Being a Geek in Malawi

Being a Geek in Malawi

Being a geek in Malawi sucked. It was the absolute worst thing growing up for more than one reason and I absolutely abhorred it. It wasn’t just about movies and shows, I mean we had DSTV, our cable provider who had a pretty decent library available for subscribers, and I was lucky enough that my dad invested in the premium service even though he pretty much only watched news and the occasional TBN (does that still exist?). The fact that there was, I think a 1 year waiting period to me was horrible back when I was young, but now something I can understand due to my knowledge of the film industry and Box Office. But on top of this, there was pretty much a lack of everything and, anything that was in the country was horribly expensive. When i was growing up, only one place I’m aware of sold comic books, and they were from the 90s, and judging from my Mum’s reaction to me pulling one off the shelf, they were damn expensive. And don’t get me started on videogames. We didn’t have many games growing up due to the steep price of the disks of wonder, although I did have a chipped PS2 and the price on chipped disks was always cheaper. Unfortunately we had a PAL TV, so every NTSC game was black and white, so you win one you lose one…moving on.

Videogames now at Game, the Southern African equivalent of AEON are 90,000 MWK…that’s about 124 USD, double the price of a retail game at its release price. It’s pretty ridiculous right now. As for tech, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus which retailed unlocked for 824 USD was selling for an easy 1300-1600 USD as ridiculous as that sounds. But that is more of a topic for shitty IGCSE econs grads and not a geeky blog. However, by now you must get my point. When there’s a monopoly and the pricing is grossly exaggerated, we can barely enjoy anything of value. And I know you might say read a book or go outside, but most of us never lived in safe white collar neighbourhood-I didn’t for sure-and books were astonishingly hard to come by as time went on. Expensive as well. The size of the most popular bookstore in my hometown could have probably fit in Malaysia’s Kinokuniya 20 times at the least. Into Dubai’s Kinokuniya at least 40 times. There was a scarcity of books, and It was only after I left the country that I could truly diversify my library and include more interesting genres. There was definitely a lack of material to work with unless you were lucky enough to have family abroad or you were wealthy enough to travel outside of the country and buy what you pleased. My brother and I used the latter to our advantages as best as we could when on the rare occasions we traveled to Joburg. Because it was the only way to fulfill whatever hobbies we had.

It ultimately felt extremely shitty having to resort to wiki pages with whatever paltry internet we had at the time (both data and WiFi were expensive and we didn’t have WiFI until 2015 I think). All the info I received was from a computer screen and that’s probably I’m such an avid collector and hoarder of merchandise and the like. I try to take care of my stuff as much as possible and it pains me when a beloved figurine or a disk falls into disrepair. To that effect I have a massive library of games and books, a growing collection of collectibles and figurines, and a massive 2TB library of digital media from anime to comics to series. That doesn’t change the fact however, that growing up all of these things were in extremely short supply, which is forgivable in this day and age, but it strikes me as unbelievable that they are still in short supply now. Recently after having outrageous mobile data prices inflicted on the populace, the CEO of Airtel, the network company said something along the lines of “Internet is a luxury that only a few (the rich) can afford)”. Meaning a lot of people won’t have access to the ease of use afforded by the digital life. No music streaming, online gaming, or video streaming, not to mention the bare trickle of information from around the globe that would follow. For geeks who have to constantly be on the lookout for the latest news or stories, this is almost like a death sentence, basically condemning them to a life of old news.

To top it off, Malawi’s economy was doing extremely badly in the years before my departure. It was almost impossible for most people to order things online because of that reason. In fact, there are no real, reputable delivery services in Malawi. A few years ago, most websites, streaming services or online stores didn’t offer their services in Malawi, Malawi being omitted from the drop-down list. If it was there, you’d have to put your zip code, something Malawi doesn’t have, or provide credit card details, which a lot of people have, simply because it is rather difficult to obtain a credit card inside of Malawi, although it should be fairly easy to get a debit card. To add the icing to the cake, most people aren’t able to subscribe to most of these services or do anything legally because of this. We live in a place that’s so disconnected from the rest of the world that even if we wanted to, we wouldn’t be able to buy or subscribe to certain objects. Both Apple and Google don’t have a Malawian store. Neither can you subscribe for Spotify Premium or Playstation Plus, and many more. Only recently has Netflix support reached Malawi as well as many other countries, but it has come very late for some people.

