We regularly hear in the news all sorts of stories that fuel hatred of the younger generation, the so-called ‘youth of today’ as we have become negatively titled, words which in themselves do not suggest any sort of resentment, but which have become synonymous with connotations of thuggery, violence and a lack of respect towards elders and, well, anyone. It cannot be denied that there are a select few young people out there who fit into this category, however I cannot help but feel that the media choose to focus on these people and use them as a stereotype for a whole section of society. They know that the public enjoy a good old moan about the youth of today, and so choose to gratify their readers/listeners with carefully selected stories about the wild behaviour of young people. Meanwhile, older generations are portrayed as the victims, often too scared to leave their own homes or walk down their own street from fear of ‘ASBO kids.’ The reality is that the majority of young people are respectful, law-abiding citizens who are only too willing to give up their seat on the bus or help an elderly person with their shopping.
About a month ago I had a couple of friends from uni come to stay with me at home in Kent, one from Plymouth and one from Birmingham. One day we took a bus to a local shopping centre. Waiting for the bus back, a queue gathered, and as the bus pulled in right in front of a bus shelter, the queue of people split, with people queuing either side. When my friend got to the front of our queue she stopped, courteously, to allow people from the other queue to board the bus. Once we had been waiting, only for a few seconds, we heard a tutting from behind us and turned to see a lady of about 70 pushing her way through the queue to the front, regardless of the 10 or so people queuing in front of her and perhaps 8 more behind. She managed to make it all the way to the front of the queue and onto the bus, the people in the queue either too shocked, or too scared to say anything. Straight away, another woman started pushing through the queue, this one only aged about 40, taking advantage of the parting the first woman had left in the crowd. Every one in the queue looked at each other and tutted, but no-one seemed keen to do anything about it, not even the driver who had seen this happen. Yet I cannot help thinking, and I’m sure that many people will agree, that if anyone else, particularly someone around my age, had tried this, they would have been confronted, stopped, and succeeded in further blackening the image off young people today.
What is it about the older generation that allows them to think (mostly correctly) that they can get away with this sort of thing, whilst younger people can’t? I do not know whether this lady thought that she had a right to be at the front because of her age, or if she just saw her chance and took it, but I know that my friends were shocked and I feel ashamed that they saw this happen in Kent when they both agreed that it would never happen where they came from. I am not suggesting that the entire older generation would consider it appropriate to behave in this manner, but just like people need to understand that not all young people are ASBO thugs, it is also clear that not all older people are innocent victims, although the majority of both categories do not cause any harm.