Thursday, 16 July 2009

Things ain't how they used to be

When I was young, I sometimes felt quite chastened, and frequently resentful, when people from my parents’ or grandparents’ generations told me how appallingly badly young people were behaving. It seemed to me that those who had been machine-gunning each other in trenches when they were my age, or raining down bombs on each others’ cities, weren’t particularly well placed to complain about our growing our hair, smoking drugs or having sex (in my case, nothing like as often as I would have wished).

But then my generation moved into middle age and had in turn to deal with young adults, whether their own children or other people’s. And I was shocked to hear them come out with the same lines as our elders. It seemed that ‘when I was their age, I never smoked in non-smoking compartments/stuck chewing gum on the underside of chairs/drank to the point of throwing up all over the carpet [delete as appropriate]’, i.e. they never did the kind of things our parents complained about in us.

I learned a lesson from that experience, so I’m not surprised to find that now it’s people from the next generation to mine who are protesting at the boorish, selfish or downright violent behaviour of young people today. Whether it’s hoodies, kids with their feet up on train seats, teenagers listening to leaky ipods or groups of youths lounging in shop doorways, it’s clear that the behaviour of the current crop of young people is much worse and often more threatening than that of today’s forty-somethings when they were that age.

It’s a sad but perhaps unavoidable conclusion that there is a constant decline, from generation to generation, in the behaviour of young people. We’re witnessing a terrifying downward spiral of youth into drug-induced violence and sheer evil.

At the same time, I’ve watched with increasing astonishment the equal but opposite evolution of soap powder. It made me proud when I was in my teens to discover that all the main brands, Daz and Bold and Ariel and the rest, had developed their products to a pinnacle of quality allowing them to wash whiter than humanity had ever believed possible before. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered, in later advertising campaigns, that this apparent high-water mark had in turn been surpassed and left in the shade by yet newer powders washing far whiter still. This has gone on from year to year as ever more shocking levels of whiteness are achieved, with yesterday’s triumph being overtaken and reclassified as lamentable failure following today’s success. The glorious whiteness trumpeted when I was a child can’t be more than merely dull compared to the brilliant glow we enjoy now.

The only thing that still surprises me is that we can get down a street unharmed. Isn’t it a bit of a miracle that we can travel anywhere, especially on foot, without being murdered by a degenerate youth? Or, if we escape that fate, being blinded by a dazzling shirt?


Anonymous said...

The poor chaps getting killed in the trenches or dropping bombs on civilians were mostly conscripts, right?


David Beeson said...

Ah, but San your comment implies that I write from a spirit of fairness and impartiality. Surely nothing I've written suggests that I aim so high?