Friday, August 28, 2009

What's the message? Warning - high level of preaching follows, and a low level of editing. A somewhat serious post.

Melbourne's street violence is on the rise, and going out on the weekend in certain hotspots seems to be a "taking your life into your own hands" proposition.

It's scary out there. Sometimes it feels like I'm living in that wonderful old Chuck Heston movie, The Omega Man. There's been an apocalypse, there is no one else except me and mine, and you have to be indoors by sunset otherwise faceless mini-beings in hooded cassocks will fix their red eyes on you, and get you. Yes this movie was remade recently with Will Smith, yeah it was ok, but it had none of the impact for me of Omega Man. Probably because I'm a woman now of mid-age instead of an eleven-year-old, skinny-legged girl.

So we huddle in our home, in one of Melbourne's Danger Zones and we hear the drunks rolling up the hill, and down the hill. But things haven't been as bad as several years ago. On once occasion I hung out the window in the middle of the night and told a man who was abusing a woman to fuck off, and that I was calling the police. He wasn't touching her, yet, just yelling at her, really ugly stuff. He told me to fuck off. Another time I hung out the window (this Mrs Jessop lives upstairs) and told a guy pissing in our garden to fuck off and piss somewhere else. I got invited down to give him a headjob.
Apparently, it's the fault of the baby boomers who have "over-indulged their kids to the extent where they think they can do whatever they like." (The Age, today, page 11.)

So who are the baby boomers and how can we tell them off?

Wiki has a good page, which lays it all out, but of course you go somewhere else, and there are different year cut-offs.

Baby Boomers, the generation that was born just after World War II. So my parent's generation, although my dad possibly slips inside the Silent Generation, being too young to have fought in WW2 (like about 2 years old at the start and 7 at the end of it.) It makes sense him being in the Silent Generation because he really doesn't say that much.

So it's not me and my friends out on the streets fucking it up for everyone else. Which generation is out there being dickheads and who are their parents?

It's the late Generation Joneses, on the cusp of Gen-X. Oh those guys.

Parents are indulgent, don't say no to their children, want to be friends instead of parents and are scared of their children not liking them. They are hanging on to their own lost youth, desperately trying to stay hip, and that includes procuring alcohol for their underage kids and their friends, and drinking far too much themselves.

This week I was at Princess' school one night for a Drug and Alcohol educational parent info night. Parents were there, as were Year 7 students. A speaker from a foundation spoke about the dangers of alcohol, about harm-minimisation, and encouraging our adolescents to delay their drinking as long as possible. All well and good. Then we split off and did activities, kid-run games and competitions with the topics of drugs and alcohol.

Then, after the fun and games, we went back to the hall. For the alcohol presenter to clarify a point.

He took to the podium again and said [I'm paraphrasing]:

I just wanted to clarify something from my presentation. I didn't want you to think that drinking more than 2 glasses of alcohol is binge drinking. Our message is that to lessen risk to health etc, drinking less than 2 standard drinks in any one sitting assists that, and to maintain those lower levels of risk, over a weekly period, blah blah, women this much, men this much. But binge drinking is drinking to get drunk, where that is the purpose, people going out thinking "I'm going to write myself off."

Do you see what he did? He just undid a lot of what he'd said earlier, where he was talking about safeR levels of drinking.

Do you know why he clarified? I think people in the audience, or even just one person (a rich, powerful parent?) had complained. They didn't want their kids to say to them the next time they have more than 2 drinks, "Hey, that's binge drinking." So the message to young, impressionable adolescents was tainted for the sake of the adults in that room.

We all fucking binge drink. But not according to his revised statement, in order to get drunk.

There were jokes made by parents in the activity sessions, it was all light-hearted and fun, with quips about "where's the refreshments" etc.

I'm not a wowser. I drink too much as a rule. I use it like medicine, a reward, it's a habit to drink, I was brought up drinking. Anyone reading my old diaries will appreciate the amount I have put away over the years. It's a wonder I can function, my poor old brain has been soused and pickled. It's a wonder I've never had an unwanted pregnancy, gotten any nasty sexual diseases, been raped, had a car accident, run over someone else, been in a fight, a punch-up, a stabbing. I've not been kidnapped, fallen off a balcony, drowned while swimming drunk, been hit by a car while crossing the road at 4am.

I'm not saying these things happen if you drink. I'm just saying there's a much higher risk of injury and Bad Things Happen if you are drunk. Not just tipsy, but drunk.

People don't like to be told they drink alot. People joke about getting to Friday and collapsing onto the couch with a glass of wine, they've made it. They don't drink through the week, and feel that they are on top of it, then drink way too much over the weekend. And then it becomes Thursday that is the marker.

