As a young person who hopes to be a parent one day, the future ahead seems intriguing for my children to ignore. It is intriguing for the reason that dynamics change and as they change so do people. I often wonder what kind of children I am going to bring to this world. Am I going to bring children who are going to succumb to the pressures of this world that regards or disregards its people on the grounds of their material orientation? The irony that is life today fails to regard people for who they are but more for what they are. I am left with no option but to ask: Why is it that we people tend to respect others only once we know the worth of their social capital? Why is it that when we attend various leadership summits, the minds of young participants seem to be orientated towards knowing more about your material achievements than anything else?
Early this year, I sat next to a wise Chief Executive Officer of a reputable foundation in South Africa and the world over. What struck me about this public figure were the following words: “In many of the public functions that I am invited to as a keynote speaker, I am invited solely because I am the CEO of x Foundation. I am not invited because I am a person.” His words stuck with me and will continue to reside with me until the last days. In that very moment, I was reminded of how sometimes brutal the world can be. I was also reminded of the fact that there were people who did not take me seriously until they looked up my name on Google or heard my name in conversations. When they saw what I had accomplished, their perception of me started to change. I was now not like any other human being but another human being in the skin of another human being—a skin that they give to you; and one whose attachment or detachment depends on your material orientation.
We live in the world where people are defined by the titles and the positions they occupy in their organisations. The character by which Martin Luther King Jnr. hoped his children would be judged by is no longer intrinsic but extrinsic. By this I mean people seem to be interested in the car you drive; the school you went to; your line of work; your level of education, the list is endless, before they can regard you worthy of their attention. These new developments perhaps are the reason for the pressure among young and old people to show off their accomplishments on various social media platforms. I must say this reality is scary for one to ignore.
While these dynamics are here to stand the test of times, it will be interesting to observe how the next generation upon which these dynamics seem to be set a trend for will react. Will they counter or be for materialism? The answer relies on what you, the future or young parent, do to shape and reinforce the voices they listen to.