I was talking to a friend of mine over the phone about how his children went to study in university and after graduating moved back in with him. This is the same story concerning my children, they went to university and returned home. My wife and I thought we would have an empty nest after my sons left for university, but things have changed. Both my friend’s children and my own are well educated and hardworking. However, like many other young adults in the same position, they cannot afford today’s housing prices and living costs with the salaries offered in many vacancies. At the same time, these young adults are extremely privileged. They have family, friends and a network that embraces, encourages and helps them. They will be fine. They will make it. But many other talented and hardworking young adults who are not as privileged will probably not.
There is a growing gap between the rich and the poor. Statements we told our children like ‘do well in university and you will get a good job that will allow you to buy a house’ are not true anymore. The economic systems and housing markets are not the same. The Coronavirus has illuminated these differences and frustrations. Not only in terms of the gap between the rich and the poor, but also racism and discrimination. Most of us have seen these escalate to serious conflicts on the social media. The younger generations are sceptical of authorities and their ability to fairly provide for all people. They are demanding change, and in many ways, they are making progress.
These types of grassroots movements can and are bringing swift and great change, whether we like it or not. This of course, never goes smoothly or quietly as people in privileged positions will not give their power away easily and agree to such changes. A struggle is always going to come, and with it, a high price to pay. This understating of social and political change through grassroots movement is something that we always cover with our Musalaha participants, and try to relate it to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
What is the message that we will communicate (especially for us older generation)? What is our role in the cry of young people for justice and peace? Are we going to listen? Are we going to try and understand? Together, older and younger generations, we need to start imagining a new way of addressing issues of injustice. A prophetic imagination that addresses the poor, weak, voiceless and marginalised. In Palestine/Israel and around the world. This prophetic imagination can transform a situation from dire hopelessness and immobilisation to a vision of hope and action. It allows for people to address their grievances and express a new perspective.
But such imagination should not stay in our minds and hearts. We need to act as agents of change. For if we do not act to see our imagination materialise, a different imagination will materialise. And this other imagination is bringing division, destruction and suffering. In every period of the world, there is a need for people with inspiration to fight the darkness and oppression in the world.
*The term ‘prophetic imagination’ was coined by Walter Brueggemann.
Musalaha Executive Director — Salim J. Munayer