Almost the end of another year. To me, a not inconsiderable amount of time. But only a tiny, tiny part of the millions of years the place we call earth has been in existence. Of any case we humans are only really concerned with our own tiny, if unimportant lives, when all's said and done. Understandable enough when you think about it. We might be interested in the world around us, but only on condition that we, and that means ME, ME, ME is a living, breathing part of it! I like the idea that some of the stuff I write, my book, A Childhood Revisited for instance, might still be around when I'm not, but make no mistake, I prefer to still be around as well! ( I can see the attraction of religion and the belief in an afterlife, another go at it if you like, but its not for me.) But I've no wish for this post to become a rant at the fact that for some reason we are not immortal. I might be a creaky old so and so but I'm not thinking of leaving my fellow men yet. (Is this old unbeliever allowed to say God willing!) My heart (I nearly said soul) is full of optimism rather than pessimism and here are some of the reasons.
I see three of my grandchildren most days. Ordinary, happy, caring, carefree children who love life; loving and loved, like many other children, though obviously not all throughout the world. Their circumstances so different as to when I was a child. My own family was very poor by todays standards.
I grew up in the years after the war. There was no father present, food was rationed, my mother worked frantically at three jobs to give my sister and I the basics in life for there were seldom extras. Yet I remember few unhappy moments. We never starved, though we were often hungry. Our clothes might at times have seen better days but they were always clean. We were poor but carefree. And like my grandchildren, we were loved.
A memory that is etched on my brain. In the seventies, during my teaching days, I happened to park in a less than salubrious area of Derby. It was 'term time', but I was not bunking off school. honest! I was driving a minibus so could easily see over the less than neatly trimmed hedges surrounding the council houses. I noticed an electricity box attached to the nearest house had been forced open at some stage. Vandalism that did not bode well in my mind, though in fairness the householders themselves might well have been innocent parties. If that caused me concern, the sudden appearance of two young boys changed concern to alarm. Roughly dressed, neither had outer coats though the weather was far from warm. Of school age, around five and seven, they had with them largish screwdrivers; plus a teddy bear. What happened next has stayed with me ever since. Both children proceeded to 'assault' the teddy bear, each making stabbing motions towards 'teddy' with such violence that he was soon 'mortally' wounded, to the obvious satisfaction of both assailants; who then vanished round the corner, job done.
learnt such behaviour; I knew, and still know of youngsters of a young age who were allowed to watch films of a very violent and often pornographic nature from a very early age. Not all adults are either wise nor responsible when it comes to bringing up children.
A confession, I too at times exhibited a cruel disregard towards animals prior to puberty; plus I owned a gun until my mid teens. Obvious similarities to the behaviour of the two boys whose behaviour shocked me so much. I have thought long and hard concerning this incident. Times have changed but human nature has not. I am absolutely certain ALL human behaviour is learnt by imitation, deliberate adult teaching and the like (instinctive behaviour excepted). I do not wish to make excuses for my own behaviour when young. Suffice to say I had little 'training' when young due to my own circumstances and 'role models' were hard to come by. We as adults have great responsibility in life. The young may have inherited the earth, but how they deal with it is partly down to us.
So why am I optimistic concerning the future of mankind. Because there are so many good parents around; like the parents of my grandchildren for instance. I have no doubt children are born innocent.
Adults, including far too many of my compatriots are often cynical, bitter, miserable old codgers who, though presumably once young, have become right miseries in their old age. Don't forget what it was like to be young, happy, optimistic. Enjoy the expression of my grandson Tommy as he sees his Christmas present for the first time; a picture of sheer unadulterated wonderment. Nurture the natural innocence in the young. And the western world at least might, just might be a better place than we ourselves inherited.