South African Youth Culture: Marred by Existentialism

Posted by Flux on 

11 July 2012

What’s trending now?

Khaya Dlanga’s sobering but much-needed presentation concerning “Youth Culture in South Africa” bluntly exposed the tip of an iceberg which threatens to sink the very foundation of the young generation’s optimism. The iceberg’s name is ‘Existentialism’; created by inadequate education, a turbulent political context and, as a result, an upsurge of anger. In the absurdist climate which our country finds itself, it seems like today’s youth are rightly deserving of the title “The (Truly) Lost Generation”. But who are they waiting for? Godot? God? Zuma?  Whoever that saviour may be, Khaya Dlanga places importance on being pro-active, saying that “everyone should be their own leader “sparking a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak future of the South African youth.

Why is it important?
Adding insult to injury, Khaya Dlanga notices this new wave of disillusionment silently nods to an era before ours whereby education for the ‘bantu’, according to the late Hendrik Verwoerd , amounted to this:

“There is no place for the Bantu in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour…What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot be used in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.”(Emphasis mine)
Today, the pass rate is set at a percentage less than half; in the 30% – 40% range which is considered by most “good enough”. Verwoerd, too, thought it was “good enough”. This shows a tragic sameness from the acts of pre-1994 and the alleged “new” South Africa which replenishes the existential crisis the youth seem to be facing.  Awareness of this trend is important as it halts and hopefully spurs a regression in a phenomenon that threatens to fully consume the youth, not only motivating them to being pro-active but pleading with government to realise the bubbling alienation and put projects in place to challenge it.

What’s the butterfly effect?

Existentialism brings about questions of self-identity and Khaya Dlanga notices how impressionable the youth are becoming.  He goes on to say that “we live in an era where it is very easy to be famous whether it’s wanting to be the next Live presenter or Idol; even though they have no talent. It’s an easy way to set yourself apart but do they really want to be famous or are they looking for meaning?”. Television shows like Top Shayela and ostentatiously rich ‘zalebrities’ show the youth the massive rift between them which casts them into further feelings of depression, longing and hopelessness. Khaya believes the only way to fight this is by creating a vision as “it seems we don’t have one as of yet”.  We must also improve our education so that the youth strive for more than money, cars and girls/boys – superficial success.

Seamlessly in sync with this observation by Khaya Dlanga,  Mail & Guardian’s Mpho Moshe Matheolane points out the media’s toll on South African youth:

These youngsters burn and destroy their expensive clothing, shoes, alcohol and food – all in an attempt to outdo one another. Though labeled by media as a new practice, this pseudo-subculture presents and manifests itself through tragic performative guises that have become prevalent among the township youth of Johannesburg.

Some have argued that this practice of izikhothane is merely a way for these youth to express themselves, but regardless of the logic, if any, the strong intimation of nihilism cannot be denied. This somewhat bewildering display is what happens when escapist ambitions far outweigh the reality within which they are set.

The pioneers

The pioneers of Existentialism, Khaya points out frankly, are the apparent leaders of our country which is inclusive of government, office-bearers and the people we idolise for all the wrong reasons. Leaving us with looming hope, Khaya states “leadership is never going to come from our politicians. We don’t have a vision. We must create one. That’s why we are constantly fighting in this country. We need to tell the youth that they exist for a reason and that starts with education”.

The global hot spots

The existentialism that has gripped our nation cannot be seen as originating from a single place as it exists from the depths of the Transkei to the heights of the Transvaal; it is omnipresent and will continue to be until a plan is made to improve education which, by the way, might be sooner than we think as Zuma explores cabinet reshuffling, plans for massive industrialism and, most importantly, the improvement of the quality of education.

The wait for Godot will, hopefully, be soon discontinued.

By: Thebe Magugu


About Thebe

Thebe is an aspiring fashion designer, photographer and writer.

Thebe was part of the 2012 Flux Trend Review innovating with Samsung, Social Media Monitoring Team in partnership with LISOF, led by Trend Analysis lecturer Loren Phillips (@lorenphillips)

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