Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “youth day”

Greece, Zimbabwe and South Africa

On 6 December 2008 a Greek policeman shot a teenager in Athens.

A subsequent demonstration turned violent, and cars and shops were burnt.

There’s a good summary of events on Wikipedia.

I can’t help wondering what might happen if Zimbabwean youth responded like Greek youth — or like South African youth in 1976.

In Greece, similar action by youth in 1974 resulted in the restoration of democracy. Two years alter, South African youth responded in a similar fashion, but it took nearly 20 years, and many more deaths, before democracy was established.

One result of the Greek action in 1974 was that the youth were honoured. There is a public holiday, Polytechniou, to commemorate the Polytechnic students who died, just as we have Youth Day in South Africa to commemorate the young people who died in June 16 1976 and the following weeks.

Another result, according to my daughter, who is a student in Athens, is that since 1974 the police have not been allowed to enter universities. This makes it easier for students to manufacture Molotov cocktails and the like, and it’s quite common to see burnt-out vehicles on campus.

I suspect, however, that if Zimbabwean youth tried the same thing, the police would not arrest the policemen who killed young people, but would reward them, and there would be many more deaths.

After 1976, many South African young people went abroad for military training, and returned to fight back.

Many Zimbabwean youth, faced with a similar situation of police repression and brutality, also leave the country, but I’m not aware of any of them forming a liberation army to go home and fight back. That’s probably just as well — the Democratic Republic of Congo as dozens of “liberation” armies, most of which are fighting to be in a position to oppress others. A lot of Zimbabwe’s present troubles stem from the misguided attempt of the Zimbabwean government to support one of them by sending troops to the Congo to support one of the factions there.

Are there any lessons in all this for Zimbabwean youth?

Greece, Zimbabwe and South Africa

On 6 December 2008 a Greek policeman shot a teenager in Athens.

A subsequent demonstration turned violent, and cars and shops were burnt.

There’s a good summary of events on Wikipedia.

I can’t help wondering what might happen if Zimbabwean youth responded like Greek youth — or like South African youth in 1976.

In Greece, similar action by youth in 1974 resulted in the restoration of democracy. Two years alter, South African youth responded in a similar fashion, but it took nearly 20 years, and many more deaths, before democracy was established.

One result of the Greek action in 1974 was that the youth were honoured. There is a public holiday, Polytechniou, to commemorate the Polytechnic students who died, just as we have Youth Day in South Africa to commemorate the young people who died in June 16 1976 and the following weeks.

Another result, according to my daughter, who is a student in Athens, is that since 1974 the police have not been allowed to enter universities. This makes it easier for students to manufacture Molotov cocktails and the like, and it’s quite common to see burnt-out vehicles on campus.

I suspect, however, that if Zimbabwean youth tried the same thing, the police would not arrest the policemen who killed young people, but would reward them, and there would be many more deaths.

After 1976, many South African young people went abroad for military training, and returned to fight back.

Many Zimbabwean youth, faced with a similar situation of police repression and brutality, also leave the country, but I’m not aware of any of them forming a liberation army to go home and fight back. That’s probably just as well — the Democratic Republic of Congo as dozens of “liberation” armies, most of which are fighting to be in a position to oppress others. A lot of Zimbabwe’s present troubles stem from the misguided attempt of the Zimbabwean government to support one of them by sending troops to the Congo to support one of the factions there.

Are there any lessons in all this for Zimbabwean youth?

The disappeared

When we commemorate Youth Day on 16 June, one of the images that comes to mind is the press picture of one of the first children to die on that day, 12-year-old Hector Pietersen being carried by an older boy, with Hector’s sister, Antoinette, running alongside.

But I did not know that Mbuyisa Makhubu, the boy shown carrying the dying Hector Peterson, was never seen by his family after the photo was taken, until I saw this blog:

Reluctant Nomad: The day that changed South Africa for ever

Mbuyisa Makhubu is rarely named when the photo is displayed or reproduced, and the fact of his disappearance is rarely mentioned. Another thing that is rarely mentioned, but which typifies South Africa in those dark days is that the photo, though it became famous around the world, it destroyed the career of the photographer Sam Nzima.

Last Thursday I listened to some radio talk shows, where the theme was Youth Day, and there was more on it, because it was the 30th anniversary of the , and there was some talk about the fame of Hector Pieterson. Some thought that his name had become too prominent. He wasn’t the first to die, he didn’t organise the resistance. It was just that there happened to be a photographer handy, so Hector unfairly got most of the publicity. It sounded as though some speakers resented Hector Pieterson, as though he hasd deliberately sought publicity by getting himself shot. But Hector Pieterson is dead, and the speakers are alive. Others speak of Hector Pieterson as the new Che Guevara, but that is an exaggeration the other way.

And Mbuyisa Makhubu disappeared, like many others then and since.

There is another blog entry, dated 16 June, a reminder of another disappearance. A more recent one this time.