I say this, and it saddens me to say it, because due to the way the Malawian government and economy is structured, there are far too few ways to legally acquire anything for your media. That challenge increases for geeks who will on average be drawn to more obscure these things. This means that Malawians are faced with a dilemma that they don’t really consider. You can either enjoy your favourite series, movie or artist’s music, and not pay for it, thus not supporting their favourite creators. Or, they can try to support their artists by not pirating their content, but in doing so, not enjoy media. I write this in closing due to the fact that I am becoming more and more of a creator, and understand very well the pain of not having your hard work realised and appreciated. Whilst I neither support nor condone piracy, I do understand that there are some places that are so cut off from the world that there is no other option.

However, at the end of the day, despite the challenges, I’m glad I managed to pursue my hobby, even if only to a small degree before travelling. And that hardship kind of motivated me to pursue it further and find new and creative way to further my hobbies. Now that I’m taking game development and looking back on the damn struggle, I can truly contemplate how difficult it was.

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Magic

Magic

Magic holds a special place in my heart as it should for many others. Despite recent technological advances and the rise of a more sci-fi-esque world, humans can’t seem to ever let magic go. it remains in integral part of our being and culture, whether it is revered as a gift from the gods, or an untapped human ability. Which is probably why humans still incorporate magic into so many aspects of our literature and works of fiction. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Mistborn Saga and Sklduggery Pleasant are all amazing examples of magic in literature, but as much as magic is revered, it is feared as well. Humans are inexorably drawn to magic as much as other humans revile it and hold it with superstitious disdain. I was banned from indulging in Harry Potter from a young age, which greatly pained me as my mum made sure to never allow me to watch, or even borrow any Harry Potter material. I always wondered why, and later on I realised that from a religious viewpoint, magic is an anathema. Something held by the darker forces to prey on the holy, the pious and the faithful. But I never cared much for that, because I also realised that humanity will forever categorise whst they cannot understand as magic. But for the majority of humanity who are more secular, magic has been a source of wonder and amazement. But why?

Looking at the greatest works of fiction, you can see two broad elements that make magic great. The ordered, “scientific” application of magic, which involves a system in order to make it work. Most great works of fiction incorporate this in one way or another whether to great effect or not, however it can be plain to see. The rules and regulations placed on magic grounds it, making it understandable, and thus, fascinating. There is lore as much as there is ritual, and this tugs at the curiosity of the reader or viewer. On the far right however, we have the traditional, “purist” form of magic. Unexplainable and mysterious. Capable of almost anything as long as the user has willed it to be, all dependent on their skill or affinity with magic. The latter can be seen in works such as Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf is capable of “magic”. Although it is not specifically stated that he is using magic, and it is generally accepted that he is more of a wise man than a wizard, he is still capable of supernatural feats such as defeating a balrog of Morgoth, or summoning light. Another good example is the Books of the Shaper series, where magic is mysterious and uncategorised. It happens only by virtue of the fact that the wizard, is a wizard, and that this ability is not common. On the other end of the spectrum are books like Harry Potter, the Inheritance Cycle and my personal favourite, and Skulduggery Pleasant. In Harry Potter, almost all magic must be channeled, and very few spells can be cast without a wand. However there are still individuals like Albus Dumbledore and Remus Lupin who can perform magic wordlessly or without a wand due to their skill, age and knowledge of magic. Magic is not tied to stamina, but rather to skillful application, and practice. In Eragon, magic is bound to an old language where words have power. Magic battles are a constant mental showdown, while more mundane tasks can be performed by uttering the old language. However, magic still requires you to exert the same amount of stamina you would by doing said task physically and thus, knowledge of words, wit and also cunning. The careful phrasing of words is careful. Willing someone to explode will most likely kill you, but willing a stone to shoot from your hand and through an opponents skull will most likely take much less power. Furthermore, people can store energy in gems and other objects to have reserves of power.

