Thursday, February 15, 2007

Growing Pains

There have been some pretty major headlines in the 48 hours, all involving kids. Firstly there was the publication of the major Unicef report which found that British children and youth fare worst amongst the OECD 'developed' nations against a wide range of quality-of-life indicators - they feel unloved, stressed, demotivated and are inured to the negative effects of casual sex and alcohol / drug abuse. Hot on its heels came the news of the third teenage gun homicide in the space of a fortnight in a South London borough. And then came maybe the saddest and most unbelievable story of them all - a group of women in Plymouth appeared in the dock on a charge of child cruelty after forcing a 2 year old and a 3 year old to fight each other for their entertainment. One of the women when questuioned by Police answered, "I didn't see any harm in toughening them up. I done the same with my own children."

In a bizarre kind of way part of me is glad that stories like this are in the headlines because every one is distress flare screaming for an urgent response. How long can we stagger around drunkenly as a nation without realising that our kids are not waving, they're drowning? I've been working with urban teenagers for the last 10 years so I already know that the sad blend of sarcasm and decadence we call our 'British culture' is a toxic environment for kids. However, I've never before felt that we're as close as we are now to reaching the vital tipping point at which people will start to say 'enough is enough.' If you have time watch the Newsnight special from Tuesday night - you can almost hear the clunk in Paxman's head as the penny seems to drop!

So what are the issues you think we need to address most urgently for the sake of the emerging generation?
Do you have any ideas about how we might be able to repair the damage that's already been done?

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Gavin White said...

I belive one of the big issues for the UK Nation and society is the restoration of the hearts of fathers to their children, and children to their fathers. Care for the Family do some great ministry in this area. I believe the church should model and demonstrate something in this area that is positive, accessible and relevant...we are the elijah people! (Malachi 4:6)

spurious said...

I think what is needed is a fundamental shift in our values as a people. Thatcherite individualism sparked the slow death of community, and now the only pseudo-communities that exist are the forgotten urban sub-cultures where those at the bottom find the common bond of (relative) poverty brings them, in some sense, 'together'.

In this togetherness, ideas of living for something greater then ourselves can be found. All that is great can be found but those who by the values of today's society come last.

Matt Wilson said...

Thanks for the comments folks.
Gav - I agree that parenting is key and that absent fathers are exacerbating the problems. I must admit I haven't really worked out Malachi 4 so can't respond either way on that.
Spurious - I'm with you on your point about rampant individualism kiiling community. I also know firsthand how tight-knit urban communities can be, but I haven't come across any examples of 'ideas of living for something greater than ourselves' naturally emerging in this context - aspiration is extremely rare in our inner cities.

Nicolaj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicolaj said...

A Danish point of view:

I think what you're experiencing is similar to the situation in Denmark. We haven't hade any teenage gun homicides, however, the last month there have been a great deal of trouble.

The city counsel decided a month ago or so to empty a squatted house, Ungdomshuset - the house of the youth. In the culture that surrounded that house there was a distinct feeling of community, that was in great contrast to the society as a whole.

Some of their values as part of a punk culture were very much alike what Jesus said: anti-violence, anti-sexism, anti-heterosexism, anti-racism and a no to any hard drugs.

Our church started a discussion, whether this little culture was inspired by God, but didn't know his name?

And that culture got their shelter torn apart by the society.

So harder then ever the rest of this subculture is trying to make the distance to the society even greater.