Just as the country needs the experience of its older generations, so it needs the energy, courage, and perhaps even the recklessness of its young people.
The media present you as work-shy, binge-drinking, sexually feckless, illiterate, innumerate, and generally useless and obnoxious. But that, for reasons best known to themselves, is the media’s weary way. Granted, we are all idiots from time to time, and young people more than average, but the reality is that for every oaf who fits the above description there are thousands of decent young people, studying hard, enjoying a wide variety of sports, hobbies and pastimes, and doing their damnedest to improve themselves and do something with their lives. Sadly, what they – you – are missing, even if you do not fully realize it, is a fitting example being set by those whom we have placed in authority over us. Think about the ideas on this site – can you help? And perhaps think about these :
Smoking (this is not a lecture)
I assume you started smoking knowing the serious health risks associated with taking carcinogenic and other dangerous chemicals directly into the bloodstream – your choice, fair enough. I assume too, having become addicted, you do not care and that the doom-laden ‘warnings’ on cigarette packets or patronizing, finger-wagging from oldies are not likely to make you care. Nevertheless, you know that smoking does present a serious social problem. Nicotine is extremely addictive and the health consequences are very real, causing a great deal of suffering and grief to individuals and unnecessarily burdening the NHS. We would all be better off if it faded away.
So here is where I need your help. Banning smoking is neither democratically acceptable nor remotely practical, and Nanny-State bullying of smokers is both repellent and counter-productive. I think the State should have facilities available in the NHS to give practical help to those smokers who want to become ‘smokers who do not smoke’. Primarily however, it should concentrate on preventing children from starting smoking – beginning in the Primary Schools. My feeling about this is to keep health ‘warnings’ simple, clear, accurate and free from judgement, and to use humour, particularly satire, to persuade and deter. Few things survive being laughed at and young smokers these days need to know that they do not look adult, rebellious, ‘cool’ or ‘hard’, they look ridiculous.
Your thoughts? What would stop you smoking? What would have stopped you starting? etc
Unlike smoking, alcohol abuse affects not only the drinker but innocent third parties. Do you know anyone who’s a better person with a pint inside them? It is a factor in many violent crimes, road accidents, domestic violence, marital breakdowns, even house fires. Altogether, it is a far greater problem for society than all the other forms of drug abuse put together. Unfortunately, few drinkers appreciate how low the level is at which moderate drinking becomes excessive – 3 pints of normal beer is over the daily recommended limit for men (2 for women), and 10 pints (7.5 for women) over the weekly limit. Nor do most understand the damage they are doing to themselves. More and more young people are presenting themselves to doctors with liver problems – nasty, you really do not want liver surgery. All in all, more personal suffering, more unnecessary burdening of the NHS.
I think this is going to be a far harder problem to deal with than smoking. So-called binge drinking can probably be dealt with by more well-enforced public drunkenness laws, but routine ‘social’ drinking – wine with every meal, two or three pints at the local every night etc, which from a health point of view is just as dangerous, will require some very thoughtful education. Clear and simple labelling of bottles would certainly help as would similarly clear and simple general advertising about safe limits. But as with smoking perhaps most can be done in schools. However, what are your thoughts? What would make you stop or reduce your drinking? What would have stopped you starting? etc
Small statement of policy first. Homosexual, heterosexual, married, unmarried, casual or long-term, providing it doesn’t frighten the horses, sexual behaviour between freely consenting adults is no-one else’s business. That said, I have a small multiple-choice quiz for you.
Question 1 – When having sex, do you use a condom?
If you have answered (a) – fine
If you have answered (b) go to question 2.
Question 2 – Are you out of your tiny frigging mind?!
Apart from the risk of pregnancy – not trivial, ladies, a hard full-time job for a very long time – there is a cartload of sexually-transmitted diseases out there. They range from genital warts to cervical cancer, through syphilis and HIV/AIDS and some are so new they don’t even have names. At best, these are embarrassing and unpleasant. Some cannot be cured and recur for the rest of your life, some leave you infertile, and some kill you.
Given that abstinence is not a realistic option, a condom will at least radically reduce the chance of your collecting one of these gems. Other methods – looking, asking, for example, are markedly less reliable. Few of these diseases give any outward signs, so your eyesight is not going to tell you anything – indeed, you could be infected without knowing it until you pass the disease on. As for asking, well, ‘Oh yes, I do have a sexually transmitted disease’ is unlikely to feature high in ‘conversations I have enjoyed during romantic/lustful moments’ is it?
And some statements of the obvious. Yes, you can get pregnant/infected on your first and only time, standing up, not ‘coming’, not enjoying it, and despite having a bath/scrub afterwards. Also, if your partner is willing to have unprotected sex with you, then they will have had it with someone else as well, notwithstanding any protestations to the contrary.
Possibly useful catchphrase if being pressed on the subject – ‘Sorry, no glove, no love. Amen’.
These are nasty but avoidable problems. What are your thoughts on the best educational approach to deal with them?
Finally, something to reflect on
I will not labour this, but there are some things in the recent past which you doubtless know about but perhaps do not fully appreciate. In your quieter moments try this ‘thought experiment’: You are watching a documentary about World War 2 on TV. There is Hitler addressing cheering crowds at huge, spectacular rallies. There are rank upon rank of goose-stepping soldiers, factories churning out tanks, planes, warships, a whole nation geared for war.
These grainy black and white images have no emotional impact on you because they are from a time long gone (for you) – the war is ended – everyone knows we ‘won’.
Imagine now, that this is not a documentary, but a current news programme and that what you are seeing is actually happening today. The whole of Germany is under the sway of a brutal authoritarian regime and its highly trained and disciplined army is sweeping unstoppably across Europe while its air force is bombing our cities causing massive damage and loss of life.
Imagine next a scruffy brown envelop dropping through your letterbox. In it is an order for you to attend some local venue to assess your suitability for military service. You have no choice about this – if you do not attend, you will be arrested. Whatever plans you might have had for your life, you will join the young men and women in those grainy films, you will fight and perhaps die, in this war, you may well kill others like yourself. No choice. No choice.
Stop the experiment when your stomach starts to tighten and your mouth goes dry. Then remember that tens of thousands of young people like you, could not do that. For them – your grandparents now – it was no idle experiment, it was the reality of their time.
The point of this? It is important that from time to time we appreciate that the many freedoms we have, which we take for granted, and which are being casually abandoned, were bought at a terrible price by ordinary people like ourselves, not only in World War 2, but in wars for generations before. The only way we can repay the debt we owe them is to fight to keep the freedoms they won for us. Thanks to them we can do this in comparative safety, rather than through the blood and slaughter of the battlefield, but do it we must. In many ways, we are still at war, with our freedoms being threatened perhaps as never before. That they are threatened by our own craven and incompetent politicians does not make the threat any less. I would value your help. The country needs your help.