I am 53. If you are my age or maybe even in your 40's you will maybe share my bemusement about what is happening to our kids. Yes there was the occasional flash of violence where a boy driven to desperation might challenge him to a boxing duel; I did meet the odd easy girl;yes there was a bit of bullying; yes there might have been two fat boys in my whole school; yes one of two boys in the whole school did not fit in at all. But did I even come close to experiencing or witnessing what is now commonplace with children today? No way!
Just to remind us all about what we now take for granted now. On PEI sex is commonplace for girls as young as 12. It is not just oral sex but going the whole way in the school washroom on the floor. If you think I exaggerate have a real heart to heart with a teacher. Amazing to me for whom young girls were sacrosanct, boys of 18 think nothing of having sex with a 12 year old. The "Ho" look is now essential to fit in. If you don't wear a thong, you are a loser. 30% of boys are on Ritalin. Think about this before you pass onto the next point. 30% of our boys have to take drugs so that they can cope at school and at home. Most of the really dreadful violence such as at Columbine does not occur in inner city schools but in middle class or even upper middle class settings. Its the kids who have all the things who are most desperate. PEI sent a choir to France recently. One of the sights that struck the parents who accompanied the kids was not the Eiffel Tower but the fact that not one - not one - of the French kids was fat and about half the PEI kids were fat. Bullying is endemic and no longer linked only to boys. There have been girls who have killed girls and girl hazing is as bad as anything in the Paratroopers.
Like the fog in the pot of water that is slowly heating, we have not noticed as life for our children has grown steadily worse over the last 30 years. Well folks the water is boiling now and we have to act. But what is the problem? We at least can sense that there is a problem. All the issues are now out in the open with sex at school being the last one to make the front-page and our news screen. In response of course we have started to blame others. TV, the Media, advertising, poverty, the teachers and the schools. We point to the hooker look of the stars, we point to how women's bodies have been forced into an ideal shape and every product has sexual overtones. We point to the inanity of TV and its hypnotic effect. We complain about the consumerization of our world and how our kids now have to have all these things. We think that violence is is a problem of poverty when it is in reality mainly middle class kids who are in trouble. We blame the fast food firms who tempt our kids to eat the wrong things and we blame the teacher who cannot control our kids. Well folks it is time to hang up the mirror and to look at ourselves as parents.
Something has changed in a generation to give disconnect our kids from their intuitive good sense.
We as parents are not paying our children enough attention. We are not paying enough attention to ourselves. We have become consumed by a distraction. It is called work. Our relationship to work has become distorted and it is leaving us bereft of the energy that we need to parent well and to keep ourselves well. We are becoming the most spiritually poor group of humans to have lived.
I am going to say things now that are hard to hear but if you have a better idea, let's hear it I think that we made the world of work the central part of our life. We have always worked but is the culture of the the world of work that has changed. The problem is not work but the prevailing culture in the workplace.
For my father work was more like a family. There was a contract of mutuality. Loyalty was rewarded, lifetime friendships were established amongst people who lived and worked in communities. Yes there was anguish and conflict in some areas such as in the birth of the steel and auto industries - this was not golden age. But there was true community at work and at home.
Now the last remnant of the old contract of loyalty and service has been broken and all at work are expendable - work has truly become a rat race for most of us. It increasingly consumes us and changes the way we see ourselves and everyone else around us. In the global rat race you have no colleagues you have only competitors. We leave our communities and travel to places where we have no connection or relationships. It is becoming every-woman for herself. Everyone feels helpless and no one feels that they have a voice. This is not just true in business but parts of the public sector are if anything worse. Know any happy nurses or teachers?
So why do I raise this. OK he is going to say that women made a mistake and have to go back to June Cleaver Land. No I am not saying this. I am saying that how we organize work today has become inimical to life. At work we find a culture of the "Borg". We take home these lifeless relationships and we play them out with our spouses and with our young children. Becoming only objects at work, we treat ourselves and those that we love at home increasingly as objects. We see care as being objects. We see things as being care. We see objects as love. We see each other as being disposable.
This is why the media can tap into us so easily. They feed on our feeling that if I had this new object I would feel better. They feed on our loneliness and on our pain. If I act out enough might she pay attention to me? If I wear this I will be attractive. If I give him a BJ, I will be popular. I get a BJ from a kid I am powerful. If I bully I have power in a world where I have power. If I eat this I feel comforted.
I say these things not because I am a good person and you are not. I am guilty of this too. In the mid 1980's I was a "successful" investment banker. I earned lots of money that only a career in crime could replicate. I travelled incessantly, I was at work all hours of the day and when I was home I was still at work in my mind. We had all the goodies. Nice homes, kids at private school, all the cars, clothes etc. But Robin was miserable. She was raising Hope and James on her own. She was in effect a single parent. I could not see that - after all I was focusing all my energy on important things like my work. One evening she broke down and in tears told me how unhappy she was - there it was on the table. My response. I said I am doing all of work for you. Look at all the great things that we have. I am doing all of this for you - what more do you want I asked.
"You" she said. "You". "We want you". It took me a long time to understand what she meant. Many of us lie to ourselves when we go to work. We say that we do this for us but we do it for me most of the time. We say that we need the things but our spouses and our children do not need the things they need a real relationship with us.
Our choice is not about work or not - it is about what relationship we chose to have with work. The context will be to understand why relationships are so essential to humans and how we seem to lost hold of that insight and how we have organized a world that kills relationships which will in turn kill us by shutting down our next generation.
I am going to be writing a series of articles about this topic this week and I will be drawing on the science of relationships that is contained in a remarkable book called the General Theory of Love. We will look at how small babies have to attach themselves to us. We will look at how they do this and we look at how our emotional brain as opposed to our thinking brain affects so much of our lives. We will then think of some of the choices that we have in this context