We are all lying to ourselves. And our kids are seeing this. Of course they are going to go on to drink, and abuse alcohol. When I was a kid, my parents divorced when I was about 14. But before then, even though I can't remember, Dad would have been drinking beer every night. Mum didn't, and still doesn't. She came from an abstemious family. Even as a teenager, going to my friends' houses, I don't remember parents casually drinking. Like lollies for kids, it was something that was for a special occasion. Like lollies and chips and other party food, these things have become every day things, not just treats. Party food is packed into kids' lunch boxes for school. Adults go out for lunch and have a glass of wine almost automatically. People who don't drink are noticed and wondered about. They are suspect.

I don't know what the answer is, but parents have to realise they are not being hypocritical if they drink alcohol but are not permissive when it comes to their young people wanting to drink. Parents have to realise that the notion of introducing alcohol at home, such as wine with dinner for example, does not (according to studies) "help" their children learn better how to use alcohol in a responsible manner. It even be can be counterproductive.

In our home, we are conscious of our drinking. I am the biggest culprit. Values and attitudes are transmitted to kids within families without sitting them down and telling them stuff. It happens by osmosis, and by modelling behaviours. Parents are the greatest influence, until kids' peer groups become more important during adolescence. You can be the greatest parent in the world (I'm not, I just aim to be "good-enough") but you can be sure you will fuck up your kids some way, some how.

The question is. What are you doing in front of them, that they are learning? They take it all in from a very young age. Then they will act it out, and pass it on to their kids. These can be good things and bad things. What are these young people seeing at home, or wherever, that makes them king-hit someone in the city, and stomp on their head when they are on the ground? Is it just the alcohol, and then the testosterone? What is it?

15 comments:

Pepsi said...

Well done you, feel better?

I have two theories

a) Red bull, harsher drugs and a lack of personal accountability for ones own actions

b) all the bogan suburban beer barns are closed or are strictly regulated so all those patrons now go into to town - clash of tribes that wouldnt of normally clashed (including a clash of migrant cultures who havent yet settled with their own hybrid voice yet). And as they all live so far away and the public transport system sucks, they cant get home till the trains start again so have nothing better to do then wander the streets looking for some fun.

As a starting point I'd ban Red Bull and its equivalents, and keep the trains on all night.

I'd also do something about staggering closing times of some of the bigger bimbo deluxe type venues in town, and put some more taxis on at 3.00am.

And people shoud just man up and take responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming everybody else imho.

elaine said...

Pepsi, AMEN to your last.

Esz said...

Wicked answer Pepsi :-)) We do need the trains on all night thats for sure.

IMHO my biggest issue is with the 'alcohol and drugs are taboo'. Dont take them dont talk about them dont try them and listen to what the government tells you.

Kids arent given the opportunity to make up their own mind. And you're right Melba, they take so much from their parent's attitude to alcohol.
Which is often at odds to what they hear at school so its difficult to find the happy medium.

There's a culture among friends to get wasted as often as possible cos its the 'naughty' thing to do. Same with drugs I suppose. I'm very much for backing the European model for drug and alcohol acceptance but I wonder does such a thing only come with (a society's) maturity?

squib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
suze2000 said...

I agree about the Red Bull etc.

I disagree about the trains. That's rubbish, there's Night Rider buses in this city and they are more than adequate for the patronage. I've also never had trouble getting a cab as long as I'm willing to WAIT patiently at a cab rank (15mins max - less than the wait for a train that late at night). I live near a train line, as do many thousands of others and I'd like at least a few hours or undisturbed sleep of a night. Same for the tram proposal for the same reasons. Trams are even noisier than trains - I used to live on a tram street, I know this. It's waaay quieter here, next to the train tracks.

Agree about manning up and taking responsibility. The poor me culture of blaming others is bullshit and just gives people excuses.

Liquor licensing laws in this city are insane. Pubs should close at midnight. Nightclubs should be less numerous AND less concentrated and most should be forced to shut at 1am, 2am and 3am with some chillout bars open until 6am. Only some though, not all as is currently the case. And they must be for rest and recovery, not getting more wasted. This way, we wouldn't need expensive, risky all night transport. (Think about it: would you want to get on a train at 3am with a bunch of punchy, aggressive drunks? It's bad enough at 11pm coming home from the city!)

Kid's DON'T NEED the opportunity to make up their own mind, IMO. What they need is firm and lovingly enforced (and reinforced) boundaries. Energetic parents who are interested in spending time with their children, rather than letting them go off to their room to Facebook and god only knows what else online. Or off to wander the streets with other kids who might be bad influences, kicking over letterboxes, graffiti-ing everything that used to be nice and so on (I HATE taggers. HATE HATE HATE. Why they are compelled to ruin other people's stuff I don't know, but it's NOT cool).

