SIM: Dr Leana, to begin, lets break the Ice a bit. In your youth, what were some activities that
you and your friends were involved in, that helped to build your identities as young
Leana: I think depending on the way you were brought up, you are automatically drawn to certain energies. As you grow, you may outgrow some energies and find attraction to others. That being said, when it comes to me I had quite the variety of energies around me, I had “good” friends and then what will be considered “bad”. I can honestly say I am very grateful for each person that has shared my life till date because I was taught balance. I had the best of both worlds in my opinion and knew I always had a choice. Our space was different when I was a youngster, electronics did not form part of my world so we spent a lot of time finding things to do, from movies, dinner, coffee’s, parties without drugs to telling scary stories in strange places (cemetery, dam, parks) in the middle of the night. Trust me walking to the car after these stories was quite the event. Each of the interactions builds who we are.
SIM: Youth culture is said to vary from one generation to the next. In your opinion, are
adolescents today engaged in different types of social activities than were adolescents in
Leana: Most definitely! As I mentioned above these were some of the interactions we had however it was slightly before 1990 J. I notice in my children how different our lives are compared. My eldest is a forehead generation child as I like to call him, because honestly that is all I ever see. In the 90’s social engagement was between humans, today it is via electronics. If it is not on social media you do not seem to matter. I personally find this very disconcerting because our youth do not have the skills needed to properly communicate or to deal with confrontation or even complements. Goodness, children struggle to make eye contact. You know children today are in or out of relationships via text! So this begs the question if you have no eye contact, barely speak physically, barely touch, then where does intimacy and connectedness come in and how will they deal with it? In the 90’s children were only in touch when they were together, no phone, tabs ect. They had to visit one another and the parents had to meet!!! Everyone knew where the other person was and who was who, today that is not the case and I think parent know less about their children that perhaps our parent knew about us. I also believe that children are not taught the skills to make their own choices or solve their own problems. Remember when we were little we were told to play outside and keep busy. What did we do, we built a go-carte from very little to chase down the road in, we made wire cars and had a speed competition. This taught us the skill having an idea and solving the problem in order to create it. Not too sure that electronics today provide the same lessons……
SIM: In America, there is always a lot of concern expressed regarding young people’s
relationship to sex, drugs, and alcohol. Is this a concern that exists in your nation? How
do you feel that children today, especially those in your homeland, are handling the issues
surrounding these things?
Leana: I believe that this is a global issue. In South Africa we have a vast variety of different cultures and each culture have their beliefs; however they do not correlate between the cultures. In Christian culture you are preferably not allowed sexual activities before marriage which can only come after you have turned at least 18 (not that it is always the case). In some of our native cultures boys are considered men after they have gone through an initiation process. This process takes place when they are about 13. So after the initiation they become sexually active. For girls the same rules apply and they are considered ready for marriage. Drugs and alcohol abuse is rampant amongst our youth from very early ages. This provides a form of escape from extreme poverty, child abuse and neglect. Considering our high mortality rate because of HIV/TB, children are having children, and children are becoming parent as theirs have passed on. The implication being that they cannot cope with the demands place upon them. Children are supposed to be children and not become adults at the age of 9 or in my opinion wives at the age of 13. On a more positive note I can also confirm that there are many children that even through these extreme situations not only survive but are very successful. Some energies are able to handle these situations and successfully survive. They do remain fewer than would be ideal. In our country tradition is very important and passed on throughout the generations. You are banished from the community or in some cases can be killed if you choose to be open minded or consider anything indifferent to tradition. This is however not pertaining to all the cultures and some of us can have a different view of life, the universe and everything else. I am one of the very blessed being that are able to live what I believe, in saying that I can also admit that I do my level best to respect other opinions and respect my elders who have a very strong indoctrinated Christian belief.
SIM: It’s common for adults to criticize the actions and trends of youth culture. What are
some of the positive aspects that you feel we can focus on when looking at these up and
coming young adults, and how can we draw inspiration from them
Leana: Even though the above comparisons look rather bleak, I have to admit that there are most definitely positives. Our youth today has an immense amount of vision, they are able to see and formulate events that will pertain to the future and great success. These are skills that the former generation do not have. Today moves very fast and you have to reinvent not only yourself frequently but also electronics in order to stay relevant. These are very specific skill sets and understanding which can only be created by our youth. Success and the understanding thereof are also quite different and much larger in my opinion. Today youngsters are successful at very young ages because of electronics, vision and the application thereof. The youth is being seen globally and anything is possible and available. We did not have these privileges when we were young; it was truly only for the “connected or privileged” few. Our youth is great and will most probably become even greater as long as they are able to stay balanced and not get lost in the world of drug, sex and alcohol that will only destroy futures. Interesting how the face of destruction (drugs, sex, and alcohol) does not changes throughout the generations only the tools that they use in order to create dependence.
“ For the success of our youth is our legacy.”
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