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?