I woke up this morning and as is my normal practice, turned on CNN. As I sipped my tea and flipped through the morning’s Telegraph, a story being narrated by Anderson Cooper caught my attention. He began to read out some very disturbing facts on the alarming rise of crimes being committed by young people around the world. He also read out from a list, the names of various films and media that glorified such acts committed by teens and youth. Cult youth films like ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’,’ Twelve’, ‘Pineapple Express’ and ‘Alpha Dog’ have young actors committing the most atrocious of acts and have still gone on to become some of the most celebrated films of all time.
Call it a coincidence if you will, but just two mornings ago, I read about three youth in a village in Bengal who pumped several bullets into their friend and then claimed the shooting was an ‘accident’. I decided that this was something worth pursuing and reading up about and I set out to uncover some facts.
In the spring of last year, a twenty year old Belgian youth was arrested after he confessed to murdering two children and a nanny at a local crèche. The youth showed no remorse and accepted the court’s decision without any protest. Later he admitted to his family that he didn’t know why he done such a thing. He had no explanation for his actions.
12 year old Jordan Brown was convicted on two homicide charges in a U.S Juvenile court last summer. Jordan accepted guilt for both charges and shocked general public when he openly proclaimed that his victims had ‘deserved it’. It was found out, that Jordan had never before met his victims and had no prior records of violent or strange behavior.
More recently, television screens across the world were flooded with disturbing images of British youngsters vandalizing homes, ransacking stores, literally paralyzing an entire nation and shocking the entire global community with their heinous actions. What started as a peaceful demonstration against discriminatory policing, turned into one of the most violent and disturbing events of recent times.
These are only three examples of youth related crimes that have made headlines in the recent past. A simple internet search will throw up several hundred pages of information on an issue that is grabbing attention globally and throwing up some very uncomfortable questions.
Why are young people today so prone to violence? How long can we keep blaming the media, internet and video-games? What role do families and educational institutions play? Are we effective role models? How responsible are we to ensure that the children in our care turn into compassionate citizens of a global community? Should we just sit back and wait for them to miraculously reform into model citizens?
There are probably hundreds of reasons why there has been a steady rise in the number of youth related crimes around the globe and I am not attempting to outline those or provide the solutions to those problems. However, it is my personal belief that at the very core of the issue lies one fundamental truth – young people today do not have too many suitable role models to emulate and this is one of the reasons why they are turning into misguided rebels drawn to acts of violence and crime.
True role models are those who possess the qualities that we would like to have and those who have affected us in a way that makes us want to be better people. In a day and age in which the media is crammed full of negative influences—sex, violence, money and acts that more fitting of criminals—it can be hard to see the good in people and this abundance of negativity makes the importance of a role model very real indeed. It is imperative that a person have a positive influence, a figurehead, a leader. The role of the adult, parent and teacher is even more critical today than it has ever been in our history.
When I think of those who have inspired me, those whom I admire, and those whom I hold up as an example of what kind of person I wish to be, I realize it’s not their words, but rather who they are and how they live their lives, which speak the loudest. In a crisis, or when faced with a challenge, I need only to look at their lives – who they are, how much they have accomplished and how they live their lives, to understand that what we do does matter and the decisions we make will affect not only us but the people around us as well.
The power and potential that young people hold is unlimited. Just look at how their collective efforts and voices have seen the dawn of a new chapter in the history of our world. Youth in countries such as Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria have come together and have helped overthrow dictatorial and corrupt regimes. Look at India. The last few weeks have seen hordes of passionate Indian youth take to the streets demanding a corruption free nation and leaders that are accountable and transparent. The strength that this generation possesses is unparalleled and what they require are men and women of character who they can look up to and draw inspiration from.
I am aware that world over, there are dedicated and committed people fighting and battling to, in their own capacities; touch the lives of children in their care on an everyday basis. Here’s hoping while the global community progresses in unfathomable ways, our love for our fellow beings and our mutual respect and admiration for what they stand for does not deteriorate and regress. I firmly believe, as clichéd as it may sound- whether we are teachers, parents or just adults, by being the kind of people someone somewhere can look up to, we can each make a significant difference in our own small ways.
The most important role models in people’s lives, it seems, aren’t superstars or household names. They’re ‘everyday’ people who quietly set examples for you–coaches, teachers, parents. People about whom you say to yourself, perhaps not even consciously, ‘I want to be like that someday.’ – Tim Foley