Hook in the West
ONE of my grandchildren was recently asked to stop playing on the swings in his back garden because an elderly neighbour was suffering from her nerves and the noise from the swings made her agitated.
The woman in question actually called around to my son’s house to complain and ask that something be done about it.
Now, my family have all been brought up to respect their elders and I would never for one moment dream of encouraging anyone to be rude to an elderly woman, but in this case, my son would have been perfectly within his rights to tell her to get lost and stop being so over-dramatic.
To his credit - and Ingrid and I must take some of the plaudits for this - my son managed to keep his counsel and duly went out to buy some oil for the swings. The noise has reduced slightly but my grandkids continue to enjoy themselves in the privacy and comfort of their own back garden, swinging away to their hearts content. And if the lady-in-question happens to call over and complain a second time? Well, let’s just say that she might not be so graciously received...
I do wonder about society these days, though. Last week I happened upon a report from Australia which detailed how children at a school in Sydney were being banned from clapping their hands because a few kids in the school assembly were sensitive to loud noises.
Instead of clapping, the kids were encouraged to wave their hands in the air, cheer silently, make happy facial expressions or pump the sky with their fist... If I didn’t see it written down in a reputable newspaper, I would have thought the whole thing was made up. But am I surprised? Not really.
Generation gone mad!
The younger generation, of which my grandchildren are a part of, is being increasingly nannied and coddled to the point of paralysis and it is doing them more harm than good. Children can’t say boo to each other these days without someone shouting foul, or crying bully and it is having a detrimental effect on their development.
Time was, kids could run, scream, shout and tumble with each other in the school yard and nobody batted an eye-lid at the odd scraped knee, or bruised elbow. These days, children can’t even walk quickly during their lunch breaks at school for fear of reprisal from the teachers. Most schools are so afraid of being sued by over-sensitive parents that they have clamped down on even the most tepid physical interaction between the kids.
And what happens when the current generation grow up to be adults? Western society is fostering a blame-culture, where young men and women are being encouraged to seek out compensation and retribution for their problems, instead of taking ownership of their responsibilities.
Wrapping children up in cotton wool is only desensitising them to the realities and hardships that come with modern life. How can we expect to harvest confident young bodies and minds if we are continually teaching them, from childhood, to avoid risk and apportion blame onto others for the most minor inconveniences?
Just last week, we had another compensation case before the courts, where an RTÉ employee sued the Aviva Stadium in Dublin after a fall at a Neil Diamond concert. The woman in question was wearing high-heels at the time and tripped and cut her shin as she was making her way to her seat. She argued that the stadium was somehow responsible for her fall and she sued for compensation.
Whatever happened to people taking ownership of their actions and putting accidents down to bad luck, or carelessness? Thankfully, the judge in this instance could not find fault with the Aviva Stadim and awarded costs against the plaintiff, but in the majority of such cases, the courts tend to side with the complainant. Just look at the spiralling costs of car insurance across the board this year. Ireland’s compo-culture is to blame for it.
This all feeds into the increasingly fragile nanny-state environment that we are creating. I am appalled at the amount of obese children waddling around Ireland at the moment, with their heads stuck in computer games or mobile phones, making zero effort to communicate and interact with the people around them.
A lot of kids don’t know how to sustain a conversation with their peers beyond the first ten seconds. And try sitting down with a young adult and timing how long it takes them to check their phone for an email, or a Whatsapp, or a Snapchat, or a Tweet, or a Facebook message... I guarantee you, they won’t make it past five minutes.
Kids don’t read as much these days either, because they want instant information at the tap of a button and they are not prepared to sift through 400 pages of a novel, in order to be entertained. They want videos, or youtube clips for instant gratification and they are missing out on the wonderful world of literature as a result. The end-product is a dumbed-down generation of impatient softies that seem incapable of proper person-to-person interaction.
The elderly dear with the nerves, above, might have come across as a bit of a fussy hypochondriac, but at least she has the excuse of old age on her side. What excuse has the younger generation coming through for its pampered approach to life? Authentic relationships are being replaced by artificial ones and most young adults spend more time reacting with a screen than they do other people. It is extremely unhealthy.
This all may sound like the cantankerous whinging of an OAP, but I can promise you that Ireland is changing irrevocably from the country that I grew up in. And from my seventy-five year vantage-point, I am struggling to see how any of these changes are for the better.