Violence rocked Arusha town after the 2010 elections. Picture: File By ELSIE EYAKUZE Posted Saturday, February 25 2012 at 13:28 About two or three years into the Fourth Administration, Tanzanians started throwing rocks at politicians. The very first incidents were relatively mild, the odd stoning of a motorcade here and there and perhaps a bit of heckling at public rallies. Because the ruling class in Tanzania is not used to insubordination, nothing much came of it. Perhaps they thought that these were minor irritations that would solve themselves with time and disappear. The general public didn't seem to feel one way or another about it, except for incidents that involved the public humiliation of those accused of grand corruption. Those we generally cheered, with the effect that there are a number of men who cannot commit acts of public banking anymore lest they attract a lynch mob. And so we went about our business acting as though each year did not bring with it a worrying escalation in the number of incidents as well as an escalation in the level of violence during political conflict. Until the 2010 elections proved inescapably that young Tanzania is of an entirely different mindset than the preceding generations. Hordes of angry young men swarmed on the streets causing havoc and mayhem and breaking things that did not belong to them to prove to the world how hard-done by they felt. Electoral violence may be ‘par for the course' in modern democratic struggles but for mainland Tanzania, the scale and scope of upheaval in 2010 was a rude awakening. The clause in our social contract that supported non-violent protest is disappearing right before our eyes. The latest proof of this was the form of protest chosen by a number of students who failed their final secondary school exams recently. These few wrote personal letters to the state, their elders, their teachers and all forms of adult authority telling us exactly what they think of the mess we have made in vocabulary that would make a sailor blush. Another rude awakening for many Tanzanians: we might be used to failing students but we certainly aren't used to being insulted for it. Sadly I found myself siding against my natural peers- the angry youth - because I feel that we are on the verge of crossing a line somewhere. When righteous anger turns into a generalised, directionless vitriol, trouble is not far away. I am not sure why democracy and social change are becoming synonymous with violence, but they are. This is clearly an offering from the darker side of globalisation. Tanzanians learned how to "collar" thieves with rubber tyres and immolate them from South African footage, and now absorbent Tanzanian youth are trying on a variety of collective actions, many gleaned from abroad, some of them having no cultural affinity with our situation. The tricky question for any activist is which form of civil disobedience should one choose and how much disobedience to apply to any given situation. While it is easy to excuse youth for being hot-blooded and reckless when truly motivated, at the end of the day if youth are already in the business of creating the society they will inherit isn't it contradictory for them to demand fair treatement by increasingly foul means? Just as it is past time for our elders to let go of antiquated notions of power revolving around kleptocracy and paternalism, it is time for younger idealists to stop dreaming of revolutionary glories a la Che Guevarra. There is nothing fun or particularly smart about ending up dead or battered at the hands of the state unless you are literally fighting for your life. Besides which, it is actually civilians' job to remind the state that dialogue is preferable to violence for resolving differences in opinion, hardly the other way around. If we're moving into the age of information, perhaps our collective politics should try to keep up- especially those of the computing generation. If we're not careful, we might manage to change Tanzania but it will be debatable whether the change will be for the better. The reason it is worth raising these concerns now is that hand in hand with an escalation in violent conflict between Tanzanians and their government there there is a worrying trend in the forums of free expression that live online. Empty and not-so empty threats are not uncommon as more and more young men - why is it always the young men - are threatening to ‘do anything' to liberate themselves from the state's oppression. Hate speech is creeping up on us. Trouble is, we are standing on the brink of deepening our democracy significantly in the next three years. The question is whether we will take our inspiration from the Obama school of social change, or have we already bred a generation of Julius Malemas?