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The right to doubt and the Angolan youth

By Ondjaki. Translation by Marissa J. Moorman
Posted on Friday, 14 February 2014 15:16

It is with sadness that I see any Angolan detained, threatened or harassed because he wanted to demonstrate…

Instead of celebrating the said progress, we share a kind of fear

Simply demonstrate: to show others with respect that he does not agree with another civic or political group. To speak. Shout. Write on a poster or a banner.

In none of the demonstrations did I see acts of violence by youth. In the majority of cases, they were prevented from demonstrating.

Their voices were cut off and their signs torn. They were detained or removed from a chosen venue. At least once, they were removed from the locale for “reasons of security” – their own security.

What name do we give to this strategy of neutralisation of a demonstration that “almost did not happen”.

What should we call this strategy of annulling what a group of young people has to say?

And what if those who do not want to listen gave themselves the task of simply listening to them? And if they let them speak?

And if all those who call them names – “thieves”, “idle youth”, “drug addicts”, “alienated young people” or “puppets” – decided to read or hear what these youth have to say?

And if a debate, a serious one, was born of the doubts that these youth have?

We need to stop acting like these young people ‘don’t know what they are saying’.

They know very well.

It is easier for us to think that these are not their ideas, that they are from some other external forces politically organised to manipulate a group of young Angolans that do not know how to think for themselves.

The great majority of these young people have shown a social and political lucidity of great merit.

It does not matter if we agree or not, if ‘all’ they say is correct.

No one, in any part of the world, is correct in all they say, in all that they affirm politically, but these youth are being denied attention.

Time for us to hear what they have come to say.

What elders do we have, what elders are we and will we be, if we don’t know how to listen to those who are younger than we are?

I have doubts that our society is acting correctly if all we want is to ignore, to quiet and to silence these young people.

These young people that have doubts to express and questions to inspire.

Just as we all have the right to doubt, we all have the right to express our convictions.

We will be a better country when people can express and debate their convictions, even when they go against the tide.

What luck, what a source of pride, to have a country where the citizens, where the young people think, reflect and arrive at their own conclusions.

These conclusions produce demands, complaints and debates.

It seems to me that we would be on our way to the future, if that is really the future that we want: democracy, exposition and debate – the right to conviction as much as the right to doubt.

What wisdom would our elders have if they did not explore their own doubts?

I reserve myself the right to doubt, to question what I see written or said on the news, to doubt the intentions of those who did not even manage to express their intentions.

I reserve the right to doubt the wisdom of those elders that do not want to listen, or even see, much less embrace those younger than they are.

I reserve the right to doubt a country that doubts its own youth that it educated and that now think on their own – even if dissonant, even if divergent, even if utopian.

I reserve the right to doubt those elders that do not want us to worry about the majority and the conditions of the majority. All Angolans know perfectly in what conditions the “majority of the people” live and survive.

It is with sadness that, being only another young person from my country, I have so many doubts in relation to this historic moment of our society.

Instead of celebrating the said progress, we share a kind of fear.

In place of a cry of celebration, we have whispers. In place of distribution, we have accumulation. In place of an expansive dream, we have harassed thinking and well-trained self-censorship.

I cannot but have sadness in my voice.

To contradict it – yes, it is my personal duty and that of a citizen to search for a way other than sadness – I nurture hope each and every day.

A simple hope, Angolan hope, that comes from far away. It comes, certainly, from other elders that I knew, in another time, with a different form of education.

Each and every day, I nurture a hope – almost ridiculous, almost utopian – of a more just Angola.

While I wait, I embrace those who, when they speak, are prepared to listen to what the other has to say.

Because the river has two banks. Because the future is made from the hand of the elder interlaced with the hand of the youth.

It has been that way for alongtime. It is or it was? ●

Ondjaki is an award-winning Angolan writer. Born in Luanda, he lives between Angola and Brazil

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