Prince Mashele

Of Jub Jub, our youth and a worrying future

2010-03-15 13:00

In his acclaimed book, One-Dimensional Man (1964), Herbert Marcuse - a philosopher considered by global academia as the father of the new Left - writes nostalgically about pre-technological culture:

In the verse and prose of this pre-technological culture is the rhythm of those who wander or ride in the carriages, who have the time and the pleasure to think, contemplate, feel and narrate.

In the wake of Jub Jub's car racing tragedy, which painfully ended the lives of four innocent school children, we must raise serious questions about youth culture in our society today. Unfortunately, youth organisations that naturally should lead a discussion on this critical matter have disappointingly remained silent. Waiting for them to do it would be like waiting for the return of the Son of God. No mere mortal knows when this will happen.

Beyond our disappointing youth organisations, we must take it upon ourselves to ask: how has it come about for our youth to idolise such dangerous people as Jub Jub? What kind of demon has possessed young South Africans that they look up to people who should be the best examples of what not to be?

Truth be told, many among our youth have fallen prey to a self-destructive bling-bling culture that is paraded on television screens and newspaper pages almost daily. The one who drives the flashiest of cars is the most revered by our youth. He who drives the fastest of sport cars is he who inspires many among young South Africans. The one who dresses the shiniest of clothes is the most attractive to our youth. He who drinks the most expensive of alcohol is he who has many followers among young people today. The one who wears shoes with a sharp nose is the one who has a multitude of followers. He who has the highest number of girl friends is he who is hero-worshipped by many of our young people.

Few among our youth wish to become teachers to produce skills and mould sound minds for our nation. Very few among our youth today aspire to become distinguished professors in various fields of intellectual work. Fewer still want to become nurses to take care of the sick in society. The few who consider a career in politics see Julius Malema as their role model; in their lust for government tenders and their celebrity-desire to appear on television, even if they parade the worst form of mediocrity.

Melting into invisibility

There are those who may say that Jub Jub did what he did simply because he was goaded by the dangerous power of drugs and the mind-stirring force of alcohol. While this may be true, Jub Jub and his racing friend probably knew, in their drunkenness, that there would be many young people to whistle and ululate as the two would-be murderers flaunted the lethal power of their mobile toys. If their movie were to be replayed from the beginning, many of us would most probably be shocked to see that where Jub Jub and his friend came from, they had been cheered up by many young spectators.

Of course, those who whistled and ululated for those drunken terminators of four lives would not confess that they indeed ululated. Similarly, you would be very lucky to meet a white person today who would say, "I voted for the National Party, and benefited from apartheid". When something bad is exposed, it is customary for those who have participated in it quickly to melt into invisibility.

But how has it come about for our youth to idolise such dangerous people as Jub Jub? Is there something we could have done - or we must still do - to steer our young people into a better cultural space?

Those among us who are honest will admit that there is a culture of short-cuts that has engulfed our youth. More and more, young South Africans want the shorted way to a car, to a house, to alcohol, to women and to hedonism. Few among the youth want to work hard or to become productive adults who will make a name for themselves on the basis of creative inventions or intellectual contributions to society. If they study, many of them pursue the shortest academic course in order to pave the shortest route to conspicuous consumption.

On the basis of the prevailing youth culture, should we not be worried about the future of this beautiful country of ours? Do university students who ululate and clap hands when Julius Malema addresses them not communicate a worrying message about the kind of South Africa our children will live in?

Why is it that many of our youth do not wish to become great thinkers? Are they discouraged by the fear of the verse and prose of the pre-technological culture and the rhythm of those who wander or ride in carriages, who have the time to think, to contemplate, to feel and to narrate?

A point of no return

Ultimately, the construction of an ideal society will depend on whether or not we are able to find answers to these critical questions. We would be naïve to think that the desire for our society never to reproduce Jub Jub will come true simply on the basis of the yearning of our collective soul. We must urgently figure out how practically we will mould the collective mind of our children.

In the end, there is a key question we must answer: how do we prevent the Malemisation and Jub-Jubisation of our future society? If we think that our youth organisations will by themselves embark upon a search for answers in this regard, we will soon look back and see a society that has reached a point of no return.

We do not necessarily need to imagine a return to the pre-technological era, but it would be in the interest of South Africa's future to stimulate the interest of our children to think, to contemplate, to feel and indeed to narrate.

- Prince Mashele is Executive Director of the Centre for Politics and Research (www.politicsresearch.co.za), and a member of the Midrand Group.

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