Today is “Youth Day” in South Africa. It is a public holiday to remember the sacrifices of young people killed in 1976 (and beyond), starting on 16 June with a mass march in protest of the education system. The youth said: “This education does not serve our future.” Sadly, the police in our country at the time viewed black people as “foreigners” and “dangerous” and began firing on a peaceful march. No one is certain how many children died on that day with the original government figure of 23, the more usually given tally of 176 and estimates as high as 700. The result of these killings is that many of the youth did not complete their schooling and in the struggle to liberate South Africa from Apartheid a whole generation lost out on most of their schooling. There people are now aged anywhere from late 30’s to late 50’s and are the parents and grandparents of today’s youth.
The question for me is what is appropriate to do with a public holiday such as “Youth Day”.
We remember the past, but the youth of the time we remember are the adults of today. The youth of today have little connection to the past and are faced with their own challenges. What do we do in the present that is appropriate?
In a sense the present does not exist: it is an ever moving meeting of past and future. I read in memes on social media of how important it is to be present to the present: live in the moment. How is that achieved when the present is a meeting of past and future?
If we spend our time remembering the past we generally recreate the past in the future. This is the Law of Attraction: that which we spend most of our time thinking about governs our actions and our actions shape the future. Thomas Edison did not think of the past when he worked at creating the electric light bulb; he did not think of the candle as he worked, he thought of a different future where the candle was replaced by electric lights that turned night into day. He worked in the present but out of the future that was coming to meet him.
Wilbur and Orville Wright manufactured, sold and repaired bicycles, but they were not thinking of bicycles when they started designing the flying machine. They worked out of a future vision of flight and saw in their mind a machine that carried a pilot and passengers over a long distance.
Whatever we do in the present creates the future. If it is inspired by the past it is unlikely to create anything new. If it is inspired by a vision of the future it is unlikely to create anything we have seen before.
To my mind “Youth Day” should not be a day of remembering (and creating new uprisings in the future), but a day of national vision building, not a vision that shape the actions of government, but a vision that can shape the actions of every person.