All these magical concepts are fascinating, and extremely enjoyable to study. Many people dedicate much of their time theorising and studying these fictional systems. However, my favourite system has to be Skulduggery Pleasant’s. As wondeful as magic is, many sorcerers have also adapted to using modern tech. A gun is a wonderful weapon regardless and is not restricted by any magical restrictions. A lock pick is a handy tool especially if there are magical barriers, and a gps will most likely be overlooked by the average mage. Magic is categorised into two base categories. Adepts, who can encompass a great many types of magic such as energy throwing or even something mundane as the practicing of runes, however this means they must dedicate their lives to this branch of magic, and this may leave them with irritating weaknesses. Also, with power comes corruption, and this means that people tend to fall to immorality. Elemental magic, allows you to use or practice the four basic types of magic, fire, water, earth and air. However, due to the difficulty and length of time it takes to master elemental magic it is not widely practiced, however it is versatile depending on your skills. Magic has so many forms and variants that it makes an interesting world. There is always something new, but it creates a vast and interesting plot that is literally brimming with magic, with new forms being explored, mentioned or introduced. It keeps the amazement going.

These are but a few examples, and I’m not going to explain the majestic systems of magic that exist in videogames, but you get the point. Magic is an undeniably fascinating and mesmerising plot device. And one of the greatest things about it, is the fact that literally anybody can create one. I’ve created at least five already and they’re constantly growing. I only improve with time, and that is why I can never grow out of magic. You don’t need any knowledge of physics or biology. You just need imagination and the will to create something amazing, whether for your amusement, or for that of others.

But whatever anyone says, magic exists in our world. It is all around us, no matter what age we are and it fills us with wonder and curiosity. We experience it the most at a young age and it leaves most of us the older we get. After all, as Arthur C, Clarke put it, “Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.”

A Culture of Poverty

A Culture of Poverty

This is just an observation I’ve made after a few months living in Malaysia after nearly 2 decades in Malawi, and its based on my own personal opinions. Well, Malaysia is a country rich in culture. It has a majority Malay, Indian and Chinese people allowing for a rich and diversified populace with a shit ton of personality (the many uses of lah/can). In the beginning I thought that this was a Malaysia thing. It must be like this because its a melting pot of cultures, right? Well, I began to notice that other students had diverse cultures as well. I really noticed it during the Nowruz festival at my university, where the Central Asian student body converged to celebrate a popular holiday back in their countries. To some, it may have been a normal, almost boring occurrence, but for me it was a chance to see something new, and with my love of learning and the humanities, it intrigued me a great deal (and there was free food), but it also got me thinking. What did I really know about my own culture? Where were our festivals, cultural quirks and exciting oddities. Our many traditional foods, or street delicacies, and our tribal mysticism. I thought it odd that so many other countries, even our neighbours had such diverse cultures compared to Malawi’s. Such interesting histories and backstories. I almost felt ashamed that I could tell you more about the Aztecs and Egyptians than I could my own people.

This deep seated guilt found its way into my heart and greatly unsettled me. I tried to calm my heart by assuring myself that it was just a me thing. My knowledge of Chichewa is shaky, at best. It would be understandable that I barely knew anything about Chewa, or Malawian culture, but this did nothing to help. I am a history buff after all. So, I had to try and find answers, draw up theories and attempt to understand what my actual questions were, and what I know about Malawi. Maybe because Malawians are usually quaint to a fault, however my knowledge of any traditional…stuff falls to the Nyau culture, and even then only because of my Dad, the books he keeps, and my own personal experiences with them (don’t get me started.)

Remembering old conversations with my older sisters, I also realized that there are ab abundance of traditional stories and folklore, however people have simply seized to tell them, favouring perhaps the Christian stories from the Bible. A regrettable loss, in my opinion at least. After a lot of digging, I came closer to my final conclusion by realizing that the further down we go, the less people try to remember the things of the past. This is well documented in many places, but has occurred much too much in Malawi. Our traditional stories and history is replaced with Western stories and media. Is this a bad thing? No, but gradually forgetting your culture completely is terrible.  So, and bear with me here, why is our culture so nonexistent? Well, one of the things I realized is that we’re poor as fuck (no shit Sherlock). And many people around me in Malaysia don’t know how poor we actually are, but Hells are we poor. The wage gap has to be so big right now that there is probably no middle class. Of the 15.9 million Malawians, about 12 million are living below the international poverty line ($1.25 a day)  and the average student to teacher ratio for primary schools is 96:1. But how does this affect culture? Well, really, how can you be celebrating festivals, and basking in a prosperous and fortunate life when you’re so far in the gutter that you can’t see past your own hunger. With the state the country is in, even the wealthy experience a level of discomfort that ranges from irritating, to simply unbearable, whether it be water shortages, or electrical outages. There is nothing to celebrate really.

