Now this is a story all about how our lives got flipped turned upside down…and I’d like to take a minute – just sit right there – and I’ll tell how I decided that everything is going to be OK, guys. It will.
A few years ago I found myself doing a 3 year stint in prison.
What I mean is I was employed – and that to me is imprisonment. Try as I may to like it and adapt, I could not. Until parents, uncles & aunties and other folk over 20 years my seniors suddenly became proud of me. They passed my business cards around like it was shared joy for a generation that had lost hope watching the rest of my peers venture out and do crazy new things instead of getting good stable jobs. Positive reinforcement encouraged me to keep pursuing their dream. My dressing got more formal, my hair better kempt; and the more I ascribed, the more I was rewarded and lauded.
To the point where I found myself joining in the criticism and damnation of this second generation of millenials – the ones born in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Look at them.
What the Hell do they think they’re doing?
Whether it’s the music or the fashion, their fixation with individuality has somehow made them homogenous sea of shaved sides and spiky hair, dabbing in old looking clothes, glorifying pill popping and polyamory. This generation can’t seem to settle. They won’t accept our wisdoms. They listen, Google it and silently disagree.
I’m on the upper end of the millenial bracket – a mid-80s baby. We had restrictions throughout our lives. Parents and teachers as children as young adults and employers and mentors as adults. We broke barriers, but we never broke the system. We just found new ways within it. We didn’t break laws, we fought for constitutional change. We didn’t kill off old business, we created new business. We innovated and took things to their logical conclusions based on our seniors’ premises.
But this new crop… WHAT THE HELL DO THEY THINK THEY’RE DOING? They won’t accept our logical conclusions. They won’t register to vote after we gave them a new constitution. They won’t do well in exams so they can get into university. Most are unemployable either because the educational system failed them or because our scanty economy. Those who do get jobs, quit faster and with fewer reasons. The entrepreneurs build and destroy businesses so fast sometimes I wish they would that banks get whiplash(RIP Vine btw). Why won’t they pause for a second and learn from those who’ve been through it?
Their dreams may be bigger but their experience level is lower. We want to save them, presumably from themselves.
In reality, we want to save them from ourselves and our forefathers. The failing academic & economic systems were our burden to bear, and we bore it till we got bored. The experiences we want to share aren’t just our accomplishments, but those faults we found and never fixed – because we couldn’t or wouldn’t.
We know the system is corrupted because we participate in bribery just as casually as politicians do. We speak out against it, but how many of you Kenyan drivers out there have actually ever seen a speeding ticket? There are exceptions – and I salute you – but exceptions mean that there is a rule. We want to teach these youths those rules so they don’t mess up.
How is that helping them though? How can we be part of the solution when we’re part of the problem?
You may ask “What could we have done differently?” Our thinkpieces are so profound and informed, why don’t the writers become organizers? Why haven’t we spent as much time developing solutions as we have discussing the problems? Let’s go out there and change our communities one doorstep at a time. Boots on the ground. Let’s try to and let’s not accept failure.
I know. I know. We would if we could. But we have jobs, and need to eat and…we couldn’t, so we didn’t. And yes there are exceptions but…exceptions mean that there is a rule.
A lot of us fought for quite a lot of freedoms that weren’t there. And we won. Unfortunately, rather than fight the remaining battles, we kinda just gave up. Not by choice, but because of what that victory meant. We fought to be accepted INTO a flawed system. A system that allows billionaires to be presidents and doctors to go broke.
One of the most striking things to see in Kenya today is all these old roads that are being dug up and rebuilt. It’s an absolute glorious mess. Ngong Road is my current favourite. Flanked on both sides by businesses, it’s a sandwich of destruction with a strip of tarmac between it.
It’s a beautiful metaphor of where we are today. Kenyans in their 50s and above built Ngong Road. Kenyans in their 40s set up quite a lot of those business that sit next to it.
I like to think the first generation of millenials – those in their 30s – are the ones who are on a mission to tear up our ways of doing things, destroying the paths that were built to successful businesses and inconveniencing others’ commute now so that more people could use that road in future. The older generations are watching from our windows – cars and offices alike – aware that their purpose and ours in our evolution as a country and as a planet are different, but still frustrated by the inconvenience of change.
This second generation however, aren’t bothering with our cause. They have their own. They’ve turned down big office blocks on major highways and taken tiny apartments and turned them into co-working spaces. Some of them gave up on commuting and are working at home. They don’t want our struggle – they want solutions. Now. We’re fighting to rebuild a road they’re looking for a way around it. We believe they will need this road but more and more we see that they may not need it as much as we did.
Every few generations, a new way of doing things emerges that causes a rift. It isn’t as visible as a road under construction but it is as messy. Part of that mess manifests in what comes up when you dig up the old way, such as orange men with permanent duck face placing their tiny hands on a Bible in a country that separates church and state. Some of it comes up in half the eligible voters refusing to even register, let alone vote. Some of it comes in failure fueled by fallacious premises and flawed systems. But that gives way to new premises, new systems and a new way of doing things.
You only learn from mistakes and I believe this is the time of big risks, big mistakes, big lessons and a new way. How? Who knows? We wouldn’t or couldn’t find out in our time. But these new disruptive brats, with their trap music and their radical views…they will. Because they can.
Now is their time. The world is theirs, let’s encourage them to dig this world up, unearth all our faults and bury them under their new way of doing things; just like we wished our predecessors would’ve done for us.