Rioting. Looting. Mugging. Stealing. These are activities people would normally associate with street gangs. But the recent mayhem in London that involved all those activities has baffled every expert in every society. They are baffled because the people involved didn’t just come from the “alienated poor, those without hope, lashing out in rage and despair.” They came from all kinds of backgrounds with some even coming from impeccable institutions of education and enjoying comfortable lifestyles.
As of this writing, there were more than 1,200 people arrested nationwide in connection with the violence that spread out on the streets of London. Among those arrested were two straight-A university students, one of whose father is a millionaire, and an 11-year-old boy. It just doesn’t get any more difficult to solve a situation like this. Britain, you have a problem. And apparently, the problem has been growing for decades.
Usually, people could dismiss society’s problem with outlaws as something having to do with economics, lack of education and overall discontent with social division. But growing discontent growing up in “da hood” is not limited to not having any money or opportunity for most British youths today. It is also discontent with of being alienated from their comminities’ adults.
The symptoms of the social disease have been obvious, even blatantly. The rising criminality, excessive drinking, drug-taking, and promiscuity among kids as young as 11 should have been hard to ignore. But for the British, the obvious has always been shrugged as being just part of growing up. Some claim “British kids are less integrated into the adult world and spend more time with peers.” And that “many British adults seem to view children as an entirely separate species.” This results in their young feeling unimportant and disconnected.
A 2008 TIME magazine article described the relationship between British adults and their kids:
Britons have never been very comfortable with the idea of childhood. (“Culturally, Britain just doesn’t like children much,” says Batmanghelidjh.) In Victorian England, rich children were banished to nurseries and boarding schools, while their poorer contemporaries were sent out to work. The British are still expected to function as adults from an early age. At 8, Scotland has the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Europe, followed by England and Wales, where youngsters answer for their crimes from the age of 10. Yet children venturing into the adult world often feel rebuffed. “I don’t get the feeling that Britain is the most child-friendly culture,” says Emily Benn, who was selected to contest a seat in Britain’s House of Commons three weeks before her 18th birthday. “When you go to France they’re nicer to you in restaurants, on the streets and on transport. When I go around Britain on the railways, I get treated like rubbish by guards and officials.”
So it would seem that there is an underlying problem among the British youth that goes beyond just adventurism. It is definitely a cry for help.
Filipino Youths echoing the same sentiments
I cannot help but see similar problems creeping up on our society today. With more and more Filipino adults leaving for work overseas to earn money, a lot of Filipino kids today are left to their devices long-term. Sure, most parents leave them with extended family thinking that they will be ok. But in some cases, that is just wishful thinking. I can imagine that caring for your own child would be different from caring for someone else’s child. It’s the same psychology behind renting a house compared to owning one, the latter being treated with more tender loving care than the former because it represents a longer term investment.
The absence of adult supervision is not just our society’s problem. Filipino kids are sometimes treated as another species as well. Like I had said in my previous article, “the biggest problem with our society is that young people are taught what to think, but not how to think.
From a young age, we are told not to question authority, with an emphasis on giving deference to our elders. Young kids are to be seen but not heard. This was evident in the last election when some young adults who did not see the relevance of “People Power” anymore were voicing their disgust at how some Filipinos are still beholden to the Aquino family.
But these young Filipino adults were quickly silenced by threats from the family elders, even coming just short of being stricken out from the family tree. Scared of being ostracized, young Filipino adults have no choice but to follow what their elders say, never mind if what the elders say defies what they had learned at school. This is because smart people somehow know that it is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in an argument. Someone once said that one moron can ask more questions than ten wise men can answer and that ignorant people rely on insults instead of facts.
I personally think that young Filipino adults are the key to the Philippines’ future. Young adults have fresh ideas and fresh perspectives. Adults should listen to them more often because they can see what grown ups cannot see because of their relative lack of prejudices or biases. Fresh out of school, young Filipino adults still know by heart the theories and skills from their school lessons. Young adults can tell the Emperor that he has no clothes on.”
If we want to reduce the possibility of the kind of violence that engulfed the streets of London this week erupting in Manila, we need to address the issues concerning the Filipino youth as soon as possible before their discontent explodes. Some people might dismiss this concern as fear mongering but I personally think that the symptoms of the disease in our society have been showing for a long time now.
At the moment, religion still has a strong hold on the minds of our youth but a growing number of disconnected kids are slowly leaning towards atheism. The minute kids realize that their parent’s beliefs do not align with what they experience outside on the streets, today’s simmering power struggle between ideas of the youth and their elders could boil over.
One of the things that the Philippine government must do is to prioritise measures that stimulate creation of more jobs locally so that adults with young kids are not forced to go looking for jobs abroad. This will eliminate that stressful collective separation anxiety between the Filipino parent and the Filipino child. Education should be made mandatory with parents or guardians penalized when kids don’t attend school. Lastly, and this is a long shot, it would also help if the government or any private enterprise could take the initiative to create programs for young adults like, say, forums where they can voice their concerns. Sometimes just airing one’s frustration helps relieve pent-up angst. The worst thing that could happen in our society is seeing alienated kids with too much time on their hands wreaking havoc on the streets of Manila, rioting, looting, mugging, and stealing.
[Photo courtesy News24.com]