The voice of a generation

The voice of a generation

We have heard of the tales of men and have read of their words and what we find is that there has to be some salient quality that defines the words of men. Whether great or small those who attain the title “the voice of a generation” have to have certain peculiar qualities that define them from the rest of the crowd.

Through reading and listening we have come across a vast and myriad number of varied words. The figures that wrote or spoke them are from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, creeds and beliefs.

Though all of them had some lines of rhetoric to shout to the listening masses, or, a cluster of tenets to utter to the world, those strings of sentences they composed in their moments of solitude in the long night of history and time’s progress come to shape the thoughts and behaviours of the larger global community.

These fruits of their minds expressed in verse in the form of written and spoken words define their generation and its ancestry, and these serve as a guide for the following generations to use as a manual to guide their words and their acts. These are the men and the women whose lives and impact the thoughts and deeds of their elders and their peers and go on to influence the younger generations. One wonders what the phrase ‘the voice of a generation’ will actually mean this time around.

The little (or the much) they have given has to be supplemented by the knowledge of those that know more than the average individual does. These are those figures who have read bigger volumes on the topic the voice of a generation addressed. They form the group that have made it their lifetime commitment to define what the voice of a generation is, or, means. There are many definitions to the term, and one can only give a personal perspective of what defines the voice and no more. One cannot cover the meanings of the words said in their totality.

Defining the voice of a generation is an attempt and a travail whose completion can possibly never be realised until the end of time. We can only cover vestiges of the diverse nature of the words that are made of scintillating shades that change their tone and hue as time passes. However, the wisdom of the age tells us that we should go on trying to understand the true nature of prevailing conditions despite their continuously changing nature.

We should this time try and tame the increasing levels of apprehension in the face of the global pandemic even though it may seem impossible to gain a sense of hope. In brief, we should not fail to make the attempt to keep the faith in spite of the volatile nature and erratically ever-changing patterns associated with the disease. By giving up hope and forgetting to be faithful, we would be failing to establish our own point of identity that will define our destiny as a human race after the disease is gone.

In his epic The Odyssey, Homer recounts the words of the god Zeus who addresses the council of immortals with these words:
“What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own wickedness that brings them sufferings worse than any which Destiny allots them…”
Every living being’s existence is geared towards some end, some line of being that guides their daily living in the light of having to share the world with other worldly or supernatural beings that are seen or unseen.

Call it fate or karma; the life of any one man is governed by the need, the necessity and the desire to be ‘something’, or, to reach some destiny. The five senses in their operation come in to help one to follow the path they have chosen and, paramount among them is the ability to hear the word of the moment.

This is because the voice that points the way to righteous or virtuous living, or, its contrary. The voice of the moment seems to recount a freak of nature gone amok and it seems that good might be vanquished by the bad. It should be understood however that where there is pleasure there is also pain. Despite their seemingly opposite nature one of these two realities defines the other.

If there was only mirth and merriment without sadness and pain, then we would not know what true pleasure feels like. We would not know which path leads to true harmony and peace if and only if, war and strife did not rear their ugly heads from time to time over the course of history.

Maybe those sad episodes in the history of mankind and the world are necessary for mankind to understand its true place in the cosmos. I do not condone the attitude of denial many adopt when times are hard. Rather, I believe we should embrace the reality of the moment and deal with the prevailing circumstances in a manner that will bring desired results.

Maybe, the occurrence of the pandemic at this point in time may prove to be the necessary spark that ignites the fires of hope and peace in the heart of mankind. It is a peace all of us need and we may attain it by accepting the realities of the moment and deal with them accordingly.

The catalyst of harmony for mankind, it seems, has always been some form of violence in brief or prolonged cathartic episodes before the sweet pleasure of true peace comes along and saves the day. Look at the prolonged history of slavery, analyse those moments when slavery was abolished, and focus on the amount of blood spilled before freedom was attained, and you will soon realise that the basic truth for the attainment of peace lies in men first having to fight for their peace.

Peace should first have to be fought for by all concerned and, the fight affects even those individuals that are uninterested or dismissive.
Those characters that ended being called the voice of their generation knew of this one fact; that mankind can live better if they choose to live in peace and fighting for it if needs be. Such virtues as justice and valour do not come automatically but have to be nurtured for mankind to live in harmony as a society that includes all in its decision-making processes. The word of every moment these days is Coronavirus and it is robbing us of needed peace.

