I only heard towards the beginning of the new millennium that there is such a thing as ‘respect is earned’. Etsee, in all of my upbringing, I never heard that an adult also had to earn the respect of a younger person or, nogal, that of a child. It was automatically expected of every child to respect not only their mother and father but every adult out there.
Even if you saw Tate Thomas crisscrossing the road from Meme Katusekela’s tombo house, looking like he was being pushed by a severe wind storm, you didn’t make fun or dare to laugh at him.
If you came home crying because Auntie Ulukus from next door gave you five of the best on your butt after you almost got hit by a car while playing on the road, your parents showed you no mercy – in actual fact, you ended up being in more trouble if you reported the incident. But you still maintained that respect for the feisty auntie.
When those two notorious ousies known for skindering up a storm in the lokasie were at it again – and your ears were vibrating with thrilling sensation after hearing the latest gossip in the neighbourhood, you dared not tell anyone what they said about Si Martha – die nagloper (witch) or Destiny, die jumper (prostitute) unless you wanted to end up being interrogated in the Court of Lokasie Justice by Ou Doring, the neighbourhood limp-wrist bully. Regardless, you knew your place and didn’t lose respect for the neighbourhood watch queens.
There was no such thing as ‘respect is earned’ because if you uttered such a phrase, you would find yourself on the ground tasting the sand out of your mouth.
Some of these measures may have been harsh and not the most conventional ways of discipline, but they nonetheless prepared many of us for real life situations. Not only did that help us to mind our own business and drink our water, but we were also taught we needed to respect an adult irrespective of their social or economic standing.
But today, the confusing mumbo jumbo phrase ‘respect is earned’ has found its place in the hallways of shame. Jeeeri jeezas, I don’t want to exaggerate and say that all is doom and gloom, but respect for adults seem to have taken a nosedive. When you see young girls and boys disrespecting their own toppies and zallies without feeling an ounce of shame or guilt, you just wince with shock thinking about where our society is going. Sometimes, you just want to walk up to the parents and scold them for allowing such uncouthness, but huuu, that is mistake number one. Before you know it, you are at each other’s throats and you hear ‘Who are you to tell me how to raise my kids?’
Some youths demand to be respected by elders and have the audacity to say in order for them to show respect, they must be given respect. Santa Maria! I am not going to say ‘in our time’ this and that, because I can see some already rolling their eyes and chewing a big ball of bubble gum, thinking ‘Titse, another ou tydse auntie – we have heard this before’.
While I am happy the youth are finding their voice and carving out their own paths, please stop and listen to this ou tydse auntie. Respect must be given freely to all mamas and papas out there, arikana. It is only fair that they be shown respect no matter what position they hold in society.
I have seen things heat up in politics as well, where youth have been demanding their place in the leadership structures. All is well and fair, but the sheer disrespect from some youth that emanate in vulgarity is appalling. At the risk of having my head blown off, this ou tydse auntie is going to say that without compromising your independent thoughts, you can still reiterate your positions respectfully. Foul language and discrimination of older people only cause resentment and clouds our judgement of you as future leaders.
Some of us were also youths during the struggle for independence and can take you back to a time when it was pepper hot in Namibia, but youth leaders never used foul language to defy colonial rule. Perhaps we would also have wanted to eavesdrop Administrator General Louie Pienaar’s conversation with the maid or how Mevrou Pienaar’s onderrok was blown away by the wind, but our youth leaders were too serious to be drawn into trivialities. They were serious youngsters who carried themselves with integrity and dignity – and they drew their inspiration from those before them. They were swayed by rhetoric that still ring true in our minds. As a matter of fact, they became so powerful in their rhetoric that even the most hardened racist would have to listen. Their worldliness and sense of maturity broke down the chains of oppression.
I know things get heated up and some of you sometimes lose your marbles, but this is not how things are done. One day, you will be the older and wiser and you probably would not want your children or other young people to treat you with contempt.
We don’t have to revert to how we were raised as youth, but if the old adage that says ‘with age comes wisdom’ holds true, then it is time our young people start showing some class. Respect is given freely.