And when the celebrations roll in, they are usually the usual religious festivals that have taken root in whichever country you’re in, be it Christmas or Diwali.  And most well to do families shy away from the traditional aspects of their culture, instead filling it with Western objects that indicate wealth and prosperity. When you walk into a Malawian house, apart from the food and the language being spoken, there is so little about it that is Malawian. And who can blame them really? Adopting a Western stance can give your children, and your family a better way to live, with things that can make their lives better in a country so abjectly poor. So our generation sticks with other festivals and traditions, shying away from our own, because any attempt to truly connect with our own, means embracing a culture of poverty, corruption, stupidity and sickness. And when it comes time for us to either come home from studying abroad, or find jobs, the torrent of despair and hopelessness drives us away, leaving Malawi with a Brain Drain that will affect us for decades to come until something drastic is done. Daliso Chaponda, who recently received the Golden buzzer is a British-Malawian comedian with some hilarious jokes. But there was a reason he was joking about UNICEF in the UK rather than at the French Cultural Center in Blantyre. He understands true poverty, and he’s seen it, and the difference between poor, and not so poor.. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps chipping away at our cultural and personal identities until it may become truly difficult to really truly call yourself Malawian. Do I have a solution? No, I’m just a critical and broke college student writing blogs in class instead of paying attention to my lecturers, but I write because it hurts more when I stand by idly.

So now, when someone asks me whether I can show them my culture I say “sure, as long as you don’t mind a culture of poverty.”

 

New Slaves and the Cage of our Own Making

New Slaves and the Cage of our Own Making

Slavery. The catalyst responsible for so many atrocities, human rights violations, and social problems in the world, even today. Whilst slavery has been going on for millennia, the most recent large scale slavery trade, the Atlantic Slave Trade has impacted the world the most. And I get it, people are still butt-hurt over it. They still bring it up even now, perhaps because taking slaves based on the colour of one’s skin is one of the cruelest things ever done. However, I must say, its been going on for a while. I mean, not the colour thing, but slaving people based on prejudices. The Roman empire took slaves because they were considered barbinarium, barbarians (take that Mr. Goodson, I still remember some Latin). The Islamic invasions resulted in thousands of Indians being abducted as slaves. The Tang dynasty of China purchased Western slaves from the Radanite Jews. I could give many more examples, but basically, in a time when war was the rule and people needed cheap labour to build, expand and grow, it must’ve been a viable choice. I mean, it did take us thousands of years to get from irrigation to the engine. Note, I’m not defending slavery, I’m just acknowledging its existence, and getting over it. Most of the major slave trades were abolished centuries ago with the advancement of technology and enlightening ideas. Which is why we (mostly) don’t have slavery in today’s world…or do we?

But wait, is that an indignant voice complaining about the African slave trade that led to the subsequent cotton farms, Civil War and Segregation in the US I hear? Asking people to “check their privilege”, and acknowledge the sins of their ancestors, even if their ancestors may have had nothing to do with the ownership of slaves. Well Snowflake, I hate to break it to you, but the sad truth is that the majority of slaves that were ripped apart from their homes and families, were taken by other Africans. Before the Europeans even landed in Africa, the Africans were slaving their own people, just like so many other civilizations and empires. Just like the Mongols, and the Arab Kingdoms, and the Romans.

However, what makes it even more horrendous, is the fact the Africans were more often than not the middlemen in selling slaves to the Europeans. If you think that the Europeans marched into Africa, looting, pillaging and raping the slaves out of their homes, you would only be partly right. If they did, then our history books would talk about wars between Natives and gun wielders much like the near destruction of Native American tribes, or the Spanish conquest of South America. However, that wasn’t the case in Africa. The Europeans had no need to go into the extremely dangerous wilds of disease ridden Africa where sickness, infection and wildlife could kill them easier than any arrow could, when there was an abundance slaves waiting for them at the shores. Not all, but many African kingdoms grew rich from slavery.  In 1750, King Tegbesu made £250,000 a year selling people into slavery. Most kings saw slaves as criminals or POWs, so in exchange for riches, selling a few deplorables was an easy choice. However, demand increased, and so did conflict, and wars were conducted to take more slaves, and thus began a cycle of war, poverty and evil that we all know today, because in some parts of Africa, slavery is still conducted, and not spoken of. And once all the men were gone from Africa, it became easy prey for colonisation.

