Sunday, 29 January 2012

Different shoes

Having raided the social science section at the library, I am reading a book called "Dis/connected. Why our kids are turning their backs one everything we thought we knew" by Nick Barham .

The author travels around talking to teens and trying to find out 'what makes them tick', have a look at the reviews in the link above for more description.

One of the things that I noticed reading it was my reaction to some of the activities described in the book, such as groups of 150 souped up cars gathering in a public car park with music blaring, or large groups of teens hanging around with Death message t-shirts on, drinking Vodka RedBulls.  He talks about how some city centres have become no-go areas at night, and I'm thinking 'too bloody right, I don't want to be beaten up or vomited on thanks!'.

I realised how ingrained my middle-class-ness is by my automatic response, namely that many of the described situations would make me anxious or disapproving.  At some points I felt anger towards the author for generalisations and suggesting that kids behaviour should never be threatening, when clearly sometimes it is. Then again, is that me jumping to my own defense, because does he actually suggest that?   The book doesn't suggest everything these kids do is fine, and that we should all accept their behaviours as unproblematic, but it is trying to explain the reasoning behind it and does a good job of that.

Maybe it's not just that some of us have inbuilt prejudices caused by a) our upbringing and b) the media, though this is undoubtedly the case.  Maybe some of it is fear of people who enjoy themselves in a different way to us, who get a kick out of doing things that are illegal (or borderline legal), who make people like me seem 'boring'.

Recently I seem to keep reminding myself of that phrase about "walking a mile in another man's* shoes", I guess we should all try to do that when we start judging others on their behaviours or attitudes, it's a good start at least.  

*I refuse to change it to "person's" for the sake of political correctness!


  1. As someone who teaches kids aged 15 to 18, I am pretty positive about them and their values. There are horrible kids, who do things which shock and scare me, but most of the ones I know are good people. Sure, they do things differently from the way I did, but they have a completely different world to deal with.
    I have 2 more things to say, though:
    1. From what I read/hear about British youth, the problems are greater there than they are in this country (NZ). Mr A is English and visits every few years - last year he came back with very depressing attitudes about the lives of some Brits, and stating that that will be his last visit. But he's said that before :)
    2. I'm glad my own kids are grown up....

  2. P.S. The book sounds worth reading. I'll look out for it.

  3. Hi Alexia, thanks for your comments :-) You're right that the world kids live in now is very different to xxx years ago (insert as appropriate haha).

    I think a lot of public attitudes towards kids, and the fear of them, come from ignorance, and I'm counting myself in that - but I'm trying to un-ignorant myself a bit! I wonder what difference it makes that I don't have children myself, presumably people who do can't help comparing with their own children? as well as the old "in my day" thing.


  4. Hmmm...I was a rock chic when I was in my teens (ha, in my teens...still am!) and I was one of those kids who wore a lot of black and looked a bit odd (I had dreads with coloured wool woven through my gran was horrified!). People definately made judgements about the type of person I was! I would never have done anything to harm anyone and neither would any of my friends. I remember helping a woman with a pram onto a bus and being surprised that she was surprised that I offered to help. I guess its just that unknown element isn't it...mind you, I do feel uneasy when I can't see someones face. I think you can tell a lot from someones facial expression and that tells you whether you should be wary or yeah, not a fan of hoodies.

    C x

  5. I think if you have children yourself you meet a lot of the weird ones around your kitchen table so they become 'just kids'. And you see what good people so many of them are. And now that mine have grown I still carry that with me.

    But that only covers one group of people and I know I'm wary of a whole load more with no real reason............

  6. Now don't laugh but being a mother/grandma, I can honestly say, I knew everything as a teen, ha ha....!
    Then I matured into (please! don't laugh) the woman I swore (most of my childhood) I'd never be, my mother. Even close friends who never had children feel this way as well.

    ...and for survival purposes, I think many "inbuilt prejudices" guide our common sense......

    Funny how each generation has declared, their youth was the worst generation...!

  7.'re talkin' to a woman who's made her passion kiddos in that adolescent group for 35 years.
    They don't frighten me. They're my joy.

    Yes, I know this is scary in and of itself.

    And yes, I realize the older I get the more I know I don't know squat.
    It's GREAT!


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