Lazy, Anti-Social & Selfish?
So reads the title of a book I’m currently reading, given to me by my son Matt.
It’s very timely for me & has reminded me about some important lessons, some of which, I’m sad to admit, I’d forgotten!
Does the following sound familiar?
‘I see no hope for the future of our if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words … When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise (disrespectful) and impatient of restraint.’
I’ve heard similar statements more times than I wish to remember & have been guilty of similar accusations myself.
What stunned me was when I discovered that the statement above was written by the Greek poet Hesiod in the eighth century before Christ!!
If we study our daily news intake like The Sun, The Daily Mirror, most of the glossy magazines & journals, television we cannot help but be dismayed by the reports that we see & read: groups of hooded youths patrolling their turf, gang fights, muggings, drug & alcohol abuse in the under 20’s.
The picture we get is not positive or encouraging to say the least.
But taking a step back a long way in time to Hesiod’s statement, has the perception ever been any different.
The USA was disparaging of & deeply concerned that its youth being drafted into the armed forces to fight in the Second World War wouldn’t be up to the mark; the same was true for Korea & Vietnam.
In short, it is NOT new that we find it very difficult to speak positively of our young people in public forums.
I find this staggering as if the same kinds of accusations were made about other various minority groups, the country would be in uproar (& the lawyers would, as usual, be laughing all the way to the bank!).
Stoning our youth seems to be a national pastime, wherever we live & in almost any generation.
But is it justified?
In some cases, it’s a big fat ‘YES’ but these are a small minority that create news big enough to dominate the headlines. It’s a bit like doctors who find that around 10% of their patients account for 90% of the time they spend providing treatment.
Today, more than ever, our beloved media work on the principle that ‘bad news sells.’ And we, their audience are as much to blame as, if they had no market their papers & news would not sell. As humans we have become addicted to a diet of bad news: if we hear good news we’re cynical at best; completely disbelieving at worst.
We’re not good at seeing things in a balanced perspective, instead, preferring an ‘all or nothing’ response. It’s either ‘brilliant’ or it’s ‘no hope’. For our young people it’s a case of opportunity & challenges to be met. Of course they’ll get things wrong but at least they are trying.
We’re also told that the Church is irrelevant today which really pisses me off as most of the social & charitable work we continue was initiated & established through the church, for example, most of our UK football (soccer) teams were established by churches to meet the needs of local unemployment or lack of youth activities. This trend continues today, but like the good news of our youth, it is swamped by the sensational headlines: Priests exposed for sexual abuse; disorder in a church’s finances hit the headlines; what the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury thinks about social issues … These have their place & clearly need to be investigated, BUT IT SEEMS TO BE ALL WE HEAR IN THE MEDIA. As such we build up false stereotypes & people often take what we read as ‘gospel’ without delving into the facts (if they’re available).
But the truth is, THERE IS A LOT OF GREAT STUFF HAPPENING INSPIRED & DRIVEN BY YOUNG PEOPLE OF TODAY & a great deal of that is being initiated in young people who are inspired to make a difference & demonstrate the God they follow.
One simple example is how a group of young people have been inspired by one girl from a well-to-do middle-class background, choosing to spend time working in Uganda, returning home fired-up by the contrast between her own situation & the people she visited AND by their joy & thankfulness when they had so little compared to the discontent & unhappiness in her friends who had more physically & materially than most people will ever experience, in this country let alone abroad. That one girl shared her story, experiences & passion for the people of Uganda &, to cut a long story short, enabled 15 of her friends to undertake a similar visit. The outcome was establishment of a trust to raise money for schools, AIDS orphans, water supplies & much more; this work in ongoing & growing This wasn’t built by an adult; it was initiated by a girl in her teens who was motivated & compelled to do something about the injustice & inequality caused simply by where you are born (& over which you have no control).
This story can be replicated many times over across all types of youth groups, regardless of their background
Matthew, my own son recently returned from Tanzania, fired-up with a passion to make a continuing & ongoing difference there through what he can do here. Will he succeed? I sincerely hope so. My prayer is that we ‘older & wiser ones’ don’t pour water on the fire & discouragement on his zeal as we identify the reasons why it ‘may not work’. I’d much rather give him the chance (he is younger than me & has much more energy & drive than I do) whilst supporting him with the lessons I’ve learnt through my own life than stop him from trying.
After all, if we don’t try we’ll never know.
Lazy, anti-social & selfish? I don’t think so. And where this is a problem, rather than pointing the finger, criticising & maintaining the vicious cycle, perhaps we could seek to do something ourselves that changes their perception, self-image, sense of values & gives our young people chance to shine.
It’s happened before; it’s happening now; it can continue to happen!
If you want some real life examples, read the book.
Until next time …