The blame however, is not to fall solely on Africans. This plague was incited on both sides, with the promise of gold and guns being the vice Europeans and Americans needed to keep the slaves rolling in. And one must never forget the horrendous state that slaves were kept in once they endured the long journey to America. However, never have I heard African-Americans say that Africans should own up to their mistakes, and I have never heard of it taught in schools, perhaps out of shame? Both sides must own up to their crimes if we are to truly forgive and forget the past, because in more ways than one, we are still slaves today, and race is no deciding factor.

We are slaves, but the stakes have risen, and our minds and ideas are what they are enslaving. And it is scary, yes, and it may be easier to cry “black lives matter!”, rather than see the truth, that people, no matter where, have been selling each other into slavery. And that black people,who believe they were completely wronged sold other black people. And we are still slaves because we don’t see the truth in matters like this, and by wearing our victimization on our sleeves, we are allowing the media to use us as an agenda against whomever they don’t like. We aren’t making ourselves stronger, we’re making ourselves weaker. Instead of looking past all the horrors of our past, we continue to scream them out and say “look at me, pity me!” How the hell would I treat you as an equal when you insist that you are insisting you aren’t. It isn’t the case for everyone, but I believe that true strength comes from the ability to forge forward, irrespective of the past. To remember, but not rely on past hurts in order to get your way. Hard work and determination. In a world where everyone will take advantage of whatever weakness you have, or feel you have, to push their own agendas, whether you are gay, black, white, it is imperative to not let them take a hold and do what they have always, and will always do. Divide us. With black lives matter supporters screaming death to cops, and rioters at Berkely harming unarmed civilians, it is clear the media, or the establishment is getting their way. It’s clear from what I’m seeing from the mainstream media that our freedom is speech is being cut, our own views are being hijacked. We’re being told what to think, what to feel, and what to do, even if it goes against conventional logic, history or the well-being of the people they preach to.

And the saddest thing for me to see, is African people being reined in by this. I have seen some people solely acknowledge the US’ problems while completely ignoring their own country’s. So few Africans barely batted an eye at the Garissa attack, or the regular immolation of LGBT people in countries like Uganda, while expressing the utmost support during the Orlando shooting or London terror attack. Express your sympathy, but don’t ignore your home, because it needs you, now more than ever. With corrupt governments, and sub-par standards of living. Especially you, my fellow Malawians, where the wage gap is so high, there can’t possibly be a middle-class. We need to stop this slavery of minds and desecration of resources in our own borders, and we can’t do it when you’re jumping onto so many other boats. And I could go on and on about the things that plague us, but I’m sure you’re all too familiar with them. In our own ways, we can get out of this cage we’ve built for ourselves. We just need to arm ourselves with knowledge, and courage.

As usual, feel free to debate or ask me anything. Share the message if you want, and don’t be afraid to question learn, and explore.

http://takimag.com/article/did_africans_sell_africans_into_slavery_lets_ask_some_africans_jim_goad/print#axzz4eNzgADf3

Hip-Hop: The Art of Storytelling

Hip-Hop: The Art of Storytelling

Hip-Hop and Rap, are perhaps the most diverse and intricate forms of music around today. Rap itself, originated in the late 1970s, poverty stricken Bronx area of New York. Poetry met music, and spread across the US like wildfire, before becoming a worldwide phenomenon. In fact, Hip-Hop has such a wide and influential history that I could sit and write a full essay about its origins, controversies and influence, but that would leave us here till the next semester rolls through. We are currently in the “Hip-Hop” era, and that much is undisputed. At this time, Hip-Hop outsells any other form of music, and while I have an immense love for all music, in particular, it would be foolish to underplay the value of Hip-Hop in today’s society. From the great faces it has brought to the light, to the culture that has spanned generations and influenced teens and music scenes across the world.

