Anne deBondt is an Anglo-American Critic, Cynic and Feminist who "pulls few punches" in her outspoken reviews and observations of Life in in between the Isle of Ely and the Heaths of Newmarket including Mildenhall and Lakenheath...
HAPPY NEW YEAR - 2005
It doesn’t require the intelligence of a brain surgeon or a NASA scientist to figure out that this latest open-all-hours proposal for pubs and drinking establishments will cause nothing but trouble.
Hell, already pint glasses are to be replaced with unbreakable plastic containers in some of Britain's most violent pubs so that they cannot be smashed and used as deadly weapons during alcohol-fuelled brawls. And that’s before the happy hour is extended to a happy day!
But more serious is the effect this scheme could have on young adults and teens. It’s bad enough that there’s not much in the way of affordable, challenging or constructive activities available to them. It’s bad enough that there isn’t more government money to subsidise youth groups so that they’re offered more than a pool table and a place to hang out.
Don’t get me wrong, I think youth clubs can be a good thing. But somewhere along the line there seems to be a difference of opinion between the youth leaders and the youths as to what constitutes a good time because I see more kids hanging out around bus shelters, public dust bins and street corners than I do in the local village halls where youth groups meet. So somewhere along the line the message isn’t being conveyed that there are better things to do than drink, hurl abuse (and cans) at passers-by, create a disturbance and generally become a pain in the backside for surrounding residences. And before youth club leaders from across the way begin attacking me for my less than favourable assessment, first satisfy me that your open door policy is as attractive to youths as the open doors of a pub will be!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent it’s that left to their own devices, kids don’t have much of an imagination. They tend to create a rut for themselves unless they are given a positive and practical influence.
Let me give you an example …
For boys too young to be sent to an adult jail yet too old for a juvenile detention centre, there is a privately owned organisation in America that detains young criminals for specified terms just as though they had been sent to an official prison. However, the difference is that instead of being locked up in a cell for countless hours a day, these boys are expected to perform backbreaking tasks to benefit the enterprise from dawn until dusk.
One such case in point is a rancher who sells the wild horses he catches and then tames them employing the detainees as ranch hands. Each youth is assigned a horse to break and tend to so that it can be sold and a profit made for the establishment. The boys are made to groom, feed and clean up after their allocated horse before they’re allowed to so much as wipe the sleep from their eyes. Every day they carry out duties overseen by ex military supervisors. From blistered hands to bruised bodies, these boys work until they drop.
To start with their cocky attitudes and disinterest is dealt with by reprimands and loss of privileges – if you can call clean drinking water and a cigarette break a privilege. But eventually they are beaten down by an unsympathetic work load. The more they shirk their responsibilities, the more they are expected to do. They are put into units and assigned tasks that left unfulfilled or badly carried out, results in the entire group being penalised, regardless of who actually failed the duty. Eventually they learn to work together or suffer extreme hardships. It’s a long journey but everyone gets there eventually because there are no shortcuts and no alternatives.
One of the first opening statements made to the boys by an ex military supervisor is this: “Your mammas don’t want you, your daddies don’t want you, and society doesn’t want you … but what should scare the hell out of you is that I do want you!”
It’s at about this moment that the boys start to realise that jail might have been an easier option.
Yet, despite the initial wisecracking, destructive, selfish behaviour displayed upon admittance, each and every one of these boys become men before they leave. By the end of every confinement their disrespect has turned into noticeable respect. Their mouthy quips become considerate responses to orders and always include the word Sir. They’ve attained self-pride and purpose and it shows. And at no time were they ever put first, given special treatment or pampered in any way. Their challenge was to finally realise that there’s more to life than their own egos and tantrums – because there are no shortcuts and no alternatives.
I’m not suggesting that all kids need to get out and catch wild horses, nor am I proposing that youths should be whipped into submission. But if they had something other than non-stop alcohol, unorganised spare time and a serious lack of funding, coupled with a hands off attitude because we pretend that they need to be coddled and treated like fragile glass, perhaps they wouldn’t be so confused.
How can we expect young men and women to become responsible, self-respecting adults when we won’t let anyone show then how?
In the good ole days not only did our parents take a firm hand, society took one too. Many a time I was caught misbehaving by someone other than my parents. And not only did I get a clip round the ear from that person, I got another one when I got home as well! And no one sued anyone for child abuse. From my parents to the teachers to the local grocer, I was raised to be considerate and polite … or else – and because there was no shortcuts and no alternatives!
If we want tomorrow’s generation to amount to anything we have to set an example. We need to concentrate more on showing our children how to use their own initiative not just expect them to make do with 24/7 pubs and a bus shelter for refuge. The fact that the government isn’t willing to afford a constructive alternative to juvenile crime doesn’t mean we parents can’t. In fact it means that we have to because there are no shortcuts and no alternatives.