To reach the needed peace, we should be of one mind and just in our outlook to reach such a desirable end where there will be something more peaceful to discuss than the carnage the pandemic has wreaked in every sphere of human living in the world today.

The voices of the generations all seem to have shared one belief: that all of us should have some kind of mutual agreement that guides our actions towards the attainment of peace and harmony that benefits all of the citizens of the world. The philosopher Henry Thomas Huxley in his Evolution and Ethics puts forward the view:

If there is a generalisation from the facts of human life which has the assent of thoughtful men in every age and country, it is that the violator of ethical rules constantly escapes the punishment which he deserves; the wicked flourishes like a green bay tree, while the righteous begs his bread; that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children; that, in the realm of nature, ignorance is punished just as severely as wilful wrong; and that thousands upon thousands of innocent beings suffer for the crime, or unintentional trespass of one.

That the two world wars began due to the interests of one or a group of individuals with certain selfish interest/s led to the whole world suffering for prolonged periods in the aftermath. The end of the wars was brought about by the concerted efforts of the masses made up of men considered great and those considered lesser on the status quo; and the primary focus of the masses was to bring an end to a malady that threatened the stability of the natural way of living. We should this time around adopt communal way where the wealth and the fruits of the world should equally be shared amongst all that live in the world once the scourge is over.

That some men are more equal than others is a travesty that should vehemently be denied by all sensible men and women that know, as a fact, that all human beings are equal, and therefore, some should not feel entitled to a larger portion of the produce of the earth. There are cases that have come to light in the course of the pandemic where some feel they are entitled to more of the proceeds than the rest of the world.

There should be voices that are bold enough to speak against such heinous desires; all of us are affected equally by the pandemic: all should therefore expect the same treatment while the virus rages on.

The voices of the generations have largely seemed to be opposed to the selfish views of individuals or cliques of individuals that feel they are entitled to more justice than the other members of the human race. All people should be granted a voice in the setting of rules and the making of laws in these days of the pandemic. All are equal when it comes to dealing with the disease.

When Apartheid sought to exclude the majority in the law-making processes and constitutional decisions, the act acted contrary to the natural way things were flowing. The men who saw the black as inferior and not worthy to share a seat on the bus or a public toilet surprisingly had black maids raising their children, black gardeners tending their manicured lawns, and blacks seeing to the general welfare of their homes. Excluding blacks from the decision-making processes, when they were the rearguard of the domestic and the economic structures, was just utter nonsense that the stalwarts of the freedom and emancipation movements had to fight.

That they spoke against social injustice is an honourable act that should be revered by this generation and the generations that will follow this one. However, like it was previously mentioned, war and strife and social injustice have a way of rearing their ugly heads from time to time; and they should therefore be done away with soon as they show their undesirable countenances. What this generation should speak against is of a form similar to others of its kind in the past; the only difference is that the new-age monsters are more suave in their oppression of the world.

Unemployment, underpayment, nepotism, monopolisation, politicisation, religious fanaticism, social segregation, and others of a similar sort seem to be the main problems of this era. The reality, however, reveals that individualism has become the main problem of the world we live in today. The quest many seem to follow these days is one where people are focused on self-enrichment and not the general welfare of the others. Our generation is one controlled by the desire ‘to make it at all costs’; this attitude should be abandoned at this point in time.

It would be mis-education if the treatment of countries was to be on a first and third world basis because the spread of the virus has proven that all are equal. Those first world countries are actually the ones that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. The virus has shown it as fact that the wealth of one as a country does not vaccinate one against the most virulent strain of an epidemic because all of us are equally affected at the end of the day. What the voices of this generation should account is that we should begin to rid ourselves of the malaise of individualism.

After all, nature is proving that we are stronger united than divided. If we set out to be individuals who succeed at the expense of others; the human race will forever be in chains, governed by endless troupes of greedy dictators whose sole interest is to be like the feudal lords of old. We should begin to speak of unity as the old folks who saw that unity is strength.

I believe we have a better voice if we unite as one against the spectre and malady of individualism threatening the welfare of the world at this moment in time. Let us unite as a tribe of one humanity and one world if we are to survive beyond the full spate of the prevailing pandemic. We should not allow ourselves to be held in ransom by the disease. There is a better tomorrow after this day. 

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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