Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Poignant Question

Recently, my dear Slovak friend Miroslava spent some time in the UK on holiday with her boyfriend. She spent a lot of time around Windsor, but also went to London.

When she wrote to me about her time there, she asked a poignant question. It reminded me of the still enduring old school innocence and charm of the Slavic sphere, the moral integrity of which has not (yet?) been as corroded as has ours.

“I’m wondering how many possibilities for having fun young people have in London.”

(How endlessly sweet)

This was how I replied:

"Young children having fun in London? Well, I think there are two things to note. First, that for some kids, ignored and cast adrift by their parents, having fun means roaming around in wild packs, pissing about, being a menace and possibly stabbing people (have you heard about the recent 'Knife Crime' anxiety?). Secondly, another type of child has parents who worry about: a) the other wild and dangerous children and the safety of the streets, generally, and b) Paedophiles. In consequence, they keep their kids locked up at home all the time, and so consign them to the virtual worlds only of the computer and the games console.

I was lucky. When I grew up there was still a relatively low level of public fear about the safety of kids. Yes, I was told not to 'talk to strangers', but other than that I could do pretty much what I wanted after about the age of nine, within reason. I walked to school and back every day alone, and would go into Cambridge town centre on my own. Nowadays, 'respectable' parents increasingly won't let their kids have this kind of freedom. While the ones who will are those who, as it were, dont care about them.

Sad, but I do see this as a reversible trend. But it will require the return of moral values, something which is impossible without a spiritual awakening (and I don't mean an Islamic spiritual awakening, mind, just to be clear).

Good luck in your exams, my dear


By the way, 'Jonny' is the name my family and some friends call me. I don't mind anyone calling me it, as it happens (as did Mutley on a recent comment), but I can see that it might seem a bit 'wet' (though not as wet as 'Timmy', I would wager?). It is also far too familiar, I think, to use as an official moniker, as May from Italy led me to see.


Z said...

My sister lives in the East End of London. The younger kids play in the street (the adults take turns to sit on the front steps to watch them) and my 14 year old niece takes public transport to school. Mobile phones are reassuring for parents - I suspect that might be the thing that swings more independence for kids back into favour. While there are dangers everywhere, children also need to learn how to identify and repel them, and the only way they can do that is to experience them, even if under as controlled circumstances as possible.

Jonathan said...

Yes, this is encouraging.

I suppose my post was as much intended to capture the common perception of how things are now, as to really capture the truth of how bad things are, or are not.

Personally, I doubt England is in reality as dangerous a place as it is perceived to be. Elberry will say this is because I have ben out of the country too long.

But nonetheless it is widely perceived to be dangerous, and that in-iteself conditions the expereince of life, making it something nasty, whatever the actual justification.

Id love to know what percentage of kids ONLY carry knives for self-defence - a reason which of course would be strengthened by the media hype.

People once were, and I hope will be again more than they are, motivated by something called courage, and the balsy defiance of the possibility of danger in the name of freedom. Now we are too interested in comfort and safety to think in this way.

Great point about mobiles. Yes, I can see how they must be very reassuring for parents. And though the kids may resent the parental monitoring involved, they may also realise that they allow them a freedom to go out and about which, without the mobiles, parents might deny them.

Maybe your sister would be less happy about your niece travelling like that if she didnt have a mobile, for example?

Thanks for this perspective Z.