Holy Archangels’ Monastery near Prizren, Serbia: Remembering Kosovo’s New Martyrs

This picture was less widely splashed across the world’s newspapers, because in the West it represents a decidedly unfashionable cause. Every picture tells a story, but often the full story goes unheard, and we don’t know the story behind the picture.

These events, at different times and places, were brought together at the Orthodox youth gathering on Youth Day 2006, where a Serbian monk spoke to South African youth.

During the rule of the military junta in Argentina that was ended by the Falklands War in 1982, it is estimated that some 25 000-30 000 people disappeared. There, attempts are being made to link some of the children of the disappeared with their families. But for many families there is no hope of finding their disappeared.

 

Youth day – 2006

Today is Youth Day, and I’ve described some of the events of the day more fully elsewhere in my LiveJournal, with more pictures.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFr Pantelejmon Jovanovic (in picture) spoke to the Orthodox youth on the monastic life, and Advocate George Bizos, the human-rights lawyer, spoke on the meaning of the day.

If anyone is interested in the meaning of the day, there are two books I recommend. One is fiction, A dry white season by Andre Brink, which really does tell it like it was. Names and events may have been changed, but these were indeed the kind of things that happened. The other book is The rocky rioter teargas show by Pat Hopkins and Helen Grange, which is illustrated by photographs and documents not available at the time, including secret cabinet documents giving explicit approval to more deaths through police action.

spoke on the damage caused by Bantu Education, but in 1976 Andries Treurnicht, the Minister of , and his Deputy, Ferdi Hartzenberg insisted that in black schools half the subjects in high schools should be taught through the medium of English, and half through the medium of Afrikaans. The irony of this was that 70 years earlier Afrikaners, in the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer War, had suffered something very similar under British rule, when Dutch was forbidden as a medium of instruction, and all teaching had to be in English. They learnt the lesson that the language of the conqueror in the mouth of the conquered is the language of slaves.

But Paolo Freire, the Brazilian educationist, points out in his book Pedagogy of the oppressed that the oppressed internalises the image of the oppressor as the image of what it means to be truly human. So true humanity becomes linked with the power to oppress others. And this clearly happened in the case of Andries Treurnicht and Ferdi Hartzenberg. They were the avatars of Alfred Lord Milner, who had almost single-handedly started the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1899, and oppressed the Afrikaners after the war.

The disease of Bantu Education was harder to eradicate, however. When it was introduced in 1954, it was part of the ideology of Christian National Education, which, as its Christian liberal opponents pointed out, was neither Christian, nor national, nor education. In 1942, when South Africa was at war with Nazi Germany, B.J. Vorster, who was prime minister in 1976, was reported to have said

We stand for Christian Nationalism, which is an ally of National Socialism. You may call the anti-democratic system dictatorship if you like. In Italy it is called Fascism, in Germany National Socialism, and in South Africa Christian Nationalism.”

One thing that interested me was that when George Bizos spoke of the ravages of Bantu Education, and Fr Pantelejmon spoke of growing up as a young person in a communist country, they spoke of very similar experiences, though they themselves did not perhaps realise how similar they were. The generation of young people Fr Pantelejmon spoke to had indeed not experienced much of the repression that Fr Pantelejmon spoke of, but the generation of Soweto 1976 certainly had.

To the youth of today all this is ancient history, and history is one of the boring school subjects that is being downplayed in modern education, with its emphasis on science and technology, which our youth must learn if we are to compete in the dog-eat-dog competition of neoliberal economics. Humanities, which do not have quantifiable economic value, are downplayed. We must gain riches instead of soul, and the all-pervasive ideology of free-marketism could well be responsible for the complaint of many of the Class of ’76, aired in radio talk shows and the like, that the youth of today are shallow and materialistic.

Where does this come from? Well, one possibility is that the current crop of ANC leaders, including some of the generation of 1976, spent a good part of their exile in Thatcher’s Britain, and this may go quite a long way towards explaining the ANC’s Thatcherist policies today.

But I think the image of the youth of today projected by the radio talk shows and the like is not a complete one. The people they interview are mostly “Model Cs”, who often speak with Woozer (ie WUESA – White Urban English-Speaking South African) accents. “Model C” was the last attempt of the dying National Party regime, in 1992, to perpetuate Christian National Education in white schools, or at least white Afrikaans schools, by privatising them. “Model Cs” are black pupils who have attended such schools (still referred to as “Model C” schools, in spite of their having been in existence for less than three years).

The Model Cs are the ones most advertising is aimed at, and the ones most likely to make it in the broadcast media. But the young people at the Orthodox youth gathering do not fit the Model C stereotype. Their concerns may be different from those of the Class of ’76, but they give me hope for the future.

Other views, and other ways people spent Youth Day

The Front Line: Youth Day, 3 Decades of Struggle.

the moon’s favors: Poem for Youth Day

the imperfect poet: More irrelevant conversation

Morphological Confetti: Youth Day: 30th Anniversary

Reluctant Nomad: The day that changed South Africa for ever
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