My father was alcoholic, I'm not. So I'm not sure that seeing your parents drink all the time is the problem. I knew as a child that Mummies and Daddies sometimes like a beer or ten. But that was for Mummies and Daddies only and I had to wait until I was one. I'm enjoying a Friday night glass of wine now (heck I may have another later!), but I'm not out to get blotto.

Later in my life, my Mum divorced my Dad and married someone else who viewed alcohol as a treat. He ragged on his adult sons just for getting smashed on the weekends all the time. Thus, when I was 18 and went to a friend's place for dinner, I was scandalised at how much her parents would knock back on a weeknight, and they thought that was perfectly normal (I thought they were as bad as my Dad at the time, there was no in-between for me).

I don't believe removing the taboos and drugs and alcohol would make things better. I think the worse members of Gen-Y and beyond would likely just take this as permission to behave even worse, because so many of them have such poorly-defined boundaries and a negative sense of self. I've also seen first-hand the damage (now cross-generational) damage that booze and drugs do to a person and their families so I'm heartily against a more permissive attitude to drugs.

It would hurt the State coffers a lot, but I think the govt has to man up and accept that permissive late-night licensing laws are contributing to the problem in this state and repeal late-night licensing. I'm also strongly against pokies as I believe they are addictive and a tax on the poor and vulnerable and should be banned (though for different reasons).

I also think slap on the wrist punishments should be removed. No bail, no early parole, no TVs in jail, just hard, exhausting physical work (cleaning up all the graffiti would be a good place to start the crims off) and proper punishment. And more cops on the streets. And more proactive policing (ala Guiliani's NYC).

Hey, I've turned into an lod conservative! *gasp*

eat my shorts said...

It's that kids these days are arseholes.

No really. I'm old now, so I can say that.

Pepsi is right - people aren't encouraged to be responsible for their own actions anymore. And Red Bull is the devil's drink.

I'm not a parent, so I hesitate to comment on how kids should be brought up. Hesitate, but will comment anyway (I'll use my experiences as a teacher of Gen-Y to back up my half-baked ideas instead). The parents who try to be their kids mates have a lot to answer for. I don't know quite how they did it, but my parents managed to strike a balance between instilling respect and providing care and love.

I think the first time I tasted beer I was about nine. And hated it, of course. Mum & Dad would have a glass of wine or a stubby with the evening meal, but never got pissed that I'm aware of. As teenagers we were encouraged to go out & discover what we could handle as far as drinking went. We had a rule in our family that no matter how late or how far away from home we were, if we called home & wanted to come home Mum or Dad would come & pick us up, no questions asked. But if we got fucked up we had to face the consequences (one time, my brother spewed in the bath and in the bathroom cabinet - we didn't find the latter until later that morning and then he had to clean it up while still feeling seedy).

We were trusted to figure out for ourselves (when we were old enough to do so) what our boundaries were, but we were given support within that. The family attitude towards alcohol wasn't "let's get wasted", and it wasn't "grog is teh evil", I think at the end of it we've got fairly healthy attitudes with drinking.

Having said that, fuck I'm glad I'm not the parent of a teenager. Can't you just ship them off during that stage and then invite them back into the fold when they're twenty four?

jo_blue said...

I think as a culture, we've made drinking into something that's desirable and even revered among young people. Growing up in the eighties, drinking was normal and drinking too much gave you a hero-like status among your peers and you were encouraged to do it again and again.

And I agree with Pepsi's last point too. People should buck up and take responsibility for themselves. We can't keep blaming our parents, our childhood or whatever for the rest of our lives. There comes a time when you have to control yourself. Drunken louts should be made to realise the consequences of their actions - perhaps by helping their victims in recovery or assisting other brain-injured people.

Something has got to be done, this problem won't go away by itself and our lovely 'liveable' Melbourne is turning into a very scary place.

The Man at the Pub said...

You see the kids listen to the rap music which gives them brain damage, with the hippin' and the hoppin' and the bippin' and the boppin'.

What we need is a big war to sort the kids out. But there isn't any good wars anymore, thanks very much Barrack Obama!

Pepsi said...

The trains shouldnt run all night because I live near a train line and I would like some uninterrupted sleep comment had me on the floor in stitches - was she trying to be ironic?

Though I would like to know where this magic 15 minute taxi rank is? I could of used it at 3.30am on Sunday morning.

squib said...

Sorry, had to delete that on acount of me sounding like a wanker

Melba said...

Shit squib don't worry. I can't even remember what you said.

suze2000 said...

Perhaps Pepsi should delete their comment on account of sounding like a wanker too.

I'd like to know what's so funny about wanting a decent night's sleep.

But then, I'm cranky because I didn't sleep well last night. :P

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