Some of the best rappers in the past 2 decades have spread their message and stories to many avid listeners across the world. For anyone doubting me, you’re reading the blog of a Malawian who’s listening to the Wu Tang Clan, and has almost every rapper from Ab-Soul to Yelawolf. My personal favourites include Earl Sweatshirt, Mac Miller, Tyler the Creator, Kendrick Lamar, Flatbush Zombies, Kanye West, Tech N9ne, J. Cole, Method Man, Nas and Mike Shinoda, just to name a few. As you can probably tell from that list, I love the storytelling aspect that rap gives, as well as the less mainstream aspects of Rap. I feel like I lean towards underground, non-mainstream rap, because as the years go by, Rap moves further away from the original movement of inspiration, innovation and change. You see, because while in Rap’s long and weathered history, the music has, strangely, been immensely diverse, with perhaps more sub-genres than even Rock. As long as I can remember growing up, even if two rappers were similar, they were never ever the same. They had their own nuances and differences that allowed the Hip-Hop Scene to grow even bigger than it already was.

Storytelling Rap touched my heart quite strongly, especially after I first listened  to Stan, by Eminem. His Magnum Opus according to many people, myself included. And as I grew older, and more involved with writing, documentaries, and the common man’s story, rap became a very strong source of inspiration. Hearing how your favourite rapper truly made it to the top from the bottom through skill, luck and a hefty amount of commitment really hits a nerve. and listening to Kendrick Lamar go into depth throughout Good Kid MaaD City really got my imagination running. And lets not talk about how deep J. Cole went in 4 Your Eyez Only. Whilst many stories have been told throughout other genres, Hip-Hop’s stories manage to go to the core. And why may that be some ask? It may because of the clever wordplay and punchlines. The sublime rhyme and cadence as well as the masterfully crafted beats. But, I think it may be because of the variety of stories told, and the numerous ways they’ve been told. From the linear narratives, to the disjointed tales that span albums, simply to the brief hints placed throughout albums. A lot can be told about an artist and his story from what he sings, and the personal touch bleeds through hip-hop profusely. A good example of this could be Mac Miller, who doesn’t exactly narrate his raps like a story, but gives many hints of his life and his struggles through his music, all while keeping to the themes of his music.

Now that we’ve covered that, its time to bite into the heart of the matter. The so called wave of Mumble Rap. This is entirely my opinion, and I won’t hesitate to say just how distasteful I find the stuff. It’s an amalgamation of the recent trends of finding a catchy beat to make some fourth grade rhymes to. Fine, I’m not saying you can’t listen to it, in fact, I admit that some tracks make for good club bangers. I can bump to Panda and Broccoli in the heat of the moment. But that’s about it for me, the heat of the moment. I’ve almost never gone into my playlist to sit down and listen to some Lil Uzi or, (god forbid), Kodak Black. Do not come to me with some trash like, “Oh, they’re just as good as Kendrick or Kanye.) Respect your fucking self. It lacks the heart and soul that makes Hip-Hop what it truly is. The intuitive flow and wit that compels people to sit down and listen. A comprehensive look into the history and culture of African Americans, and their long struggle. The true soul, is what Mumble Rap lacks.

Now, I still say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, as I am to mine. I am not barring anyone from listening to the music that they prefer. That, to me, is as sacrosanct as any of your holy books are to you. Perhaps I am more inclined to speak out in light of President Trump’s rise to presidency and growing race tensions in the US, and another country that is quite close to my heart, South Africa. Hip Hop has the power to move hearts and spread powerful message. Many artists have managed to make money spreading a message that encourages black on black violence and gang affiliation, and that should never be forgotten. others, have made it clear to tell the story of their lives and the struggles that they saw growing up. People like Kendrick Lamar and Logic, who have experienced drugs and violence, but have nonetheless risen above their pasts and are still spreading positive vibrations in their music. Far too few artists in Hip Hop have promoted peace and love, which is a shame, because it is something the genre, and culture sorely needs.

