TCS Daily

Teen Wasteland

By Peter C. Glover - November 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Teenage Wasteland

Why the kids in "progressive" Western cultures are not alright.

by Peter C Glover

I don't think self-destruction was quite what Pete Townsend had in mind when he penned the phrase 'teenage wasteland'. As it turns out, his focus could easily have been on 'teenage waistlines' or any one of a number of other burgeoning youth culture issues. However he meant it, it seems that kids in the West are, most definitely, not alright.

"On every indicator of bad behaviour - drugs, drink, violence, promiscuity - the UK was at or near the top". So says a new study from the UK think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). Whatever cultural tensions prompted it, the demand for the death of "Victorian" values plainly ushered in more than the freedom-loving 60s potheads bargained for.

It turns out that this most liberated of teenage cultures is also the most ill-disciplined, narcissistic, cash-rich and debt-rich, screwing around bunch of anti-social dropouts in Europe. And all because, as the report asserts, of how our teenagers spend their free time - in the absence of adult influences.

If, as Pete T. asserted back then, teenagers are "all wasted! Freakin' Wasted!!!" then it is not for the reason that most of his generation perceived: a restriction of freedoms. Ironically, the death of "Victorian-era" family ideals has become the apparent conduit to the "wasteland". Free love - as most vividly exemplified by the first presidential 'son of the 60s' Bill Clinton, when he "did NOT have sex with that woman" in the highest office on the planet; freedom from authority - with governments and do-gooder lobbies arrogating parental and family rights to themselves; and free expression - hedonism rules, ok?

So what is so different about Britain that has inherited the West's, as yet, most dysfunctional youth? In many ways France, Germany and numerous other European nations are further along the "progressive" liberalising path. And isn't 'happy Jacques' Chirac currently struggling with a Gallic youth intifada? True enough. But the French youth intifada, as the name implies, has a much more specifically immigrant/religious tone. And when it comes to social welfare programmes, justice systems and other bureaucratic nightmares Britain still (thankfully) lags behind Europe. But the same is not true of Britain's effective "dismantling" of the family and its protections. In that league, Britain leads the field, with British mothers singling out the policies of the current Labour administration as particularly threatening. The Beach Boy-soaked culture of the California surf-coast may have inspired the culture of "free youth", but it first took actual geo-political root in the land of a well-known British rock band.

European family values, in many of its parts, are still influenced by the Catholic Church. Elsewhere, strong family ties are still rooted in the "remembrance" of a Western Judeo-Christian tradition. America, on the other hand, is, more overtly, the last bastion of Christendom - that is, a nation that more openly acknowledges the religious element of its moral roots. Britain, however, is a post-Christian society with a weak, often intellectually incoherent, church. A society that has steadily pursued policies that have undermined the critical atomic social element upon which all Western civilization depends: the family unit.

In May 2006 a study by the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science found that British teenagers topped the chart when it came to the "worst problem with anti-social behaviour in Europe". The report claimed the problem was "fuelled by alcohol and a lack of discipline in homes and schools".

The authors of the new IPPR report also confirm that the sick British youth culture is the direct result of the collapse of family and community life. It found that the "increased risk of youth crime" had fostered a growing fear of youngsters and of turning a blind eye to anti-social behaviour. It revealed:

· 38% of British teenagers had tried cannabis compared to 7% in Sweden and 27% in Germany.

· In England, 45% of 15-year old boys spend most evenings out with their friends, in Scotland that figure soars to 59%. In France, just 17% of boys spend their time in the same way.

· Around 93% of Italian teenagers eat out regularly with their families; in the UK just 64% of 15-year olds do the same.

The report's authors conclude: "Because they don't have that structured interaction with adults, it damages, their life chances. They are not learning how to behave - how to get on in life - as they need to." They cite that "lack of adult interaction has left British teenagers increasingly vulnerable to failure".

On the same day the IPPR report was published, another survey, by the Youth Justice Board revealed that Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) were viewed as a "badge of honour" rather than a deterrent, among young British people.

British youth is widely acknowledged as the "freest" in the Western world. Not by virtue of fiscal freedom only, but "freest" in every sense of the word. Free then to achieve that to which the 60s flower children aspired. Free love - achieving the highest unwanted pregnancy rate in Europe. Free from authority - achieving the reputation as Europe's most drunken, violent, out of control youth. Free expression - of immature, socially dysfunctional attitudes.

According to the American Family Association, "The American family is getting little help from the federal government, thanks to Washington's many anti-family policies." In 2004, the Family Research Council reported on "The failure of European Family Policy". It seems the UK's anti-family policies may have created the West's "British disease" - widespread family breakdown and a delinquent youth culture. But with liberal socializing policies in America and across Europe just farther back down the same anti-family policies road, the only pertinent question is: who's next?

Peter C Glover is a regular TCS contributor and more of his writing can be here.


TCS Daily Archives