Any observer of the evolution and behavioural pattern of society at large cannot fail to notice the flaws that hamper the emergence of a more desirable and attractive national character. The cause as well as the solution of the problem largely lies with parental responsibility in the upbringing of children. This being said, parents cannot bear all responsibility for the shortcomings of their offsprings.
So far, the best advice you still hear in any household is parents advising and warning children about the importance of doing their best at school, which is indeed a matter of prime concern for children notwithstanding the importance of a more general development than the formal education which takes place in classrooms. Such constant advice and warnings are rarely heard in more ‘developed’ and affluent societies where too much emphasis on the idea of self-development results in too much leisure for youngsters, reluctance in making efforts for better results, laziness, self-indulgence and self-centredness.
Besides education being considered a serious matter, there is a sense of respect in family and social interaction, a sense of limits and barriers between age groups, a respect for and belief in the institutions of the country despite various flaws that undermine public trust. A young French couple visiting the island recently observed that there is a wise combination of core values, tradition and modernity, a sense of the old accommodating with the new without losing its bearings and a general sense of authenticity. A sharp contrast to developed and affluent western societies where a materialist philosophy coupled with ideological brainwashing have created much havoc in people’s lives not to mention the erroneous sense of equality that has lifted barriers in the case of France and a perverted sense of freedom. Personal answer to the comments: the local assets are resilience, a fairly wise dose of conservatism, pragmatism that avoids brainwashing and being swept away by passing ideologies, and last but not least, intellectuals stay in the best place for them, in their study among loads of books, do not claim to have answers to everything and are, generally, cautious about extremist suggestions for bringing in changes. And idealists keep their ramblings for themselves and do not start a war for their ideas even when they are given publicity.
So what is flawed? Character building certainly lacks strength and some qualities such as rigour, consistency, bravery and a sense of responsibility. Look at how 7-year olds are talked to as if they were 3 years old , 14-year olds as if they were 10 and older adolescents are overprotected and pampered like babies. Just watch parents with their kids by the seaside or in public places. They see danger everywhere. Do not run, you will fall down; do not go into the water, you will catch a cold; keep close to the beach, or you may sink and get drowned. They constantly restrain movement and freedom instead of instilling bravery and a spirit of adventure by saying: you absolutely want to touch a hot iron, well, go ahead. (He is not going to die for it!) Do not be afraid of falling, go and run if you wish to. Fall and rise up and do not blame others for it.
And gosh, we are islanders! So we should be taught to live intelligently and adapt to our environment at an early age. How many of us can swim well? (And not panic and drown stupidly!) How many adults take the time to venture at sea and swim or dive in deep water and encourage youngsters to do so? Not only is it important to learn how to face hardships in life and overcome obstacles, it might also prove to be convenient whenever we are overpowered by natural elements. Broadly speaking, endurance in all kinds of physical exercises, running, climbing or swimming is good for character building. That is if we care to have a society where young adults do not behave like sissies, run away from danger, act like cowards and leave others in the lurch.
The importance of being consistent and not changing your mind according to your whims and fancies without consideration for others should be emphasized. The given word is traditionally more important than the written word cross-culturally, and yet, just see how people randomly give their word and break it. Okay, we should not look up to politicians for role models in this matter! Keep our word, build trust and encourage healthy interaction as much as possible and avoid getting away by lying and cheating.
How do 18-year olds acquire some degree of maturity and do something for themselves and not expect parents to do everything for them is another point. Conversely, they are not given enough freedom to experience life and learn for themselves. Some of them learn the art of manipulation at an early age, how to do things on the sly and achieve their ends by any means. We all know how such defects show at the workplace whatever be the position one occupies.
Our leftist friends at the GRNW should review their programme of Ledikasyon pou travayers and extend it to all workers, not only manual workers because everybody works these days including employers in SME, big corporations and public sectors. In fact, we should be talking of reedikasyon! It is a vicious circle. It is as if righteousness in everyday dealings at work and respect for work regulations were short-lived and too difficult to maintain so that they were overpowered by the propensity to impose one’s own rules and behave in an authoritarian manner. In other cases, employees who have been ill-prepared to assume responsibility act in a most capricious way, showing a high degree of immaturity. Some of them show up at work and disappear as it pleases them. Totally unreliable. Others expect to earn their monthly wages by doing as little as possible. A real headache for small business employers especially.
There are areas that are beyond our ability to control and influence. But definitely, if we care to preserve our blessings and improve our general welfare, moral and material, and check our shortcomings, there is room for improvement, which is within the reach of families, society and individuals. Not a Herculean task but a constant care for the quality of society we look forward to.
* Published in print edition on 3 May 2013