I wrote this blog before the weekend when things escalated
But on reflection I still think Socrates was wrong!
Not this one!
This week the nights were lighter longer, the temperatures rose, and lockdown rules started being relaxed. Almost immediately our newspapers, TV screens and social media were filled with images of unruly teenagers making a noise, fighting each other and leaving masses of litter in their wake.
What has happened to the youth? It reminded me of this quotation…
“Children; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room, they contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers. Children are now tyrants.”
I can see heads nodding in agreement, I can hear voices everywhere saying never have truer words been said. So, it might surprise you that the quotation wasn’t directly related to this week’s events.
No, it’s actually attributed to the philosopher Socrates who lived in Athens around 400 BC.
One of those young people in Socrates day included his pupil Plato. Plato is still revered as being one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived. Plato went on to teach Aristotle who wrote about everything from economics to physics and zoology!!
Clever man though Socrates obviously was, maybe he got somethings wrong…maybe we are also in danger of making the same mistakes today.
It has been sickening to see the strewn rubbish and I make no excuses for the people who left it there but who’s fault is it that this is happening. The kids themselves have to take responsibility but who told them that this behaviour is acceptable, or maybe who ever told them that it’s not!!
I truly believe that my generation are the most blessed group of people who have ever lived. We were brought into the world by doctors and nurses working for the National Health Service. We had free education and no requirement to go to fight in a war unless we chose to join the armed forces.
We were able to afford to buy our own houses, our social security system provided for us when we lost our jobs, our pensions will look after us into old age and we had the freedom to travel right across Europe to visit countries that our parents had fought to liberate.
If our children aren’t any better than the kids in Socrates day then either we didn’t get it right or maybe we need to look at things in a ‘wiser’ way than even Socrates.
When it comes to young people I think Aristotle had a better understanding than his esteemed elder. He said…
Young People have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations…they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.
We have all suffered in this pandemic. We have lost loved ones; we have missed friends and family, and many of us have had their lives turned upside down.
But who has made the greatest sacrifice?
Whilst many have shielded or self-isolated for endless months they were asked to do so for their own protection or to protect their nearest and dearest. We were often told that the really vulnerable members of society were the old and those with underlying health issues.
Kids and teenagers were thought to be better physically equipped to handle COVID 19. Maybe they didn’t catch it quite so easily, if they did they didn’t seem to get quite so ill. But they could pass the virus on to those less able to fight it and so they were forced into lockdown with everyone else.
If you are of an age, do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? How being with your friends in school and out of school was the best thing.
Now think about how it was last year with all that brilliant weather we had? In my day we would have been playing football from dawn til dusk and chatting up girls and listening to records in our friends bedrooms and, and, and… and they weren’t able to do any of that.
Maybe you remember those later school years of studying, revising for exams and planning to go to university or start an apprenticeship; or what about the University experience? The freedom of being away from home, staying up until the dawn and talking philosophy and religion with the best friends you had ever had in your life.
Last year students had that experience taken from them as they still ran up huge debts spending their time working online whilst restricted to barracks.
So, here’s what I’m thinking. Maybe we should cut our youth a little slack if they want to party as the walls come down.
But there’s no excuse for the violence and the rubbish I hear you say.
I absolutely agree but 2 things come to mind.
Firstly, where did those who left their rubbish at beauty spots learn that habit.
As Aristotle said…
Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.
Did the parents of these kids tell them that the only thing you leave on a beach are footprints? That if you brought it, you take it home with you. Also, I keep on saying kids but some of the beaches strewn with rubbish have often been populated by people who really are really old enough to know better.
This is what we saw online
Secondly, it is amazing how selective the media is. Many of us saw the shocking scenes outside the Senedd. As we liked or retweeted those posts we amplified the noise that said kids are bad. What we didn’t see quite so often were the young workers who went there the next day to clear everything up.
It’s not only those whose job is clearing up rubbish. Every morning here in Swansea people volunteer to grab a rubbish bag and walk up and down the beaches along our bay collecting the stuff discarded by the thoughtless ones.
Let us amplify the good, let us point out that the behaviour we have seen is not acceptable but let us guide those who are making mistakes.
But there is something deeper here that makes me even more concerned, if that’s possible, than dirty beaches.
Climate change, micro plastics in the sea, the state of our environment has never been given as much publicity than it is right now. If people know all that and still act this way what else are they completely ignoring. What about other ‘accepted’ norms in politics or relationships or community relationships. Perhaps we have made personal ‘freedom’ an excuse to do exactly what I want, and I don’t care how that affects anyone else.
We of that golden generation who had everything handed to us on a plate have a responsibility to the next generations to understand and also to try our best to help them.
If we don’t, I think we lose the right to just stand back and criticise in the exact same way Socrates did nearly 2500 years ago.
And we need to learn fast. As that ‘youngster’ Aristotle also said…
Fate of empires depends on the education of youth.