Monday, October 7, 2013


This one is all about children and childhood. I suppose the general treatment meted out to kids does change with various societies and at various times, the Victorian ethic, spare the rod and spoil the child – for example. And this principle held good until fairly recently when it became not only out of fashion but illegal. Some years ago in Edinburgh a French tourist was seen to give his errant son an admonishing slap, was reported by someone, arrested and charged with assault.
Yet, even in the wild, if a cub tends to get a bit too boisterous it’s likely to receive a nip or a cuff around the ear to maintain a bit of discipline.
Inevitably things have changed dramatically since I was a child; since I was a youth. In those days one was allowed to be a child. Life was much simpler then. How truly primitive but how enjoyable and even with what excitement were the games we played both indoors and out. I don’t remember ever being bored. We made our entertainment. We weren’t closeted by fearful parents but had freedom to roam and I remember only one case of paedophilia and that was by a British soldier passing through during the war. One never heard of any incident involving an attack by a pupil on a teacher, a phenomenon that seems to be endemic these days. The cane of course was still in use but rarely used, if it was it was usually on the open hands. However its very presence ensured a certain amount of discipline, something that seems to be entirely lacking now, as does any sense of respect for anything by so many of the young. I remember some years back waiting to cross a road at a pedestrian crossing and a boy of about twelve stepped out in front of a speeding car that obviously was not going to stop. I warned him of it, "Look out!" and his response? ‘Fuck off!’ His face contorted with rage. My thoughts after that could hardly be called magnanimous. ‘Die you little shit,’ I thought, ‘and make the world a cleaner place.’
As kids we were social animals. We had friends we could actually talk to, sped time with,  we went to parties, to dances, we went camping, we had sport, we listened to the radio, we read books. We did not sit glued to a computer, a mobile phone, an I-pad or anything like. Nowadays children as young as five or six are given a mobile phone. With that in hand social graces and intercourse tend to fly out the window.
So what is it like to be a kid today? We know all about single mothers and absent fathers. We know all about abuse in the home. We know all about gangs, gangs with knives they’re only too ready to use. There has always been bullying of course but now cyber bullying is added, evidently so distressing that in some cases it leads to suicide.
On Fridays we usually buy the Daily Mail. I might have said this before, it is to replace the Sunday Times we used to get and gave up when the culture section disappeared. The Mail on Friday has book reviews, cinema and theatre reviews but doesn’t get published in Greece in the winter. No British holiday makers to make it worthwhile. But let’s see what stories involving children are in last week’s paper
We all know about the spoilt Cruise brat the worth of whose fabulous wardrobe would feed Somalia for a year but what about ordinary everyday families?
An alcoholic cannabis smoking mum is guilty of starving her son age four to death. Five other children between five and thirteen years of age were found in soiled nappies crawling through piles of filth knee high in every room in the house. There was even cat faces in the bath tub.
Internet fears over the child iPad boom. The number of children using tablet computers triples in a year, 42 percent including children as young as three. The worry is that parents have not been able to keep up with their children’s technology skills and are unable to protect them from danger.
Catholic school bans bearded Muslim boys. Not really surprising. What is surprising is the boys are thirteen and have beards? Maybe kids are just maturing earlier these days.
America has witnessed a number of shootings in schools; here is a story from England. A schoolboy plotting to carry out a new Columbine school massacre asked his teacher which gun he would be prefer to be shot with… He plotted to bomb schools, Mosques and council buildings and police found bombs, knives and guns in his home.
Again, again, and again, will they never learn? A boy advertised his birthday party on Facebook, result? Hundreds of teenagers turned up to trash the parental home and turn the whole street into a mess with empty beer bottles, vomit and piss. In the house a skylight was broken, ornaments and other property stolen, carpets and furnishing spattered with drink and vomit. I wonder what the parents of these sons and daughters think of their offspring, that is if they even know or care. Once upon a time they were known as hooligans or vandals. That obviously no longer applies either. How often we find a parent protecting and making excuses for its little vandal when it should be chastising it. No, the lout’s bad behaviour is always the other person’s fault.
Finally pushy mums and dads including A-list celebs who put their kids through hell in reality shows. According to those present at a recording one little girl cried throughout most of the show, wanted to stay backstage, hated being in the limelight and suffered terribly from stage fright. There’s a difference between performing from behind the couch for guests in the drawing room to appearing in front of the cameras to an audience of millions. Of course there are kids who revel being in the limelight as is witnessed by the universal talent shows but these are children of sometimes truly amazing talent: instrumentalists, singers, dancers, not your ordinary sons and daughters of celebs. And when these ultra-talented kids are universally praised to the skies, what does it do to an ego that later in life could so easily be bruised?
Whichever way you look at it, childhood has always been a period of pitfalls one way or another, but today it's a period of too many..

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