Tuesday, 27 September 2016

'Young people nowadays'

I've heard a variation of this phrase a lot recently:

'Young people nowadays are so arrogant/entitled/spoilt/pampered/disrespectful' (delete as appropriate).

Spoken by people my age, and older.

And it makes me SO cross.

Firstly: ageism is ageism no matter what the age you are moaning about. I also think its particularly unfair that older people have a go at younger people. Because we're not supposed to disrespect our elders, right? Yet respect, the last time I checked, respect can work both ways. In fact, it needs to work both ways, really. Otherwise it's an imbalance of power. According to some, its absolutely fine for an older person to tar all younger people with the same brush, but NEVER the other way round.

Which you know, isn't that fair.

Secondly: throughout history, every generation has thought better of their own age group than the age group following them. Take this quote:

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

If you are nodding to this and thinking 'yep, that EXACTLY describes young people nowadays, it wasn't like THIS back in my day' then let me tell you that the person behind that quote was Socrates, and he died in 339 B.C.

I distinctly remember older people moaning about my generation when I was a teenager. I remember reading articles about it. I remember hearing people of my parents' age and older, casually, in front of me, going on an epic rant about how awful and spoilt and terribly behaved teenagers were.

It upset me and my friends. It caused division and bitterness between us and older people. Older people didn't understand us; we hadn't done a thing to them, and yet apparently we were fair game for them to speak awful words over? In a time of life where you feel pretty powerless, it was an exercise in feeling even worse. Because, you know, you mustn't argue with your elders.

Thirdly: young people are having a pretty awful time of it nowadays. 2.7 million young people in the UK are currently living in poverty (aged 14-24). That is 30% of the population of young people - higher than any other age group. 11.5% of young people in the UK (aged 11-16) have a mental disorder. Incidents of hospital admissions of children and young people suffering after effects of self-harm have increased in the last ten years by 68%. And yet, 70% of these children and young people cannot access appropriate interventions.

And, to top it all off, this government seem to have it in for younger people, if the increase in university tuition fees, scrapping of housing benefit for under-25s, and cuts to children's mental health services are anything to go by. Plus, they have the immense pressure of social media to contend with.

I wouldn't go back to being a teenager nowadays for all the money in the world.

Truth is, I used to think it was fine to say these sweeping generalisations about teenagers almost as soon as I became an adult. I think differently now. Do I think we should respect our elders, and appreciate them for the wisdom they've gleaned? Absolutely, I do. Do I think teenagers are perfect? Er, no. They're still developing into adults - they haven't physically or mentally gained every skill they need to act perfectly in society.

Frankly, though, I know some adults who behave in a far worse way than a lot of young people.

And, also frankly, I think that no matter how many years you have under your belt, you don't have the automatic right to be disrespectful to other people.

At the end of the day, young people are people: with all the good and bad bits that come with being human.

I'd love to see respect going both ways. Younger people respecting the wisdom of people who have gone before. And older people (again - including my generation!) taking younger peoples' opinions into account, too.

Linking up with:

Pink Pear Bear


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Sometimes, the bad guys win.

I've been reading a lot about the kind of skills that are essential for a well-balanced life. They are not the kind of skills that you would expect to be able to teach children - like phonics or number recognition - and they are not to do with how we treat others, like kindness and respect. They are a different set of qualities - self-control, grit, resilience, curiosity.

In the book How Children Succeed, Paul Tough looks into the gap between kids from rich and poor families, and whether there are things that educators can do to help overcome that gap. It looks at the impact of stress on a child's developing brain through to adulthood.

It's pretty interesting.

Anyway, the book got me thinking about the kind of lessons that my kids will learn naturally as they grow up, almost subconsciously. Lessons like I don't always get to win stuff. And I can't always get what I want. And sometimes I have to wait for things. And no-one can be good at everything. 

As well as more unfortunate ones that I think we start learning in school, like if you look the right way you are more likely to be popular. That sort of sucky life lesson that is unavoidably true.

But one of the most uncomfortable life lessons I will have to watch my kids learn as they grow up is this:

Sometimes the bad guys win.


Do you ever have those days where you read the news and just feel totally despondent about the world? I'm starting to wonder if there's a correlation between happiness and news consumption, actually.

I want to teach my kids that they should strive to do the right thing. Not necessarily the easiest thing or the thing that gives them the most success, but the right thing. That sounds kind of wooly, but I think that's the thing that most people try to do (or at least the people I hang out with). The right thing. I want to teach them that even when doing the right thing is detrimental to you, that it's still better than doing a kind of sneaky, slightly naughty thing and getting instant rewards for it.

