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Nothing to do, nowhere to go

Saadia Iqbal's picture

The other day I saw this movie called Slackistan. Set in Islamabad, Pakistan, it follows the lives of a group of young people who have a serious lack of direction and motivation. They spend most of their time driving aimlessly around the city, partying, or getting depressed about this lifestyle. 

It brought memories of my own days growing up in Islamabad—or, as the movie’s protagonist calls it: “the city that always sleeps.” Don’t get me wrong—I love it there. The city is surrounded by beautiful hills and it’s clean, green and peaceful. But life there is hardly aflame with excitement and adventure. Back when I lived there, the biggest entertainment was going to the market or making prank phone calls with friends from each other’s houses (ah, those pre-caller id days...). We had one and a half TV channels (I’m not kidding—one of them only aired 7 pm onward), one movie theater (now gone), few sport and recreation centers, and cultural events like plays, poetry readings, etc. were few and far between. For a bookworm like me, the only saving grace was the surprisingly large number of bookstores scattered around town. Visitors from bigger cities, like Karachi and Lahore would sneer and pronounce Islamabad a “village.” Not what you’d expect for a capital city, right?

Watching the film, I realized that youth living there today are way savvier, no doubt because of the explosion of Internet, satellite TV, cell phones, etc. that has happened since. But they seem even more bored than we were. Could it be that the city is somehow conducive to misspent youth? That seems too easy a scapegoat. So what’s going on here? Can unmotivated, idle youth really blame their environment? Or is it up to them to get their acts together? And why is it so hard for them to do that, especially if you consider the fact that the film looks at a small group of very privileged kids, who have every opportunity to be creative and motivated.

Granted, with their perfect English and latest Blackberries, these kids are certainly not representative of a country where 60% of the population lives on less than $2 per day. But a Q&A session with the director following the movie raised a few interesting points. He pointed out that while this group might comprise only a tiny percentage of the country as a whole, its money and access to education and power means that it is also the group that will eventually run the country. So, if they’re mostly a bunch of slackers, there is reason to be concerned. He also noted that “inertia” exists amongst all young people across the country, whether they’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate; it’s just the type of inertia that varies.

Anyway, it’s a good movie, with plenty of laughs, so check it out if you get the chance. And let us know if it strikes a chord with you. An interesting number of people with whom I discussed it, said that this phenomenon of “slacker youth” exists in their countries too, whether Spain, the UK or the UAE. 

What about youth in your country; what is life like for them? What do they spend their time doing? Are many of them bored and unmotivated, and if so, why? Share your thoughts on this issue! 


Submitted by Nahla B. on
Wow! Saadia, looks like this is an interesting movie (i need to watch it!:))..and i also didn't know Pakistan is home to such terrific young actors! unfortunately, the "slacker youth" phenomenon does exist in Morocco as well! I had "slacker" classmates when i was in college and even in high school. The problem with "slacker youth" in Morocco is they got "almost" everything to enjoy their life and make something fruitful from it, but they don't have enough motivation or interest to make this effort. They spend their time networking via Facebook or MSN messenger, partying and showing-off. "Serious" things like education looks too boring for them.. i think what these young people need is just to get focused on their own lives and be challenged in someway through any form of positive or negative change that can be a source of motivation for these youths. Parents and friends can also play a positive role in guiding "slacker youth" toward what they really need and help them "fight" their idleness. Taking this phenomenon into account, it becomes very hard to imagine or expect "slacker youth" to become tomorrow's leaders or actors of change in their country...

Hi Nahla, thanks for your comment. Looks like this really is a universal phenomenon. I agree that parents and friends can have an influence, and also think that schools can play a big role, by offering a wide range of interesting extra-curricular activities that can help students develop new interests and skills. I remember my sister wanted to learn karate, but back then there was no place where girls could do that in the city, so she ended up buying books and trying to teach herself, which, as you can imagine, was a bit of a disaster...that's just one example. But I think young people can have so much drive and creativity, when given the right opportunities and options.