The emerging media narrative on Gen Z is very wrong and misguided

The emerging media narrative on Gen Z is very wrong and misguided. Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

  • Today I would like to suggest a social experiment
  • Those who believe that beatings are the solution and that high schools are a haven should have a workplace simulated like a Kenyan high school for one month


Three things are certain in this life: death, taxes and yet another discussion about how uncontrollable and soft that the younger generations are. It started with millennials (25-40 years of age), then now it's on to Gen Z (7 to 24 years old). That is if we are to believe the online discussions on the shortcomings of these generations. Suddenly, everyone has Michelle Ntalami-esque essays and epistles explaining, "the real reason why". 


This time the conversation has been ignited by the ongoing school fires. The fires have started a raging inferno of public debate (see what I did there) about how the younger generations are used to having things easy and handed to them and which left them with no resilience. The argument has been extended to workplaces where some people feel that the younger generations complain too much or leave jobs too easily or cause unnecessary trouble.


Let's start with the indisputable fact that most boarding high schools are a true living hell but many people, especially parents don't believe their children. They believe that all that's needed is the reintroduction of assault (corporal punishment) because they feel that what's lacking is discipline. 


Today I would like to suggest a social experiment. Those who believe that beatings are the solution and that high schools are a haven should have a workplace simulated like a Kenyan high school for one month. They will be subjected to flogging for anything they do wrong, scrub toilets and do other menial chores to "build character." They should be at work from 5am and leave work at 10pm but before going home they need to scrub the whole building clean. If they are going from one office to another they need to run and if they talk during working hours, they should be beaten.


During the period, they will be given work to take home every day after their 15-hour work day and it should be complete by the next day. They should work through all weekends and forcefully go to church on Sunday and be back at work by the afternoon. If they spend a bit more time than is acceptable with the opposite gender, they should be beaten and have their work station shifted. If they disagree with anything their boss says, they should kneel on concrete for at least half a day. If they've not met deadlines, they should do frog jumps on the stairs until they can barely feel their legs.


If they haven't met their KPIs, they should all be lined up and beaten publicly in front of all other employees. They then get to do all the work allocated to other older employees. If they decline, the long-serving employees will beat them. They get to see their loved ones once every three months for one day and if their loved ones give them anything, it's confiscated, unless it's toothpaste or bathing soap. 


If other employees in similar workplaces elsewhere revolt because of how bad the treatment is, the whole country will be reminded that it's because they are scared of their performance reviews. The labour Cabinet Secretary will declare that more police officers will be deployed to the workplaces to enforce the performance reviews and there will be jail terms for anyone who is suspected of cheating. 


When you're finally get to see your family after three months, you compare notes with others, and realise that some have it better. You realise that some people have employers that don't beat them and you wonder whether they are being spoiled. You hear that some workplaces have had students critically injured or killed, but you are glad that at least at your job you had bruises but no broken bones.


I hope that's helped explain the situation better. I don't think young men are suddenly indisciplined, I think we're just not listening to them and what they're going through. The world is a very different place from the world that our parents grew up in. The context isn't the same and in many ways life has gotten harder but young men are expected to shoulder it quietly, because, quoting Yvonne Owuor, 'Kenya's official languages are English, Kiswahili, and Silence.' 


We have a younger generation living with no hope, and aren't going to stand the situation further. This is a world where hard work doesn't equal success, a place where you have to fight to be accorded basic decency.


To be clear, I am not supporting arson or indiscipline, but I think we need to interrogate further the issues rather than normalizing a bad situation or giving lopsided excuses. 

This is where asking to be treated with dignity and respect becomes a battle because people are not used to it. Discipline isn't equal to silence. 

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