Are You Izikhothane?
June 5, 2014 • By Ed Wrather
Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind. - Ecclesiastes 4:4-6.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. - Galatians 5:19-21a.
There is a somewhat strange youth subculture in South Africa called Izikhothane. It basically means something like, “brag it.” Young people gather together, which is not that unusual, but what they do is…weird! When they meet up with other Izikhothane, they have encounters with other similar groups. No, they don’t pull out their guns, and switchblades and start shooting and cutting. No, they have dance-offs! While they are dancing the night away, they burn cash, spill alcohol and expensive food out on the street, tear up their clothes, and break cellphones. One of the Izikhothane explains, “To be Izikhothane, you have to be like us. Buy expensive clothes, booze, fame, girls, driving, spending. And when you are dressed in Italian clothing it shows that you’re smart.” It appears that they do what they do to show off as in they have more money, clothes, alcohol, and food than anyone else. The point is to demonstrate how much they have, so much, that they can burn it. Strangely enough, most of these gang members do not have wealthy parents. Most of the Izikhothane come from working class families. One of the mothers of an Izikhothane said, “They tear up their clothes and money, forgetting that we are poor and struggle for money. What the he_l is this Izikhothane business?” In 2012, the gangs gained much attention when one of the members committed suicide because he was unable to keep up with the others. Cedrain Wambe, who has researched the Izikhothane, “Young people tell me they’re prepared to do anything, including hitting their parents to get money.” (Vocativ, VICE, France24 05.26.14)
When I read about the Izikhothane, I was wondering how could anyone just burn up money and other expensive stuff to get some attention? The truth is that it is an extreme form of what adults across the world do to a lesser degree. It is called “Keeping up with the Joneses (Insert any name here.).” Our neighbor buys a new car, and then we buy a new car so we will still be on the same social level with our neighbor. Our friends buy a new house, that is bigger and better, and we feel like we have to buy a bigger and better house to keep up with them. Our friends and neighbors have parties and drink a lot of expensive alcohol and so we have a drunken party too. A woman’s best friend buys a purse that costs a few thousand dollars, and she thinks she has to do that too. A man’s best friend buys an expensive suit or some new toys and he tries to keep up. Is this so different from just taking money and burning it? A well-known member of a Iaikhothane gang, She-Ra, says, “People must see that when you walk out you are worth thousands. I can’t be caught wearing sneakers and jeans. That would be the joke of the year. People admire me. Everywhere I go, people scream, ‘She-Ra! She-Ra!’ I love dressing up in expensive clothes so that’s why people know I’m Izikhothane.”
It is a “selfish ambition” to spend money to make yourself look better in the eyes of the world. When you envy your neighbor and all that he has, Ecclesiastes says this is “vanity.” Trying to keep up with the Jones (insert any name here) family, trying to gain attention by what you have and by what you spend is like “grasping for the wind” and the result is similar to consuming your own flesh. The better course, and use of your efforts in life is summed up by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” Honoring and obeying your Creator, this alone, will provide you with happiness and fruitfulness on earth and beyond in eternity.