My admiration for Hip Hop goes deep, with many of my friends and peers being involved in the genre in one way or another. I have grown to love the diversity and history of the Hip Hop culture as I have grown and my musical tastes have expanded. The influence it holds as well as the power and allure that keeps many young people flocking to its boughs. As for me, I will continue to be enthralled by music, and its healing nature. My parting words are to continue to explore the hidden facets of your interests. Never be deterred or overwhelmed by the amount of content, because you’ll never know if you’ll find a diamond in a rhinestone unless you search. As Nas said, “Let the music diffuse all the tension”.

 

What it means to be part of Generation Z

What it means to be part of Generation Z

Juvenoia; which is the hostility, or fear directed by an older generation towards a younger one. The general belief that the current generation is better than the one to come. Remember this, ‘cause it will come into play later on.

But for now, you must be asking yourself, what is Generation Z? How do you know what generation you’re in? Well, I trust that you people are smart enough to do your own research, but Generation Z, for simplicity’s sake, is the generation following the Millennial Generation. You know, most of our parents and uncles, and some cousins. It’s a generation that is conservative in nature, being involved in major political affairs, such as the Cold War and the Iraq-Iran War. For Africans, it’s also a period associated with freedom! Independence! and the subsequent rise of incompetent, ruthless, and corrupt leaders. It’s no wonder many people are so mad at the Millennial Generation, they appear to have successfully fucked things up, almost to an irreversible state.  If you were born sometime between 1997 and 2004, good news, you’re part of Generation Z! As cool as it sounds, it doesn’t seem to be going well for us. I jokingly often write in my journal that we are the “Generation of Fear”, primarily being the ones scared. Before many of us could even experience fear…boom! The Columbine Massacre, which shocked the world, the Y2K scare, which many thought would end the world, the horrific 9/11 attacks, and the Great Recession. As we grew older, we witnessed the Iraq War, and more terror attacks than had ever been seen. And not just terrorism from Islamic factions, but gun violence and mass shootings too. The Garissa University attack in Kenya leaving 150 people dead, the kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram, the Paris bombings, and most recently, the possibility that a racist and misogynist like Donald Trump might become president of the most powerful country in the world.

Yes, it seems we are a failed generation despite not having reached our potential. I, for one, am still not in college, yet I seemed to have disappointed the majority of my onlookers and relatives by becoming a rebel and not striving to be an engineer, doctor, or lawyer. I instead have a deep rooted love of quiet, books, photography, and technology. Maybe because of this, the juvenoia directed towards me is rather strong. I feel constantly berated by my elders for my own life choices, choosing happiness, and a little bit of money, over the money alone. Some people might argue that juvenoia is a good influence on us youngsters. It’d do us some good to listen to our elders for once. Wrong! And this is especially true for us Africans, especially considering that our elders are the corrupt and unreliable leaders who have contributed some part to the general state of things on our lovely continent.  I think that their juvenoia is terribly misplaced, considering we are more educated, well informed, and knowledgeable than them. We may not have their wisdom, but the ability to change our destinies and break the cycle of tribalism, hatred, racism and poverty is in our hands. Basically, what I’m saying is, stop giving us so much shit. This isn’t all our faults.

We may not be even near to perfect. The media makes us seem like a bunch of unruly animals, what with all the teen pregnancies, and drug abuse among teenagers, and the thousand other things said about us. But really, who can put all the blame on us? I’m not trying to make us unaccountable, but when you see what we see, you’d understand. Oh the glitz and the glam! The rappers with their jewellery and cars, the models marrying said rappers. The celebrities who sniff lines of coke and win Grammies and Oscars and the reality stars who are able to rise to stardom from saying, or doing things that would ordinarily warrant quite a lot of shame. We are the recipients of a world that has seen the most organised drug trafficking, human trafficking and crime…yet. Not to mention the generation that has been introduced to all sorts of new substances, all at reasonable street prices, and introduced to the worst sorts of radicalism, all accessible through your favourite media platform.

Cyber bullying, ebola, police violence, riots, child porn, drugs, zika, terrorism, radicalism, mass shootings, increasing suicide rate, anxiety, been there, done that. Fear, fear, FEAR stress, stress, STRESS….are you scared yet? Good, because we’re still here.

