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Drunk Kids

  • May 22nd, 2007

“When did you last have it?” was my mother’s first question when she found me wandering in useless circles looking for something lost. The question was infuriating. “If I knew that it wouldn’t be lost” I’d snap. Then, irritatingly, her patient questions would lead me to the “of course” moment of insight.

It is well overdue for the arrogant 1960’s generation in power to ask that question about things we have lost. Things our forebears took as a matter of course. Big things like negligible vandalism, low crime and low prison recidivism.  And smaller things with at least as much impact on the quality of life, the civilizing habits of public dignity and courtesy that justified routine trust in strangers, and willingness to help each other.

My mother would have thought it a no-brainer to look back and ask when we last had low levels of youth drunkenness. What were the conditions before it became normal on our late evening streets to meet staggering sometimes vomiting gaggles of wasted girls dressed like sluts? What changed to make it everyday rather than exceptional to hear sporadic volleys of oaths and roars from shambling clusters of drunk boys? Exactly when did we accept that, though unmanly, discretion lay in avoiding the slurred eyes of brutish oafs shambling down the street, in case our glance was the challenge they were looking for?

I’d start looking at the era when the focus of enforcement shifted from the people behaving badly, to everyone but them.

When I was a teenager, we knew we were responsible for our own actions. If we were in the pub underage, or caught drinking or drunk in public, the consequence was clear. We were charged. We were penalized. We were named, and our families dealt as best they could with our shame. The courts and justice then were genuinely open – not the secret conclaves of the legal insiders they have become.

When the community said that it did not want underage drinking, or public drunkenness, it did the straightforward thing. It penalised those who were drinking underage, or publicly drunk.

Today’s law and enforcement in contrast is obsessed with secondary agents – those who sell liquor (or cigarettes or drugs or cleaning fluids or glue, or porn etc etc). The bar manager is responsible for drunkenness, not the drinkers. Advertisers are to blame, not those who choose to break the law. The “community” or schools, are scapegoats – for failing to interest bored brats.

There is desperation to shift accountability to others, from anyone with the choice or even direct influence on the behaviour. Only two classes have complete exemption. The parents – and  those who’ve taken from parents their powers to discipline their seriously defiant teenagers.

It is not hard to go back to where we were when we lost it - simply routinely charge kids for breaking laws against underage drinking and public drunkenness. Penalise the parents who have not tried to stop it. Then have penalties that mean something, not the family group conference charade.

Stop giving everyone the excuse that someone else is to blame.

“We” are not to blame for kids over whom we’ve been deprived of all control and nor is the school or the supermarket or service station, or the bouncer who failed to eject them or the barmaid who sold that last drink. “We” don’t need more “conversations” or community responsibility taking.

We need a simple reversion to law that respects and enforces personal responsibility.

Comments

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You obviously weren’t buying Norm Hewitt on Breakfast Telly today saying we need a “community of parents holding hands.”

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I’m with Margaret Thatcher on the idea that “communities” bring up children. Villages might, but just wait to see what would happen to anyone today who exercised “village” authority over another’s child.
When a neighbouring father caught me with his son trying to break street lights, he took off his belt and whipped us both. If I’d told my father he’d have said “good job”.
What adult could even risk detaining other family’s vandals today!

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  • jim
  • February 28th, 2009
  • 2:00 pm

communities r gay

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