Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Road to Adulthood

The Scowling Marathon
The weekend has not been a pleasant one in the Village. It would appear that the high street is playing host to the winter games of the XVIIth Chavolympiad.

All bus stops and most shop doorways are occupied. It seems that the bus stop near the Base Camp is playing host to the boys under 15 getting mullered on a single bottle of Budweiser finals, while doorway of the florists down the road is hosting a round of the teenage girls screeching contest.

I don't like to sound too old-gittish about it, but it's hard not to look back and think 'was I ever like that?' and realise that I'm pretty sure I was not, and nor for that matter was anyone in the town in which grew up, a far less well heeled area than that were I live today. There are a hundred and one explanations tossed around for the growth of what tends to get lumped over the term 'anti-social behaviour' but to be honest few of the ones I've heard seem to me to get to the heart of the problem and consequently most of the solutions seem way off the mark too.

The Labour government, of course, with its incredibly stunted imagination believes the solution lies in bans, crack-downs and restrictive legislation; the merit of each initiative is assessed in it's potential for hogging newspaper space to displace the daily diet of tales of government failings.

Cameron's vision of National Community Service or whatever it was at least showed some originality of thought even if it is, as I've said before, a vision that can probably only be preached to the converted. There is, and I think always has been, an instinctive distrust from teenagers of activities organised by them by the adult world for their greater good. To a large extent I actually think that there is a actually something perversely healthy in this scepticism.

I can't help wondering, with my Conservative leanings, why the market has not provided a solution. After all, there is a clear large demographic group which in many parts of the country, surveys tell us, relatively cash rich. When I look at the plethora of identikit coffee shops up and down the high street I wonder why one doesn't try providing the same kind of social environment as some of the more popular bars in town, with everything bar the alcohol. With the relative proportion of the increasingly similar drinks prices extorted by the government in the two types of establishment differing so wildly it's hard to imagine it being an unprofitable venture to offer evening opening and a teen friendly environment that they would actively choose.

Of course, it might just be that my own view of organised yoof activities is a little bit jaundiced by my own limited experience of it. It was decided, at I think about thirteen that I should be packed off to the local scout troop every Wednesday evening. As it happens it was quite good fun, but perhaps not quite in the way that Baden-Powell may have hoped.

On the plus side it gave an early introduction to democracy, in that we were allowed to elect our own patrol leaders. We exercised our choice wisely, selecting the most mature both in attitude and appearance. The latter consideration may seem a bit superficial, but in fact it was the key criteria in determining their chances of buying beer and cigarettes for those who were still too youthful to bring their own provisions for the post meeting festivities.

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