Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The making of our society

A couple of weeks ago I posted this in elsewhere,

"Clear-eyed realism and compassion were the hallmarks of someone I met this morning.  Discussing a particular social problem, this expert and front-line worker referred to people who from a *very* early age learn, in the school playground, a twisted form of social interaction:
1. How to be a bully - to hit first in case someone hits you.
2. How to intimidate others - by threats, taunts, undermining, belittling, isolating and yes, violence.
3. How to swear and fight; that fun means drugs and drink.
4. That violence frightens other people.
5. To define 'respect', not as a mutual obligation in an equal relationship, but as 'you do what I want'.
6. To react to every emotion without regard to consequences and to use others as scapegoats.
7. To take no responsibility for their own decisions.
8. To take no responsibility for their actions (she made me do it).
9. To blame anyone and everyone else for anything that goes wrong in their lives.

I wish I could remember everything she said, in the right order, but it was a very interesting meeting, and I now understand far better the practical local care that is given to victims of domestic violence.

However, I also know the estates (and have friends working on them) that breed the kind of dog-eat-dog survivalism that she described, and wonder how we ever change that?

Yes, I do know this isn't simply a problem of sink-estates, and can be rather better hidden in middle-class areas.

I came away from the meeting feeling inspired by the support and care that is offered, but downcast at the thought that, as I write, there are still small boys in sad homes learning by example how to become monsters"
Today I came across this article, and, although the argument is not new, it has left me reacting with a strong sense of 'yuk', mainly because I associate clothes like these with sex-workers, and don't want that idea mingled with childhood.  I also wonder whether this is a misguided extension of letting little girls 'dress-up" in the way that childhood imitates adulthood as preparation for adulthood. 

Just as we are pushing children into the adult world too soon, so we are simultaneously infantalising our youngsters in a different way by keeping them in full-time education for longer, which, for all the benefits, prevents them from becoming economically active and responsible until they are well into their twenties, and often later.  No wonder they are confused.  "Be sexually active, but don't be financially self-supporting."

As this article, and my thoughts last week about boys learning to be violent coalesce, I wonder what model of adulthood we want to teach our children, and how do we keep them safe long enough, as children, to allow them to learn enough to survive with their self-respect intact into adulthood?

I'm left feeling very confused about how to grow healthy adults in a consumer society that places so much value on things that can be measured and weighed and so little on character, social and emotional intelligence.

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