Rudi Buys writes that the slogan ’Roar, young lions, roar!’ has swept across a nation for more than five decades, albeit across very different social and political landscapes. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)
Rudi Buys writes that the slogan ’Roar, young lions, roar!’ has swept across a nation for more than five decades, albeit across very different social and political landscapes. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

Let’s hear the roars of the SA youth

By Rudi Buys Time of article published Jun 22, 2021

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Roar, young lions, roar! For more than five decades these words swept across a nation, albeit across very different social and political landscapes.

Earlier they served as a slogan to describe the contribution of the youth leagues of political movements to the struggle for freedom.

Later, they came to describe the work not only of political youth organisations but also of the youth brigades and associations of cultural and faith communities.

In South Africa today, when as a nation we celebrate Youth Day, as we did last week, we repeat the slogan, but in speeches and statements, we claim them mostly for political purposes.

And rightly so, since we not only celebrate the voice and work of younger citizens as we build a nation, but firstly, commemorate the terrible loss of young lives in the struggle for freedom.

We honour all sacrifices by remembering and learning from the terrible events in Soweto of June 16, 1976. To revisit a terrible past and build a proud future makes for a sound approach for a nation to celebrate its youth.

However, even when read as such, it stands to reason that closely associating the image of roaring young lions only with political youth movements, put limits to what the slogan may achieve for young South Africa.

This implies that the task to change a nation is left up to only political actors and collectives. As a result, those who work for change in movements outside of formal politics, who roar like young lions in those landscapes, may feel distanced and disconnected from a proud history of young people driving a nation to renew itself.

To them, it soon seems that their voices do not count as roars in the ears of a nation. Soon, they roar no longer, but give in to the lie that young people only are victims of a horrible past.

Such a terrible scenario is a possibility only because when we are younger, we in more dedicated ways still craft our sense of self and others, and therefore, also our sense of citizenship. As young people, in different ways and for different causes, work for change, they at the same time search for belonging.

They test our communities and groups for the commitments, missions, and the courage we claim, and what value their voices hold in the future we see.

This means that young South Africans keep an ear out for what society keeps on saying about them, and then adopts truths to determine their lives – a hidden process of “subjectivation”.

This refers to the hidden and deliberate ways wherein people hear and join public discourses to determine where they fit in with, and how to relate to society; to discover the power you have as a citizen in society or not, and if need be, the power to change change it.

However, the hidden threat of discourses is that they will covertly fanfare make a citizen a subject of others, such as when the public discourse makes a history of struggle count only for some youth and not all.

Due to the tragic, but triumphant history that a nation associates with it, the image of roaring lions will rally the voice of young South Africans for change. With Oliver Tambo, who in 1985 coined the accolade for South Africa’s youth, we will be able to shout to the heavens, “Their roaring is like a lion, like young lions they roar.”

* Rudi Buys is the Executive Dean of the non-profit higher education institution, Cornerstone Institute.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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