What on earth have we done to our children?

The following is the manuscript of a speech I gave at a specially arranged meeting in Parliament to consider the findings of 17yr long study of how our society treats its children which have been published in the book “The Big Question: What On Earth Are We Doing To Our Children” available here > http://www.maranathacommunity.org.uk/bookworld-in-a-box.aspx?isbn=9780956571762

In any home, in any corner of this land, our hope is that our children are being looked after.
Our hope is that parents, teachers, health workers, care workers, scout leaders, church leaders and neighbours all have the welfare of our children at heart and consider it a priority and a privilege.

But the truth is that this is tragically not the case.
Hidden from view in the overwhelming statistics of the worst stories of abuse and neglect lies the long tail of an entire generation who have grown up in an atmosphere of abuse and neglect.
They have breathed this toxic air. They have imbued as norms things which to previous generations would have been anathema.
A 17yr old today is confronted with daily images of a world constantly at war.
Images are continually projected onto the screens of their brains about body image, avarice, materialism; all part of the conspiracy of superficiality that helps us look away from what lurks beneath the surface.
We wonder why children today can behave in such appalling ways towards other children. We marvel that children are giving birth to children. We stand back aghast as a child not yet having reached maturity has tallied a string of partners who have used her and abused her, and a tally of abortions to match.
Our children are now criminals, locked up with men whose stories have an eerily similar quality to them. The doors of prisons have become revolving doors, and the stories you hear could be the story for any one of those men, give or take the odd detail.
A new banker class has ransacked our financial future and taken their ill gotten gains offshore whilst a boy who loots a television in the throes of a mass riot goes to prison, their future cut short for one moment’s madness.
The “hoodie” has become synonymous with a pest, like rats are a pest, but wouldn’t you hide in a hood if you were this hated?

We should not be so surprised. Horrified, yes, but surprised, no.
We have sown the wind and we must now reap the whirlwind.

This parliament is called the mother of parliaments, and yet as a mother she has neglected her children.
Whilst MPs fiddled, Croydon burned.
Policymaking lacks the imagination that this younger generation has in spades.
Labels such as ‘scroungers’ and ‘layabouts’ are nailed deep into young men and women who have no prospect of employment; not because the opportunities don’t exist (although this is also true) but because they are not equipped.
We have spoon-fed them television and computer games and then asked them to participate in the ‘real world’, as if they even know what that means.
We have not protected them from media and programming designed to keep them hooked and addicted and then wonder why so many of them end up with other addictions.
We structure their brains around 50 minute stories punctuated with ad breaks and wonder why they can’t concentrate in class for longer than 12 minutes.
Cutting public funding for programmes aimed at fixing this enormous problem has been like cutting off the oxygen supply, and we wonder why young people react so aggressively.

Perhaps our angst and concern for them is a proxy for angst and concern for ourselves. How could we have messed it up so badly for them?
We conveniently put our children and young adults in society’s dock and throw all manner of charges at them, and the tragedy is not that they don’t know their guilt, but that they genuinely don’t understand what it is we are accusing them of.

This is a reflection written following a conversation with a 17yr old, and just listening to her speak from her heart.
“Why blame us? We receive what we are given. If you give us poison, we will drink the poison. If you show us violence, we will act out violence. If you teach us dishonesty, we will learn dishonesty. If you fight and argue over who’s right and wrong, we will be weaned on enmity and it will be in our DNA.”

How should we respond?
What has been learned can be unlearned.
What is taught can be modified and improved.
We can change the atmosphere within which our children are being raised.

How will we get to a new place where children are nurtured, protected and encouraged?
We start now. It starts with us. Each and every one of us.
The hope for our children is the hope we choose to have for ourselves.
The imagination we need to seek out a new future is there, but it needs to be accessed and given space.
The facts are written in this book (The Big Question: What On Earth Are We Doing to Our Children?) and they shout out loud and clear.
But what is written in the next chapter, or the next book… that is up to us.