The problem with the FaceBook cum Twitter generation
The uprising in Tunisia and Egypt look and feel like distant memories, etched on the psyche of the dinosaur era. When Libyans opted to follow suit, I remember submitting that unlike their cousins in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya was simply an armed uprising by a group of ill trained and rag tag collection of disgruntled citizens. The sea of change sweeping through the Arab land has been described in various ways. Some have called it the Arab Spring or Arab Awakening, while others have seen it as the simple relinquishing of fear itself; the very tool in the dictator’s arsenal to keep his people in permanent serfdom. It was only after the people broke these shackles that the world is witnessing such changes at unprecedented upheavals. The key to change is to let go of fear. In Libya, it is more of courage, but courage itself is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. What is happening in the Arab region is either the “arabisation” of democracy or the democratisation of Arabia. The bottom line is change is inevitable, except if it is a vending machine.
The jury is still out on Egypt. Not many critics agree that what went on in Egypt was a revolution, as the expected change is yet to be realised. Life continues to be tough, if not tougher in comparison. The only semblance of change is the “payback time” gesture that has seen former president Mubarak carted into a court room on a sick bed. Many see this as a change of driver but with the same vehicle. It may be far-fetched but when the Industrial revolution of the nineteenth century brought a rapid increase in wealth, the demand of workers for a fair share of the wealth they were creating was conceded only after the riots and strikes. No similarities here then. In Syria, President Assad continues to observe the Ramadan with human sacrifices, as he is left to kill his people with reckless abandon. You would think that while professing as a Muslim, with Islam being a religion of peace, the Ramadan month will be seen as divine intervention for a cease fire. While the west continues to proclaim endless and meaningless sanctions, Assad is well aware of the financial arthritis that is gripping the western world. In his arsenal, he has the knowledge that no western world would hazard another intervention into his country; especially when America and the European Union have been handcuffed to the cash register recently.
The recent downgrading of America’s credit rating has left little room for manoeuvre. There are better ways to commit political suicide than embark on another intervention on a foreign soil. The current situation in Libya is indicative of the half-hearted approach by the West. This has not been helped by the financial difficulties that have required austerity measures at home. How do you put out a fire in your neighbour’s house when yours is burning down? Assad is aware of this paralysis and no wonder he has become selectively deaf to the entire outcry within and outside his country.
That brings us to the recent wanton damage that gripped London and other cities; which threatened to suffocate the life out of the financial body of the country. It may have started as a peaceful protest but the speed with which violence spread throughout the country, has not only left a bitter taste in the mouths of its citizens but has shocked all and sundry into the realisation of mankind’s penchant for depravity. Psychosocial analysts, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologist and even apologists have all joined the band wagon to offer diagnosis and prognosis for this malaise in equal measure.
A cursory look at the armchair observers have all pointed to various causes, ranging from single parenthood, a lack of male role models in the family, soft sentences, the current financial climate, consumerism and the culture of me, I and myself as the real causes of the riots. Even the rioters have tried to justify their debased behaviour along the lines of recreational riot, or shopping with aggression. It is an open secret that the causes are multi-faceted, ranging from cultural, penal, commercial and right down to the failure of successive governments to wake up and smell the coffee.
Single parenthood has been ranked as the most talked about cause of this debacle. Sadly, the apologists, who while in their ivory towers, pretend to single out single parenthood as the main cause have never had the bitter taste of what that means. Britain has the highest percentage of teenage pregnancy in Europe. If prams and pushchairs required a pushing licence, the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website would crash many times over. Some would have you believe that if pregnancy was a book, they would cut out the last two chapters. Expecting a 16 year old to be a mother is like asking a child to mother a child. As if that is not enough, television companies and programmers, in their efforts to rake up ratings fill the small screens with programmes like “I am 16 and pregnant”. Call me old fashioned but in days gone by, this would have been frowned upon. Sadly today, it is glamorised. In today’s society, an individual’s stance is judged by their bank balance. When you have a society that propels people into stardom by virtue of being in a house full of strangers, while spouting endless dribble (Big Brother), or a woman having a one night stand with a footballer and telling her story of the sordid encounter for big bucks thereby becoming a “celebrity” in the bargain, then you know that such a society has its priorities mixed up. In this case, celebrity becomes the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent.
Celebrity-worship and hero-worship have been inextricably confused and by so doing, we have come so dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We have lost sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. In the midst of all this, we have regrettably come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety. We have seen people who, if they had any hint of an IQ will graduate as stupid. Yet they are transformed into household names overnight for being a twit on TV. A society that presumes a norm of violence and celebrates aggression, whether on the football pitch, in Ibiza, on cop shows, programmes like “boozed up Brits abroad”, etc , cannot help but make celebrities of the people who would destroy it. There seems to be an unspoken glorification of all that is decadent of mankind by reality shows. You cannot blame it all on the press and media, but they are partners in crime and cannot escape responsibility for this mess.
It was ironical to hear stalwarts calling for parents to rein in their children, and ask them to stay at home. Parents can only give advice or put them on the right paths, but the final the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands. Successive governments have systematically eroded all parental responsibilities from the same parents. Some have even blamed teachers who are rightly or wrongly, expected to teach the children on how to handle teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, and the failings of the family. Then they are expected to educate them, when that authority to do so had long been usurped by the nanny pandy brigade.
Central to all this is the breakdown of family values. You wonder how governments want to eat their cake and have it back. The fate of a child is in the hands of his parents; as children learn to smile from their parents. Others believe that children are not our property, and they are not ours to control anymore than we were our parents property or theirs to control. But today, some parents are left wondering why the streams are bitter, when they themselves have poisoned the fountain. This could be an emotive subject, so let’s try another slant. Suffice it to say that “no one is born criminal, society makes them so”. Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to the country and to mankind is to bring up a family; but it takes a whole village to raise a child.
Many people have found sympathy with the frustrations of the youth. The current financial climate does not generate much hope for many. But what happened recently was not as a result of the current financial climate. The rot has been going on for a long time. It just took too long to smell it. Society is divided as some people’s idea of “youth” today is when you blame all your troubles on your parents; and “maturity” is when you learn that everything is the fault of the younger generation. Age has now become a tyrant that forbids at the penalty of life all the pleasure of youth. The riots started with the killing of one man that descended into near anarchy. It took the lives of 3 innocent youths in Birmingham to inject a dose sobering thoughts into their minds.
The police came in for some stick in all this. There is a growing feeling that controlling crowd trouble must change. The current tactics seems suited to the days when a man would give up his seat to a woman in a public transport, when drinking in the street was a taboo and when “respect” was the sauce with which conversations were eaten. That was pre 21st. Century, and words like ASBO, Hoodie etc., were unheard of. Any attempt to provide a balance sheet of the recent carnage in Britain will not be exhaustive. It will take more than a few sentences and sound bites to correct the situation. Suffice it to say that this is another watershed that deserves some inside out analysis. Something has gone wrong somewhere in society. It’s time to go back to the drawing board, and the home might just be a good place to start. Don’t forget to turn the lights out.
Abdulai Mansaray, UK.
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