The title to my column this week is borrowed from something my co-host Lynda Nyangweso said on The Big Breakfast as we were discussing the seldom told story of Generation Y. Normally, the narrative we tell about this new generation is how self-entitled and vacuous they are. The truth is, some are, and as Lynda said, for every young crazy, messed up person, there’s an equal number of similar adults who probably raised them.
It's incredible that we live in an age where wanting a decent job or wanting to be one’s own boss, to do things differently, to do things better, faster, sleeker, or simply wanting to be CEO at under 40 and vocalising it is seen as “entitled' and madly radical”.
The story we seldom tell - and maybe for selfish reasons – is that of a generation on a mission. A generation that wants a piece of the action and they want it badly. Maybe the reason we don’t tell that story is because it threatens the status quo.
All around this country, a breed of thinkers and a new generation is battling to get in and get on and if this year has proven anything across Kenya, it is that status quo is at war. You know who status quo is – those people who keep saying that silly statement “umetukuta hapa, utatuwacha hapa”. They say it thinking it’s a good thing, a great thing – not realising that all they are saying and admitting is that they refuse to progress and in so doing, stop the organisation they work for and the country at large from progressing.
Don’t let the issue of age kid you when it comes to new thinkers who want in. There are young people who got infected by status quo and probably grew up saying “when I get there, even I will do just that.” They never thought they could and should do different and do better.
On the other hand, there are people who may belong to an older generation who know it’s time to do things differently. They face a more uphill task than generation Y. They are seen as sellouts who don’t seem to understand that things are “done a certain way around here”.
These people will be the biggest catalyst for change. However, they will take the most body blows in the war the status quo is waging.
Generation 'Umetukuta hapa' are still trying to charge Sh10,000 per plate for state functions, inflating their sitting allowances, having meetings no one needs, taking travel dates and claiming per diem that are ridiculous, falsifying mileage and fuel claims and when that is threatened waging witch-hunts in the media. Why not – that’s how things are done around here. You know them; they want a payout, kickback and handout for every little thing and the very thought of accountability, no chance to eat and change has them hissing and spitting mad.
A term that puts together the youth and enthusiasm and the hunger to get in and get on with it cannot be limited to just chronological age, it’s about a state of mind – enter Generation Y Not. You and I, the people reading this column with a smile. If you have already called me names while reading this, you know who you are.
Generation Y Not are hungry to learn (yet their contemporaries are always asking them, ujachoka na masomo), put their tech chops to work, they're eager to improve their lives and the places they love, and they're looking to make things happen. Truth be told, if you look at certain MBA classes today, they are full of people who already have the money and status, they are simply looking to re-invent, re-energise and also add to the world around them. They understand you never stop learning and you never ever arrive.
However, Generation Y Not from the ages of 18 to 60 need to be aware that the war being waged by the status quo is going to hurt. People don’t fear change, they fear personal loss. Generation “umetukuta hapa” don’t know what will happen if you change shit around. They have never envisioned a new, different or even better way of doing things. They keep telling you tired tales that go something like this: I didn’t own a car, a house, a TV, a cellphone, a credit card... until I was.... I didn’t have a nanny, a PA, a guard, a chase car, a business card until I was... I didn’t fly first class, get personalised parking, privileges until I was... The tales go on and on. News flash – every generation does better than its parents; it’s the way things are and should be. The idea is not for us to tread water and wait for a certain time and place to do certain things when all signs point to getting it done now.
If you look around you keenly, the only people making the most noise and causing the most drama are the politicians and technocrats who seem to be stuck in the past. They finally arrived at that point, place they have been wanting to get to since Moi was President and now that they are there, they want to know why they can’t carry on like it was 1992! Watch them and their utterances carefully – they are screaming, hissing, spitting hoping to scare us away so we can let them get on with what they have always done.
I hear crazy tales from members of Generation Y Not who are working in government and parastatals of constant bottlenecks and sabotage and outright malice from status quo. These aren’t just older people who can’t stand the sight of newbies on the block, it’s younglings who ought to know better who haven’t realised it’s a new day.
In the space that is owned by Generation Y, the tools of war are different. We put out only news and items that paint a picture of a lost, clueless and directionless lot. The only reason we tell those stories and not the more progressive ones is mental sabotage. It does two things. It makes the status quo thinkers feel better about themselves and it sets into play a PR machinery that says “you can’t trust Generation Y Not”.
There are people who don’t know what that new reality will look like and what it will mean for them and so they fight and scream and spit and hiss hoping that Generation Y Not will go away and let things remain as they always have.
Here’s the thing – there’s a generation of people whose thinking transcends age and time and even socio-economic backgrounds. They know we can’t do the same things and expect different results. Those are my people. On the other hand, there is another set of people who don’t want change, can’t stomach the idea and honestly wish we would all shut up and stop trying to change things – generation “umetukuta hapa” – they also transcend age. To those people let me quote to you the very witty yet serious words of a young lady in my office, “get out of the way or we will eat you.”
Have a progressive week.