Growing up in the era when the television had invaded the Kenyan home in quite a huge manner, meant that I was exposed to quite a great deal of Western programming that brought with it its own fair share of the good and the bad. Most of my English was polished up from such programs rather than in class although I got to learn some of the cuss vocabulary from the TV. And it would be a number of times that I would always get to hear my mum telling me that such and such programs were inappropriate although she would later stay on to watch The Bold and The Beautiful a show that was a bit on the “raunchy” side, back then. Then came my teenage years and I started to watch music videos that she would most often than not dismiss as trash TV.
Internet came to me when I was already a bit older and she had started receding into the older generation that had no clue as to what the Internet was. I was able to do all those things that she would never ever know about and also never stop me. At this stage, I started feeling like some of my morals were eroding yet I felt it perfectly ok to continue watching and “learning” the ways of the outside world. I also got culturally alienated from all the stuff I had grown up seeing and had now moved on to another world that was completely different from what I had grown up knowing
This is true of many of the African young men and women who grew up at about the same time that I did. Western culture was what we felt was good and it was actually glorified all around us. Anyone who had any inkling of African culture, either in their dressing, mannerisms or even language was despised. But over the years, we have come to learn that all that is Western is not good at all.
Still the question remains, have the youth lost their African identity? I would say yes but then this also begets another question; what is really an African identity? Is it the ability to speak your mother tongue fluently? Dance to the beats from your particular community? Wear the clothing that will have you branded as an African? Maybe and maybe not.
I believe that the African identity comes from what one believes in and what one practices. There are the basic values that we all live with and there is what most are associated with an African and they do not include the negative ones. Things like sharing and caring would come a bit more natural to an African as they have been taught such ever since their childhood days. Such are the mundane stuff that in the normal world we overlook and are most likely not going to lend a helping hand to anyone out there that really requires a hand. We will mostly dismiss them and say that they are just faking it. But in the past it would have been unconceivable to do such a thing especially when it was one of your elders.
My mother tells me that when she was growing up, any misdeed seen by anyone older than you are, was liable for punishment by that person and he would later report you to your parents for more punishment. Nowadays, it is even illegal to cane children in Kenyan schools. Yet such canings are what made me become who I am. Thus the generation that comes thereafter will be totally ill-mannered and up to any truancy. Ok, we had a few isolated cases of beatings that bordered on the verge of broken limbs and hospitalizations, but we all turned out pretty okay.
It is even funny when am on a night out and I see kids who should be in high school taking the same drink that am taking. They could be young faced but that is an exception that we are about to overlook. I shudder to think of what would happen if at any time my parents were to find out that I had tasted alcohol out of my own free will at quite an early stage. In the past, alcohol was only reserved for the old men of the village and they would only drink it when they were gathered somewhere and they had something to do. Plus, they would only drink it after they were done with their business of the day. Nowadays, we have the youth drinking at anytime of the day under the guise that life is short. Are they not making it even shorter with all that drinking?
But the problem of lost African identities could only be overcome if we were to show children what is supposed to be done at anytime. That even goes back to the elders who should take their time off and show the younger ones what is supposed to be done at whatever time. Image is another thing that we should take into account. By telling the youth that to be African means you adhere to certain values, we would have stepped into a brighter future.