But then I have days where I think 'is it worth it though? Really?'

When I was a teenager, I watched as the popular, confident kids piggy-backed off the geeky kids in order to gain more popularity and respect. I watched as the stronger kids gained even more strength and power from sapping the confidence of the weaker ones, through bullying, teasing, and social manipulation.

And then as an adult, you realise how everything in our society hinges on the same principle - the strong getting stronger off the backs of the weak. Rich people get richer, and poor people get poorer. It's exemplified in multi-millionaires who relax on their luxury yachts whilst at the same time laying off thousands of minimum-wage employees, but it translates to lots of different situations. It's more lucrative, most of the time, to be bad than to be good.

Obviously there's rules to this. Society doesn't look kindly upon murderers, for instance. But low-level corruption is generally accepted. Even encouraged by the systems that allow countries to run.

It is an absolutely awful life lesson to learn, because you never stop learning it. The more you engage in politics and society, the more the lesson hits home. Sometimes the bad guys win. Or, to be less black-and-white about it, sometimes it's better to do bad things than good things.


This is one of the many instances where, for all its (excellent) qualities, being a Christian is actually harder than not being one. Because I don't have the freedom to hate people like I want to. Everything in my life hinges upon grace given to me, so I have to extend that grace to other people, even people that really don't deserve it, even people who trample all over others and get what they want all the time.

Even those people.

Sometimes, frankly, I want to give up dishing out grace. I want to say 'do you know what? If you're going to spend a lifetime being a total jerk, then frankly, you deserve what you get.'

But I can't be anything other than forgiving of people, because I do bad things all the time. In fact, just by being alive and consuming things in England, I am probably ripping off hundreds of people around the world who are trapped in slavery or poverty (whilst whinging about how expensive things are). I contribute to inequality - everyone does, whether you are stuck in it, or you are the one sticking other people in it.

But grace is the better option in the long run. Right? Extending grace and forgiveness and understanding is definitely more difficult, but it benefits everyone. In extending grace to someone who doesn't deserve it, I get to learn how to admit defeat. How to let things go instead of having to be proven right all the time.

There are limits to this. Obviously. I think as a society we have a responsibility to keep our leaders in line and to question what they do and to try and stop the vulnerable from being mistreated. But on a personal level?

My kids will learn that bullies get away with it a lot of the time.

They will learn that having money and good looks will give you a huge advantage.

They will learn that life is sometimes drastically, ridiculously, depressingly unfair.

They will learn that sometimes, the bad guys win.

But ... they will learn to cope with that.

They will learn that life is about more than instant success.

They will learn that actual deep-down life satisfaction cannot come from using other people.

They will learn that to do the right thing is better than doing the easier thing.

They will learn to be resilient in the face of injustice.

Frankly, there's not much I can do to teach them about this either way. I'm prepared to sit back and let them learn, make their own decisions and mistakes, and see the outcome ... whilst trying to model doing the right thing instead of the easier thing.

And extending grace, even to the bad guys.

Linking up with:


Pink Pear Bear

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Book review - The Joker by Deborah Stansil

Earlier this year, I reviewed Deborah Stansil's collection of short stories and flash fiction, Twisted Tales. That was the first time I had really sat down to read flash fiction - I have to admit that beforehand, I didn't really get the appeal of it. Now I have a newfound respect for it - to be able to cram so much meaning into such few words is actually flipping hard work. Flash fiction has to be really ... precise, I guess, and clean, to work well.

Deborah asked me if I would like to review her debut novel, The Joker, and sent me a free copy of it. I was happy to say yes. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten round to reviewing it until now (sorry Debbie!), but here we go:

The Joker is the story of a group of friends who accidentally let loose a demon during a ouija-board-session-gone-wrong. It is a classic horror story in that sense - people getting in over their heads and then dealing with the horrific consequences of meddling with things they don't understand.

This book isn't perfect - it's obviously a first time novel. The characters could have done with a bit more fleshing out (can't say more without giving anything away!) and at times I found that Kayleigh's thoughts didn't feel like a teenager's voice. However, the pacing was good (loads going on throughout - you rarely get bored) and the demon itself was interesting - what you don't get in horror films is a look into what the demon itself is thinking, whereas you can clearly hear what Scurra is plotting and how his mind works. Kayleigh has quite an immense battle on her hands as she tries to deal with him!

It's not a perfect first novel, but horror fans should enjoy the twists and turns as Kayleigh faces up to the biggest challenge of her life.

You can buy The Joker here. Also check out Stansil's book of short stories here. You can find the author on Twitter here and to visit her blog, click here.

Thank you Deborah for the opportunity to read and review The Joker!
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