Friday, August 12, 2011

A TALE OF TWO CULTURES

Corso Umberto, Modica Bassa, by night

Depressing though it is, I feel duty-bound to take time out from the Sicilian summer in order to comment on what has been happening this week in my own country and, in so doing, to make a comparison or two:

As I watched the horrific scenes in London and other UK cities I, like many others, wondered whether the parents of those involved knew or cared what their children were doing but I was even more shocked when the media broadcast police messages entreating those parents to check where their offspring were:  in what kind of country do parents have to be TOLD, late at night, to find out where their children are?

"In a country where the family structure has broken down, where the left / right / centre political parties have ruined education, where there is too much emphasis on material possessions, where there is lack of opportunity and where there is nothing for kids to do":  all these and more have been suggested as answers and there is probably some truth in all of them.  

But then I consider the situation of young people in Sicily and I realise that these responses are too glib and too easy:  it is true that the family structure is strong here but people are generally poorer and young people study for years with little or no hope of finding work, unless they know someone in an influential position or are able to inherit - yes, inherit - a public job.  Yet they seem content to go on studying and education is valued for its own sake.  Nothing to do?  In preparing teenagers for English oral exams, I often ask them what they do on Saturday evenings and the answer is invariably, "I go to the Corso [Modica's main street] and I walk up and down with my friends."  And that is exactly what they do, contentedly, Saturday night after Saturday night and when they have finished walking, they go home.  They do not set fire to buildings, go on the rampage and terrorise the rest of the town's population.  They do not blame others for their situation - though they would be justified in showing anger towards certain politicians - but continue to study in the hope that one day their qualifications will get them somewhere and that they themselves may eventually be instrumental in bringing about peaceful change in their country.  In other words, they are culturally and politically aware.

Last night I listened to a Sky News debate in which one panel member said that the rioting young people were angry because their elders were concerned only about what had happened to property and not about several recent murders in London which had gone unreported and, he implied, largely uninvestigated.  There could, again, be an element of truth in this and I found myself beginning to nod before I thought, "Just a minute - these kids live in a democracy.  There are peaceful means of demonstrating anger available to them and more opportunity to put their case to millions of people, via new technology, than there has ever been before."  Part of the tragedy is that they seem unaware of these peaceful methods of drawing attention to their cause.

I do not want to be drawn into the education system side of the issue:  as a former UK high school teacher, I have seen my profession become a political pawn and successive governments have all been as bad as each other in this respect.  I will say, though, that I fear for a system and a culture that fail to value the arts in general and I despair at the ugly and violent results of this policy.

Events in Britain this week are not representative of British culture, nor are they manifestations of a sub-culture or even a "yob culture";  they are, instead, an indication of what can happen where there is no culture.

7 comments:

Josep said...

Sending all my support and sympathy from Catalonia.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, Josep.

CherryPie said...

It is very sad the state we have got into. I was particularly shocked at the number of children and girls involved, not to mention the murders that took place during the rioting.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

It has been horrendous to read and watch the reports coming out of London and other major cities.

On a happy note Pat Buon Ferragosto.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Cherie. I was, too. Hi, LindyLouMac. Yes, terrible. Buon ferragosto to you, too.

jams o donnell said...

It's been ghastly to watch unfold. Lots of reasons behind the riots... one simple solution is not the answer. I wish I knew what the solution was though

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I wish I did too,jams.

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