Cape Town, the day is beautiful and crystalline in that crisp cold South African way. The Youth Summit has begun and we have just broken into discussion groups to greet, mingle and put down our thoughts about three topics that we're going to be discussing soon: Identity, Land Rights, Branding. There are sixty attendants at this meeting and we've all been given these pokens, a cool toy that comes into existence when your businesscard has a three-way with a usb stick and short-distane wireless comms tech.
It was clear from The Chosen Ones in this room that we are going to be having exceedingly interesting intercourse today. So who is here? Plenty of 'youth,' though I suspect that we define this category quite broadly. I am not the only one here who has already popped out a grey hair or five. We are diverse, creative, multicultural, multi-identitied and with a fetish for yellow accents in our clothing. So far only one person has admitted to whoring for the corporates as his dayjob, so you can imagine how far left we're leaning in general. We are artists and performers, thinkers and writers, seekers, reporters, instigators, misbehavers, students, professionals, anarchists, socialist libertarians, fashion lovers, living with disability, nationalists, democrats, feminists, masculinists... but perhaps not conservatives.
There were three discussion streams: one on land rights (is this your land or my land?) and one on identity (are you too exotic for home?). Between brand and revolution: what are the prospects for youth organizing in the era of 'The Brand?' was the discussion group that I attended because, politics, right? I was not the only one who had palpitations at the use of the word 'brand' in the same sentence as 'revolution' but this worked in our favor, I think. It forced the group to get into a discussion that forced people like me to grow beyond our knee-jerk reaction. In order to move towards a collective dialogue, we had to unpack a lot of very big ideas hiding in very small words. What is revolution? What is branding? What about the individual? What about this business of re-branding Africa...
... which led to a discussion of identity, hegemony, The Dreaded West, multiplicity and onwards and beyond through to owning the infrastructure of the internet and other relatively esoteric subjects. I was surprised to see such intense discussion rumble along smoothly: we were all being retrained, polite and considerate with each other which is not my usual experience when you squeeze a crowd of passionate people in one room. Although some were perhaps frustrated by the lack of resolution or action points, I was immensely comforted. Also, this Single Unitary Common Vision business? I am not a fan. As it is, my life consists of a lot of Doing Things and being asked to Do Things with very little time for reflection about Why and How to Do and What Things, exactly. All talk and no action was refreshing!
And that's what this blogger got out of the Youth Summit. I came in with my prejudices- 'youth' summits/forums/conferences etc are almost invariably full of bull poop- and I find myself refreshed, amazed, humbled and challenged. If there is any conclusive statement I want to make about an experience far too rich for me to relate in any detail here, it has to be this one:
Doing is important, it is necessary, it is why we gathered here: so that we can inspire each other to Do, and Do Together, and Do Better. But let us never underestimate the importance of the Thinking and Feeling and Sharing that underpins our Doing. Go forth and have intercourse. I meant the other kinds, you filthy-minded mammal :)