Rose-tinted rearview mirror

From the BBC’s new department of rose tinted glasses:

At 6.30pm, when in times gone by most kids would be sitting round the dinner table, it is not difficult to find a group of teenage drinkers gulping vodka in a quiet corner of Leeds.
At the side of an old cricket pavilion, I found seven young girls and two older boys sharing cigarettes and alcohol. It is hard to imagine stumbling across such a scene 40 years ago.

Well, no it isn’t hard to imagine it at all. In fact, anyone who has been alive for more than about ten years would probably recognise that as a pretty normal scene to stumble across at any time. Or even, to have partaken in.

“Times gone by” when “most kids would be sitting round the dinner table?”

The natural reaction to this sort of bilge is to mention a bit of history. I am trying to rein this in and not go back to the Viking berserkers. I’ll just say, hmm, 40 years ago? Wasn’t that the approximate time of massive “mods” and “rockers” battles every Bank Holiday? They would never have smoked or drank while they were setting about each other with hammers and axes and bike chains, then….

Are we a nation of amnesiacs?

I can’t claim to have read this – too scholarly for light reading and way too costly to buy, but this book that I spotted on Amazon could put the subject in perspective
Becoming Delinquent: British and European Youth, 1650-1950 (Advances in Criminology) Pamela Cox, Dartmouth.

Note that its time span RUNS OUT in 1950. The blurb says it shows

“.. how certain themes have dominated European discourses of delinquency across this period, not least panics about urban culture, poor parenting, dangerous pleasures, family breakdown, national fitness and future social stability.”

Where are we now? Oh yes, 2007. So when was this golden age when all young people were playing Cluedo with their chums, camping with the Scouts or Guides, going to bell-ringing practice and volunteering to visit the housebound elderly?

Oh, that must have been in an Enid Blyton book, sorry. So, maybe we should all move to live in 1950s children’s literature.

There are indeed some places in England where the lucky teenage offspring of the rural middle class live like this. But even they are likely to be smoking and drinking when they get together. It goes with the territory of being a teenager.

I am not denying there are some seriously dangerous kids. Three men have been killed in a matter of weeks, just for doing the sane adult thing of speaking up when kids are acting badly.
But that doesn’t mean that every kid with a bottle of cider and a ten-pack of Benson and Hedges is a murderous moron.

Most of them are just normal teenagers, who will learn wisdom partly through doing some moderately stupid things, as we all do. And then forget it all again, of course, when they airbrush their own life history to conform to the Enid Blyton world image that even the BBC feels it has to present to the next generation.

5 thoughts on “Rose-tinted rearview mirror

  1. Heather, good point! 1967 was 40 years ago, and was marked by massive social change in the US and UK. Vietnam war protests, the summer of love (don’t forget all the alcohol and drugs consumed by the hippies, and the teen and pre-teen wannabe hippies).

    “These kids today…..” Bah

  2. 40 years ago I was 14. I remember clearly (although 2 years later, in 1969) having a homeless guy go into a liquor store to get a couple of six packs of malt liquor and paying him by giving him a couple of cans. Most of my friends were not doing this. They were smoking pot.

  3. You know there is nothing new about the “good old days” mentality. We all do it to a certain degree. Fond remembrances from childhood stick with us and can easily make us think that things were more different than they really are. That’s why memorabilia and antiques are, and always will be, huge business. I’m ok with it… until people start re-writing history!

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