Hello again from Mountain Mecca and Hippie Heaven!
There’s an old ancient Greek expression which translates roughly as, “What’s with the young people these days? The vandalism, the foul language, the baggy togas?!” At what age do we start complaining about “young people”? This thought occurred to me when Prez was called out to fix some stuff at the local French bakery – an act of (allegedly) youth vandalism.
Side note: Doing work for credit at a gourmet French bakery is dangerous; when you next see me I may be 350 lbs. Damn you filthy baguettes! Damn you all to hell!!
Mmmmmmmm, baguettes. Crispy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. Pieces torn off and dipped in butter…
Oops! Erm…um…where was I? Oh yes, the youth of today. Are today’s kids really worse than those of our generation, or of generations past? Well, even the idyllic little town of Nelson is facing some big city youth problems – most notably, vandalism.
Graffiti was bad enough but there was always the argument that it was a form of street art. And in some cases that was (is) true; I’ve seen spray-painted art on the sides of buildings that I would pay to have in my home. But now the majority of graffiti comes in the form of “tags”, letters arranged in a symbolic form to identify the “tagger”. Are these tags art? Not in my opinion (good god, I feel like I’m back in my Fine Arts 100 course at University – “What is art?”). Nope, most graffiti I see these days is no more than someone’s expression of their disrespect for other people’s property.
And it is generally assumed that graffiti artists/taggers/vandals are almost always youths.
I’m guessing that most of you reading this were young once. And I’m willing to lay Vegas odds on the fact that all of you can think back to those golden days of yesteryear and find one example of an act you committed that was truly, completely, and utterly stooopid. (Yes, that’s stupid with 3 o’s!). Maybe you were caught, maybe not. Maybe you were lucky you didn’t kill yourself, or someone else. Do you laugh about it now with friends? Do you say, “Oh man, I can’t believe I did that!” have a sip of beer and move on? And do you, when you see, read, or hear about some kids doing something similar today, think ‘Kids these days. Little shits!”
Of course, I, as a child, was an angel. Folks used to call me “The Perfect One”, some compared me to Jesus.
OK, there was that one time when me and three of my guy buddies went joy riding and blew through a stop sign doing about 140km per hour. Had anyone been coming in either direction, I (or someone else) might be no more than a cross on the side of the road today.
Well, one black mark on the record, that’s not so bad.
Two marks, I guess, if you count the bus stop incident. But, I mean, the bus stop sign was already falling down before we ripped the sign part off the pole and hung it in my school locker as a trophy, so that’s not “technically” vandalism, right?
And then there’s the bus stop bench on which I immortalized my love for R.R. (+ K.M.). An act of true love hardly qualifies as vandalism though.
A few beer cans tossed out the car window to avoid troubles with the law is hardly a reason to call out the National Guard!
Yes, I was a model teenager…just like all of you. Kids these days, huh?
Most of us would never dream of doing those sorts of things today. In fact most of us have come full circle, we regard those who do the kinds of things we did as “hoodlums” and “delinquents.” Prez would argue with me that he never vandalized anything as a kid but the rest of his juvie record is far from spotless.
So what makes us do the things we do as teenagers, what makes us stop doing them, and how do we stop other teens from repeating our mistakes? Or, can we stop teens from repeating our mistakes?
I don’t know. No, seriously, I don’t know. What was running through my little pea-brain when I did the stupid things I did? Not much. Sometimes it was boredom, but that’s a pretty lame excuse because there were lots of community programs to keep us busy. Sometimes it was anger, mostly at parents who just didn’t understand us! Always there was a deep sense that we were invincible. But, you know, I think mostly it was a feeling of disconnection.
Look, I barely understand the world as an adult, as a teenager, without the benefit of mileage, the world is as undecipherable as Ikea furniture assembly instructions (and you all know how I feel about those). I care about the world around me now only because I’ve learned to care. It took years to even begin to see how connected we all are, how responsible we are to each other. And it took several more years for me to grasp that I’m responsible to, and for, myself, that how I feel on the inside is directly related to my outward actions. And all kidding aside, I was a pretty good kid raised in a loving, two-parent home with all the privileges of white, middle-class suburbia.
Kids haven’t changed. Teenagers will always push boundaries and take risks. What’s changed is the world we’ve created for them to live in. Take the disconnection I felt as a teen and multiply that by a thousand for today’s kids. Technology (as much as I love some of it) is building a wall between the old and young. We are old, slow to change, fearful of what we don’t understand. I know people not much older than me who can barely send an email. Our kids may not be smarter than us but they possess knowledge we do not, and knowledge, my friends, is power. And we are afraid.
A fellow I know refers to the teen years as “The Tunnel”. When someone complains about their moody offspring, he says, “Oh, they’re just in The Tunnel, they’ll come out some day.” And they do, most of them anyway, eventually.
Except now they’re in the tunnel with “Grand Theft Auto”, cell phones, chat rooms, online porn, crystal meth, and 500 hundred television channels playing non-stop violence. The kind of adults that will emerge from these tunnels scares me more than the kids who are in them today.
I’m not worried about the graffiti. It sucks, it’s ugly, it pisses me off but it can be painted over or scrubbed off. What can’t be painted over is the mess we adults are making of this planet, the planet our children will inherent from us. We are the real vandals.
The less we care, the less they will care.
Nelson will do OK, I think, in the battle against vandalism. This is a tight community where citizens take an active role in protecting and maintaining their way of life. A creative solution will be found and Nelson teens will have to find some other means of rebellion.
All kids enter The Tunnel sooner or later. They take a bag filled with angst, potato chips, MP3’s, and other teen treasures. Sometimes they bring spray-paint in that bag. All we, as adults, can do is sneak in a few extras – like love, a moral compass, a home cooked meal, books – then busy ourselves with the task of making the world a really great place to return to once our children come back out of the tunnel.
Truthfully though, I wouldn’t want to be a kid caught spray painting my building!
Question: Are you ready to confess your teenage crimes?
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy, and lovin’ life!