What has happened to responsibility? Do we not teach responsibility anymore? Do we not pass on to our children that actions have consequences? That we are all responsible for our own actions? Two phrases come to mind, the first is a little used phrase that used to be applied to young men (or women) who broke the law or maybe were a little rebellious, ‘juvenile delinquent’ this term has fallen out of use, it is a contradiction in terms I believe ‘juvenile’ means below the age of responsibility, and ‘delinquent’ failing in duty. How can anyone be both? The other phrase is well known but not many people really understand its meaning, ‘responsible for your own actions’ this phrase is normally negated by another one ‘it wasn’t my fault’ or even ‘I didn’t do it’
That last phrase is churned out almost by rote as a defence for almost any action.
This morning I was sitting on my bike at the traffic lights in Brixton, two youngsters (around 17 maybe a bit older) were eating Maccy D’s, they finished and just threw the rubbish on the floor about 10 foot from a litter bin. I flipped the front on my helmet up and asked why they couldn’t walk a few feet and put it in the bin. One turned and said, ‘Were’nt me…’ I was gobsmacked…. I replied that I had just seen him throw it on the floor, he shrugged his shoulders and just walked off with his mate and kicked the rubbish as they did so.
He just denied committing any anti-social crime as a matter of fact, he didn’t even have to think about it, his friends reaction was also interesting, now years ago if you were with a mate who was accused of … well anything, you either looked shifty because you knew he was guilty or you backed him up, this guy just looked bored, it was the look that said this is a regular occurrence and I’m bored with it now.
This cavalier attitude to responsibility seems to now pervade our whole lives, from not caring about anything around us, dropping litter etc to health and safety laws that have now absolved us of all responsibility, the more we are cosseted by the state the more our sense of responsibility is diminished. Yet; does this not go all the way back to parental discipline? How many parents actually teach their kids the difference between right and wrong? How many set them a good example. Last week a very large bloke walked out through the traffic into the path of my motorbike, I was not filtering just riding normally towards the lights, which were red, he appeared between two vans and walked straight out dragging his (3-4 year old?) daughter, I sounded the horn and moved to the left to avoid them, he started shouting at me, with language I certainly would not use in front of a little girl. As he got to the pavement he was still shouting abuse at me along the lines of ‘Come on then if you think you are hard enough’ I asked him if he thought abusing people like that, especially when he caused the problem was setting a good example for his little girl, this seemed to make things worse ‘Are you telling me how to bring my kid up’ etc. What was wrong with just holding up a hand and saying ‘sorry mate!’ he was in the wrong, he risked his little girls life to cross the road less than 20 feet from a crossing. Yet he has a go at me.
He obviously thought it was my fault for having a motorbike on the road. FFS.
Youngsters learn a lot from what they see around them, no matter how many times we emphasise to them about manners, morals, or common courtesy, if they see others behaving without such etiquette they will think it’s the norm.
We all need to think about our behaviour, even in the little things. But as things stand, I can see a very long slippery slope ahead, with no way back.