I write this on behalf of all the children and all the youth of today.
I am neither young nor am I old. Every year of my life is a chapter. The years may be gone and yet– the memories are not lost, like an age ring etched in the wood – my life continues.
Some days I return to that boy of 8, bullied in the playground until I learnt that to fall was harder than to withstand.
I can still feel the first blush of love at fifteen and how it flowed through me like a warm and uncertain stream and at seventeen the frozen lake of despair when I was rejected for another.
I live in the present and yet I am often a visitor to my past. We call it memories; we are made by them.
Some of the moments give us strength and hope for the future, yet others hold us hostage, filling us with despair and endless fear.
There is that saying; ‘from hardship comes strength’ – but I am somewhat uncomfortable with this. It suggests that success should always be the measure, when I think the true watermark of any life should be the value we have given to others. And no more so than what we do for our children.
I have seen so many success stories that are wrapped in barbed wire. People who seem to have conquered all, where the score card is power, money, position and yet there they stand utterly naked for they harbor hate, malice and dismissal of others. Nothing is uglier than self-entitlement especially when it dismisses the right of others to be respected, to have a voice.
With power indeed comes great responsibility. And we as parents command great power over our children in the beginning, yet sooner than we imagine possible, we lose that hold.
This is more so today than ever before. The digital age has freed – and it has enslaved us like no other moment before.
Information is easy to find and to share. The speed of it however has allowed too many to use it for all the wrong reasons. Today everyone can share an opinion – and all too often it is self serving, without thought and dangerous. Today to say something is a truth, is also at the same time committing it to be a lie, because people see things through their own prism. Words have become very cheap.
Laws and rules by their very nature invite people to break them.
Power held by just a few is now shared by many thanks to social media and the greatest users of this power – are the children and youth of today.
The bottle is open, the genie is out. We are discovering new things and inventing like no other time. And yet, we are losing ourselves too.
We live in the best of times. And the worst. Has it all gone too far that now there is no hope?
Is tomorrow and the promise that it brings lost by the fragile and whimsical nature of the way we act, react and strive, regardless of others?
I hope not. Hope after all is the drug that keeps us sane. To lose hope is to have no purpose. To have no purpose is to stand still.
We have to believe, we have to hope.
The only way the world can heal itself is for us to believe that a world where there is friendship without borders is the only way to live a better life and to truly give all our tomorrows a better chance.
There should be no quotas: How many men or women should make up a leadership team, how many older people we should hire, how many people of different color to our own should be ‘accommodated’…and so forth.
Quotas are polite forms of woeful discrimination.
And all this garbage is what we as ‘adults’ are allowing to happen. We are allowing our own fears, our own pre–conceived notions of who is ‘in ‘ and who is ‘out’ to rule us. Tribalism is on the rise. Self righteousness and condescension is everywhere – often assumed to be disguised and yet is so naked.
A few moths ago, one of my son’s best friends came to visit us from China. Max is half Australian and half Chinese and 100% a child of the world. He really is a lovely young man.
Walking slightly ahead of us he saw a group of boys and girls, rich kids from Westport – and as he passed them by, one idiot could not help himself ‘hey Chink what the fuck are you doing walking here on our beach?’.
The rest of the children laughed in unison. I was shocked, dismayed, deeply agitated.
Max on the other hand simply smiled and…apologized.
By then I had caught up and the pack of ‘hyenas’ quickly sloped away cackling.
Max said nothing more of it and yet behind his ‘ I don’t care about it smile’ was the slightest mist – he was hurt. My son put his arm around his shoulders, he shrugged the embrace away and walked away from us. A sunny day suddenly had become grey and all too quiet.
Then later that same day Max said something I shall never forget:
‘Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to destroy a nearly finished painting. But in starting from scratch, in letting go, in keeping only what feels right, lies incredible potential. We have to be brave enough to start again. Just brushing over mistakes never gets you to a good place. I wish just one kid in that group could have been brave’.
To believe that everyone has the right and the possibility of being good should be our universal creed.
And it does not start with the young ones, but with us, we who have many life rings and lived through many chapters. We who can still feel like a lost child or a useless youth, despite the years.
If only adults would stop standing in the way by teaching all this hate.
We should do better. Step by step. One snow flake cannot stop the traffic but a blizzard can. Friendship comes from belief. A belief that every one has the right to be understood. Hard as that may seem, it is the only way to save tomorrow for our children and all those who wait to be born.