This morning Sam Zulu woke up – barely – just on time to get into the shower and make it to the first lecture of the year. This is university, so forget breakfast… Along with all the other important things in life. It’s time to get with the programming… Oops, I mean the program.
And now there he is, in a lecture room of some ninety odd students. He’s unsure if it’s this full due to the excitement of the first day, or if this will be the trend that makes him realise the difficulty and importance of this particular module. It’s Labour Law in the third year level of the degree, he’s made it this far – he can’t believe it.
That afternoon at the end of his classes, he’s trying to read through a case recommended in one of his lectures. Thirty minutes into the reading, the words just seem to bounce around off the inside of his skull. The information seems to refuse to integrate into his brain, “Damn!”
And so he sits, leaning back onto his black plastic chair, made for zero comfort. He can’t help but get lost in thought, remembering his classmates and how each of them seemed to be coping quite well with their situation. He wonders, am I the only one who feels like I can’t just live this life of constant information and learning? And if this is so hard now, how’s it going to be if I do eventually get this degree and have to do this for a pay check and a living?
“But I’ve made it this far, so that surely means I’m capable. Maybe it even means this could be my calling, my purpose… But it surely doesn’t feel like it.”
And maybe that’s enough motivation for Sam to carry on, just buckle down and do the stuff. But maybe the truer reason to continue is the fact that he can’t seem to think about what alternative life he could live outside of his degree and the career it should give birth to.
“I want to love and be loved. I want friendships and shoulders to cry on. I surely don’t miss high school, but maybe I miss those days where all I needed was some colouring paper and a crayon.” he thinks to himself. “but surely that’s not what life is about. I guess I just have to actively seek this thing called maturity, whatever it is.”
But what is maturity? Sam already gave up the mindset of drinking every weekend, chasing girls and all the thrills that he grew up seeing on the TV happening in Beverley Hills. Last year he tried the church to help him know what it is to be human. He started giving to charity, going out to play with disadvantaged children and feeding the homeless. But he doesn’t feel any more mature, because inside he still has those urges that we so often associate with youth and hormonal drive.
“Damn! I can’t believe how much I wish I was a robot like the other students in my class? Where did I go wrong? Did I misinterpret the freedom that Mandela and the Heroes fought for? Was it not a freedom of self determination and the regaining of the will to do with life something that each individual would find fulfilling and right?”
Seems like bad timing to be asking such questions. The opportunity to study law after High school had always seemed like the freedom that Sam wanted. He was surely convinced that this was the case, after the restriction of quality education for the black population in South Africa back in Apartheid, this seemed like the victory that he was walking into – taking on the baton and playing his role in building a new South Africa where a strong black working class was needed to rebuild a nation and fly the flag high up in the international stage as the utopia of peace and forgiveness, the rejection of racial division and the model of integration.
But now, maybe it’s true what Shakespeare said, when he referred to Othello as, “The Moor… Who is good for nothing but passion…”
But what’s even worse is the view that black people are lazy complainers… Sam would hate to be the example to confirm that belief to be true. He really wanted to prove the opposite, but now defeat seems to be a cloud in the sky, and rain is inevitable.
Or maybe Shakespeare had a point. Sam’s problems might be arising from his passions, maybe he’d find the world less heavy if he had been doing something to harness the positives. See, at the end of Apartheid, studying was the cherry on top that was being kept away from the black population. When they got the chance to get it, they took it gladly with both hands.
But still, Africa remains a Continent of the third world. The freedom that was fought for, maybe it was a different kind of freedom. Yes it was self determination, yet you find Africans trying and failing to strive in the Western model. And that’s probably the problem, it’s a western model.
But then again, we come to Sam’s issue of not having an alternative way of living a fulfilling life. School, School, and work is all that these kids are encouraged to do. The world and Africa especially is crying out for a brilliant mind or two that will break the system and open the gates to a new generation.
I think the signs are clear that the current system is not working. Just look at the increasing rates of suicide. I watched an episode of the series called A million little things, one of the characters was reflecting on the fact that he had a beautiful wife who loved him, had a well paying and secure job that anyone would wish for, and he had a great group of friends to watch his favorite sports and share some drinks with… Yet he still felt a hole so deep that he considered taking his own life.
And as for Sam, well he’s just going to carry on. Every day, you can expect him to do it all over again. Won’t be long until he turns to some substance to help him get through the angst… Let’s just hope he doesn’t get too hooked and end up with his name engraved to a tombstone too soon. End.