Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle - Khalil Jibran
Youth are usually said to be the persons of age group 15-24 years of a given population but the National Youth Policy (NYP) 2003, of India defines youth as the persons of age group of 13-35 years. It is socio-cultural and simultaneously a statistical category and youth culture is an identifiable sub-social system of a larger social system. Youth have developed their own sub-culture (a distinctive culture that shares many elements of mainstream culture but maintains its own customs, values, norms and lifestyles) called youth culture.
Youth have developed their own distinctive social identity which is more clearly differentiated from that of their parents. Three general features distinguish youth culture mainly.
1. It is a culture of leisure rather than work.
2. Social relations are organised round the peer group rather than families or individual friends.
3. Youth groups are particularly interested in “style”, which means an interest in external markers such as the use of distinctive language forms, taste in music and clothes, and the adoption of particular leisure pursuits or a concern with personal appearance.
As per sociological observations, a duality is now witnessed in youth personalities especially in India. In the morning they would go to mosque or accompany their mother to temple, in the afternoon they will be dating with friends, at evening they will return home so innocent and befool the rest of the family, and at night they would again skip to watch movies. It is so confusing to argue whether youths are going deviant or not.
Round the globe there is a multiplicity of youth cultures based on social class, status, gender identity, geographical location, etc. However talking of youth culture of our university it may not be apt to talk of multiplicity of youth cultures over here. We have here no doubt the diversity of backgrounds like differentiated social class, gender, ethnicity, locations, etc. Despite all this the youth culture of this university is almost one. Expert participant and non-participant observations have revealed that the youth have consciously or unconsciously developed their own culture which is quite different from the culture of their parents and families. Despite diverse backgrounds youth in university have many habits in common like food culture, dress pattern, working pattern, recreation and entertainment pattern, etc.
But as far as the eye of social experts on the campus youth is concerned, they (youth) are a bit different from the general domain of youth culture.
The manifestations of distinctive youth culture at university campuses are more leisure, style conscious attitude, high concern of personal appearance, fast imitation, etc. Universities seem to have turned into modelling institutions. More attachment to peers and colleagues gives rise to a distinctive mental and social setup of youth. It has made youth vulnerable to the new evils of modernity.
Our youth culture is no doubt the culture of leisure. Both male and female students like to spend a lot of time in gossiping, chitchat, loitering, enjoyment of music, mobile playing, etc. Social relations are organised round the peer group. Batch mates develop friendship and even romantic love affairs which most often even end in marriages. Little consideration is given to individual friends who are not from the campus. Especially the campus youth culture is manifested in the form of group formation what you may call “group-i-sation”. Youth sit, walk, talk, eat and spend time of course with chosen colleagues and friends. This is also true that the campus youth are more interested in style like figure conscious, more after body centred commodities, internet addiction, use of distinctive language forms usually an amalgam of Urdu-English or Hindi- English playing with cell phones, long time phone conversations, strange music tastes and a lot amount of idle gossiping. Also cafeteria and canteen mania is the budding trend, and spending on eatables and sharing with friends is the craze.
There are a number of reasons of this youth culture on campuses. The most important are the rise in disposable income available to the students, easy flow of pocket money and money got from other educational expenditures drawn from parents and lengthening of the period of childhood into adulthood, caused by a greater involvement in education up to the age of 27 or even above. Second, the societies in transition which till recent past were not so exposed to the modern world, now due to globalisation, higher education, better exposure to outer world, etc., the cocoon burst and youth were immediately and highly vulnerable to every new style, fashion, practices, etc., and they did everything just to look modern, up to date. Cultural imitation also played its part. Thirdly, identity and personality crises give rise to the adoption and imitations of new styles. Students try to be the centre of concern. They feel lack of recognition and identity in the existing environment so they imitate every damn thing just to make others feel they are not different, low cultured, backward, e.g., rural-urban concern, racial or ethnic concern, etc.
However a functional aspect of our youth culture is that rural-urban differences and identities, regional images, status grin and its staunch consciousness, etc. is on a declining trend. However a pathetic reality and a doom spelling and career destroying practice of drug addiction and some other deviant tendencies have alarmingly crept in our youth culture which is enough to destroy its moral conscience and make it nothing but a deviant sub-culture.
Campus youth are between the devil and the deep sea. Confrontations of youth with the traditional value system, their limitations and handicap to adhere to the principal of continuity and change, identity crises, hollow and negative stereotyping about others, blind imitation of other cultures, volatile attitude, brisk response to new social phenomenon, misunderstanding modernity and development and ignoring contexuality of phenomenon are revolving round the moon of the campus youth culture, which if not realised and noticed at the right time by every youth of the campus may destroy its basic moral foundation and our traditional and cultural ethos in general.
Philosopher poet and sociologist of the East, Allama Iqbal says:“Tere Sufay Hain Afrangi, Tere Kaaleen Irani / Lahoo Mujko Rulati Hai Jawanun Ki Tanasani”.
(Which means, you are developed in terms of material culture but ease loving of youth wrings my heart and makes me cry and feel pathetic). The contemporary place of youth in our societies and cultures and amidst their changing values, aspirations and perceptions, attitudes and needs has shaped up a new youth culture which is purely imitative, less creative, devoid of opinion building, full of fast food culture, conspicuous consumption, style consciousness, craze of romantic love and what not. Come let us all introspect what we were supposed to do and what actually we are committing.
[Syed Adfar Rashid Shah is doctoral scholar of Sociology in Jamia Millia Islamia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]