I am not a blogger. Come to that, I am not psychologist or a counsellor either, but I do work all day everyday with teenagers at a High School. I would like to share some of my observations and thoughts. I hope these thoughts, and indeed questions, will give you something to think about, and maybe greater minds than mine can come up with some achievable solutions.
It’s clear that our society is moving ever closer to the “haves and have nots”. We hear statistics about poverty – like the wealth of the few richest people in world being greater than 50% of the world’s poorest. In New Zealand, the richest two people have more than 30% of the combined poorest.
I have found myself focusing on the behaviours and, more importantly, the attitudes of our young people. I see evidence of disconnection between our young people and our society as we know it. As we know, many of our young people are not voting. Is this because they do not trust the democratic system? Do they not trust politicians, who speak in statistics and spin, who make promises to get elected and then are not bound to keep them? Can they connect with this behaviour, this system? What do they make of Donald Trump? Do they feel that the political process is about them, that it will make the world a fairer place for them personally? I don’t think they do, and I can’t help but see their point! However, I think it’s more than this.
In a world that has created the “me” generation, many of our youth are focussed on “what’s in it for me?” They are not connected to the greater good. After all, the western culture tells them that they need more, they need bigger, better, newer. It is never over, it is never enough. This year’s amazing new mobile phone will be “that old thing” in just 12 months. Social media bombards our youth with ideas of what everyone else has and they must strive to achieve. I think they no longer have a sense of responsibility or belonging to the wider community. I think generally, many spend so much time connected to the internet and so little time connected to real people that they have a different take on what their society is.
Those who are embroiled in a gang culture see no wrong in helping themselves to things from stores or from rich people. After all, “shouldn’t we all be entitled to have it all?” I see them in a sub culture that tells them that it’s okay, everybody does it. The music and access to American gang culture tells them that everybody takes drugs. They simply do not see that the education system is part of their world. They see a place they are forced to come, with people from a different culture telling them what to do. “Miss if I can’t get a job, I will sell drugs.” “No Miss, I won’t get caught, I’m too clever for that, and besides going to prison makes me cool.” Perhaps prospects get a patch for that? I don’t know. Do they feel that if they cannot be successful in our society then they might as well just stick within their own sub culture?
Another interesting phenomenon, is how the higher learning students (the nerds of yesteryear) and the kids in learning support programmes are, on the whole, not bothered by other groups. The old school idea of peer group pressure causing bullying between factions seems a thing of the past to me. Peer group pressure now seems to be pressure to be on the top of the heap within your social group. In other words, the ‘me’ culture means you focus on those within your social group to be better than them, bully them, belittle them or throw them under the bus, thus advancing your own status. Real friendship is tenuous, because social media friendship is not like direct contact friendship. I wonder, do our youth have a strong grasp on what intimate friendship means? Even much of online bullying is within “social media” friend groups.
I wish I had all the answers, but I think asking the questions is a good place to start.