Pilgrims’ Progress*

In the name of Progress, what have we done
To disavow the younger generations
Of the skills and resilience
To face life’s tribulations?
We gave them mass media,
The internet,
Mobile phones;
We gave them support groups
And places they might moan,
Learning to express themselves
With courage and authenticity.
Why, then, should they harm themselves
With such public duplicity?
However did we fail them to such an extent
As to render this culture of suicidal intent?
We gave them freedoms beyond our teenage dreams
To watch them self destructing.
-Or, at least that’s how it seems.
We stopped setting boundaries and left them to explore,
Stepping up with confidence to take to the floor
We gave them a voice perhaps beyond their years
And now we find them floundering in puddles of tears,
Taking to the internet to publicise their pain
And, in so doing, encouraging others
To do the same again,
Raising heavy questions about who here is at fault:
Kids for urging others on
Or adults for simply unlocking the vault;
For fearing reprisals if laying down the law.
But isn’t that the issue?
– What else are parents are for?
It isn’t like you’d tolerate other folks’ intervention
Fearing (not unreasonably) their undisclosed intentions.
I don’t for one moment imagine it’s straight forward
To navigate the boundaries of punishment and reward
But isn’t that the crux of the whole damned business?
How else will they learn the stuff
They’ve never had to witness?
How else will they cultivate a repertoire of skills
To help them distinguish the Good from the Ill?
For all its magnanimity, Google is no deity:
When push comes to shove,
The task rests with the laity.


* From news reports about self-harming behaviours among young people as a response to modern peer pressures and WRT a children’s classic of my childhood (particularly school assemblies)










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