Rise of the slackoisie

2011-08-20 14:20

You’ve heard of the “bourgeoisie” – the French word for the middle class, who are “generally obsessed with materialism and attaining social respectability”. Now meet the “slackoisie”.

As the sidebar explains, the slackoisie is a somewhat derogatory term pinned on young professionals working in law, but it is increasingly being used to describe the attitude and behaviour of millennials, or Generation Y.

If you are a parent or employer of this generation, you’ll most probably be nodding in agreement.

However, on a recent trip to China, it dawned on me that this was not so much a millennial trait, but perhaps an accurate description of the work ethic of many South Africans.

If you’ve ever been to China, the first thing that strikes you is the vast number of people. Rough estimates peg the current population of China at 1.3 billion.

The global population is just under 7 billion. That’s a big slice of the global pie. You really understand the term “densely populated” when you visit China’s two main cities, Beijing and Shanghai, which have populations of 22 million and 23 million, respectively. Just these two cities alone equal the entire population of South Africa.

That’s mind-boggling. I now understand why those waif-like Chinese gymnasts dominate on global platforms like the Olympics, and why the concept of a Tiger Mum is not seen as an anomaly. To get to the top of your game in China – whether it is in the sports, the arts or in business – you have to fight millions of other people to get there.

I finally understand why Chinese students think it a tragedy when they “only” get 95% in an exam. It’s because there are literally thousands of others who will pip them to the post with that extra 5%.

 The harsh reality of fighting for those precious few places at university, or in the job market, is very real. The hunger to succeed is very tangible.

Energised, inspired and motivated, I returned home.

For a while, I felt as if I had strayed into a parallel universe. As a third-generation South African, this was my first trip to these megacities, so it was as much a culture shock for me as it would have been for someone from rural KwaZulu-Natal visiting Kazakhstan.

One of the first newspaper headlines that greeted me was a story about a group of learners who started a protest and pelted their headmaster with stones because she locked them out of the school for being continually late.

The next story I read revolved around more protests and demands – this time from a university student council. One of the demands was to issue brand-name condoms on campus over free government ones. A parallel universe indeed.

Every week our newspapers are filled with doom and gloom stories of shoddy levels of education, rampant unemployment and bureaucratic inefficiency.

Our fighting spirit is channelled into strikes, rather than entrepreneurship. We have a nation that is starving, but ironically, not hungry.

Our only understanding of competition is “keeping up with the Khumalos”.

The term slackoisie fits comfortably on our shoulders like a shiny bespoke suit. If I were forced to choose between the bourgeoisie and the slackoisie, I’d have to go with the bourgeoisie – there is at least value in respectability.

Doing what’s right and proper conveys a healthy respect for the society we inhabit and without respect you can’t build a nation, let alone compete against others.

The slackoisie




Dictionary/noun: “A term coined by J Daniel Hull, author of the What About

Clients? blawg (law blog) and popularised by Scott H Greenfield, author of the

Simple Justice blawg.


refers to:


class of narcissistic young professionals, particularly attorneys (and usually

millennials), who believe that having a job is an entitlement, rather than a

privilege. They often complain about the work they have and are critical of long

hours and inadequate pay. They believe they are entitled to work/life balance,

that their opinions on any subject are inherently important and that whatever

benefits they enjoy are inadequate. The slackoisie are more interested in having

a place to go in the morning and spending money than committing themselves to

their work.

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Visit fluxtrends.com

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