We’re not only hanging on, we’re becoming better for it. Our generation is the first to, for the most part, be alright with same sax marriage. We are the least racist generation in a long time. We’re independent, wanting to become entrepreneurs and carve our own paths. We’re the generation with the most friends outside of our sex, religion and race. More educated and open minded, we’re very serious about change for the better. At least, those who can manage to do so, even in the smallest ways. We’ve been exposed to the worst of it, and we’re moving forward. “Kids these days,” they say disapprovingly. Yes, kids these days. Us. We may be young, but we’ve got big plans. We dress differently, and listen to, admittedly, awful music(at times) and we think differently. But if we’re fixing some of the messes you made, and some you couldn’t fix, then it might be time to change that tone.

We’re the generation of Crisis, after the Unravelling, and we were born to not be just another statistic to scare the next generation into behaving. We’re the harbingers of change, and revolution, to inspire the next genration. It’s time to start moving.

My Religion

To put it quite simply, Music, is my religion.  Jimi Hendrix, quite possibly the greatest musician, if not guitarist, of all time, said the same thing. Many will call it blasphemy. Let them call it what they will. I am polygamous, and music is but one of the aspects of my Goddess, who takes the name Art. It was nearly a requirement growing up to be well cultured. That meant reading a copious amount of books, being at least simply versed in painters and artists. This foundation eventually led me on a road of discovery that I am more than happy to still be on.

Growing up with very few role model figures, I was actually left to my own devices. A starting point for music was actually old school hip-hop, mainly consisting of Cypress Hill and 2Pac as well as 50 Cent and Eminem. I wasn’t too into music at the time so I became familiarised with all the greatest Billboard hits from 2003-2005. My mother and her siblings were heavy advocates of much older music, mainly UB40 and Michael Jackson amongst many others. As such, I can comfortably say that I can sing along to Kingston Town and Red Red Wine.

Another thing to note was that I was being slowly influenced to adopt Gospel Music as my staple genre of music. That attempt failed miserably for numerous reasons I’m not quite sure I understand, even now. It is possible that it never reached me on a very emotional level. It was just something to listen to because my mother heaved it on me. I never grew an attachment to it, and that fact still remain

By the time I was seven though, I had become acquainted to rock music, and it was simply love. One might be appalled to find their child listening to System of a Down, Korn, Slipknot and the oh-so-dreaded Marilyn Manson, however these musicians connected with me in a way no other musician had. The raw emotion and nature of the lyrics gave me something to hold onto. A rebellious nonconformity and an open mindedness, as well as a path to pure emotion. As of now I am a lover of music who will as gladly listen to Beethoven’s Fur Elise as I would to as I would to Tyler the Creator’s Tron Cat. However rock is an integral part of me that I will never simply hand over. It doesn’t apply to everyone as it did to me, but I could look past the screaming and harsh instruments and find a surprisingly harmonious cacophony of sounds that in the end preached a much deeper message. Why, you need only listen to Snuff by Slipknot, or Toxicity by System of a Down.

From this rather bland explanation, it still doesn’t seem to account for my taking of Music as a “religion”. But to me, it makes more than perfect sense. You see, Music doesn’t judge, nor does it tell you how to dress or how to act. It makes you feel better about being you. And yes, music may influence you to act, or dress, or be a certain way. But isn’t that a trait of something powerful, as only something powerful can inspire someone to change so much. Music is healing and inspiration. It’s a gateway to the soul and a glimpse of the world. It inspires terror as much as it does reverence. It is the thing which gets me through each day and has kept me alive this long. Such is the power of music to me.

That isn’t to say that music is my only tether. I have fallen into philosophy and art. Goya’s prints show me the fragility of life and Aristotle taught me just a few virtues. Poetry has flooded my mind with beauty and images of war and destruction, and love. Literature, has led me to live a thousand lives, whilst children’s books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Harry Potter series have perhaps taught me more about life than 12 years of school has.  I am a dreamer, and more than half of my waking days are spent exploring deep ocean trenches or mountain caves. Drinking wine with satyrs or pushing back a horde of goblin invaders.

I will never regret my choices on these points. I am as dependent on the arts as the earth is of the sun. And I don’t think that’s so bad. I will always have an ever changing source of wisdom, and laughter. And it may not be a doctrine followed by millions of others around the world, but it is my choice. And if I could go back, I would only recommend Epicurus to myself much earlier.