of wars, human right abuses and violations. This said, their narratives are not written in books we are familiar with but, it is been written on the digital space. This space is theirs – think of the Arab Spring as a case in point and you will see that the youth asked heart-wrenching questions but, the world gave answers in the scripts of wars, genocides, occuptaions and bloodshed. This phenomenon is not sitting well with the youth!
June 16 is becoming an international phenomenon making us realise that there is an awakening that is fast paced. It is moulded with grit, patience, resilience and courage anointed with a genuine feeling that their time is coming to advance a new world order. The new world order we are seeing panning out is the result of a youth back then who grew up under the yoke of the ill fated gains of the French Revolution, the fight against the Church, the religious wars like the Crusades. They saw the ugliness of that reality and wanted a world that would not resemble that era but, their narrative of a new world gave us this reality. This reality, in its sunset now, is best encapsulated by what Allama Iqbal wrote on the Modern World back then:
|No truth from me can hide at all its face,|
God gave me heart awake and wise, through grace.
In my view statesmanship cut off from creed,
Is Satan’s slave, has no qualms, but low breed.
By quitting Church, Europe has freedom gained:
This statesmanship is like a giant unchained.
When their eyes on some weak domain alight,
Their Priests as vanguard act to wage the fight.
Translated by: Syed Akbar Ali Shah
On June 18, 2020 I returned to school after 84 days of school’s closure to welcome the Grade 12s back to school and I felt that moment again of my beloved mother. This time however, it was the encouragement to face the new normal of a world in tremendous flux. I held onto that moment I still felt with my mother and realised she was still giving me hope. That hope had to be passed on. It was passed on in this message given to pupils in a designed home-made book-marker which reads as follows:
Dear Grade 12 of 2020.
Adversity is your best teacher and having courage is the mainstay of good character.
We welcome you back at the school after a long absence. The days turned into months but our hearts could not turn away from each other. We meet today on the edge of a new horizon. A horizon of hope and new beginnings because in all the uncertainty you still persevered to be here. That’s awesome.
The uncharted waters means we will have to build innovative rafts, boats and ships to navigate it all. We will do it as a team committed to life goals that will bring greatness to the world. You must not waver in your courage or whimper in your cry for help because people of inner strength are the the beacons of hope. Whatever happens henceforth is what will overcome because you made it this far with resilience and grit. Now take the bull by the horns and fight your way through these times and become more the man/woman. Years from today you will look back and say, “ I achieved under COVID-19” and that feeling will give confidence to the world to challenge even tougher times. It will be your kind to give the world the help it needs to make it a better place for you and for me and for the entire humanity.
MR. A. SUJEE (Principal)
Today we stand at the sunset of history that was sounded by young men who have lived to see its echos but, their echos have become the reminders to the youth today not to rewrite history in the same narrative of divide and rule. We hope to see a new world of justice emerge from what the youth are standing up for. This will bring peace. This is the new narrative. Justice! Seek it. Strive for it and live it. Amandla! Awethu!