Footprints

On Saturday morning I attended a men’s breakfast. During his talk the guest speaker said that we have all done things we are ashamed of. He said if all our misdemeanours and bad deeds were placed on a DVD would we be happy to show it to our family? He then suggested, if we thought we had never done anything wrong, putting all our thoughts on there too? Still happy to show it to your wife, husband, partner or children?

It was a Christian event. Therefore the point was that we are all flawed and never come anywhere near the perfection of Jesus Christ.

However, whether a Christian or not the fact is still an undeniable truth for all of us. We have done wrong things, we have made inappropriate comments, we have vilified people and we have had thoughts that we daren’t ever share with anyone.

Let’s have a little honesty session. I’m not about to admit to taking penalty points for my wife as we know where that leads but I can share a couple of things.

I went to secondary school in a very diverse city suburb. In my year were kids from every colour, race and religion you could think of. In the long term it did me the world of good. It was so normal to me that I grew up accepting diversity without any conscious effort and it shaped who I am today. However, in the heat of an argument in the school yard I know that on occasion I referred to some of my classmates as nigger or packi. Did it last? No it didn’t. Even then the words were becoming taboo and at the time of uttering them I was probably frustrated, angry, or, not being much of a fighter, under threat. Childish, hurtful comments thrown out without any thought to the long term consequences.

As stated above, I wasn’t much of a fighter. I was much better at running! On one occasion, by word of mouth and no evidence whatsoever I picked on the only lad in my year who was weaker than me. I challenged him in the playground and then went at him arms flying like I knew what I was doing. He tried to defend himself but it was futile. Every punch I threw struck home. The crowd had gathered as it always does with chants of “Fight, fight” and within a few seconds I was took hold of by my peers and told to stop. It was too one sided. I never spoke to that lad again and I was always ashamed of myself afterwards.

Is it me or can I hear PSD leaping into action?

The two confessions above are from many, many years ago. Yet I know, every time I pray, that I ask for forgiveness for the way I may have reacted to a situation recently or not done enough when I could have achieved more.

None of us are any better and we could all fill a book of embarrassing anecdotes.

There is a major difference between the early 80’s when I was at school though and the kids of today. Social Media. My actions and words lived in that moment. Like clouds in the wind they were soon dispersed and long forgotten about. If I transpose these experiences to today then what would I be doing. The fight would no doubt still be the fight but the follow up would be to post something stupid on my Facebook page or twitter stream.

“XYZ dissed me today so I kicked his ass”. The subsequent replies, comments and likes would no doubt follow.

In the case of the inappropriate words. Would I post them to social media? I guess if I attach today’s standards to the words then definitely not. However, young developing minds, experimenting in their own personality and dealing with anger, frustration or fear do irrational things. You only have to look at some of the content on teenagers media pages/streams to see how uncouth it may seem to an adult.

In a roundabout way this brings me to Newtons laws of motion. I’ve lost you haven’t I? Stick with me. Newton said;

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I know this is to do with motion but put it into a context of actions. This weekend we have seen the story of Paris Brown. She is the Youth PCC that has been appointed in Kent by the counties Police and Crime Commisioner Ann Barnes.

The Mail and Mail on Sunday have been calling for Paris’s head from all the rooftops. They have printed many of her tweets from her own account (now deleted) and lambasted her for every single one. It’s difficult to know what they are thinking. This is a 17 year old girl. She has clearly shown some promise to be appointed by the PCC. We could argue, maybe, that Ann Barnes and her team did a little more research before making the appointment. The trumpet blowing that came with it was a red rag to a bull statement that was going to send certain journalists into overdrive to find evidence to undermine her. However, she is, for all intents and purposes, undeniably, a teenager and every single teenager comes with baggage. In fact so does every adult!

The laws of motion don’t appear to agree with the Mail family of newspapers. The actions of Paris Brown haven’t had an ‘equal and opposite’ reaction. They have had a perverse exaggeration of them and the papers editors, along with some of their ‘journalists’ should be ashamed.

I am not convinced PCC’s are a good idea but we are stuck with them. So putting that to one side has Ann Barnes made a good decision? I think the answer has to be a resounding YES. She has shown a desire to get somebody involved at a youth level. Paris Brown will have friends at the same age who will give her honest accounts of how they feel about policing in their area. The issues and matters that many teenagers won’t even discuss with their parents may fall to her ears. Those issues that will help to give Ann Barnes a wider view of all the people in Kent.

It has to be accepted that for many years, in the police and many other fields, we have applauded the involvement of youngsters to help us understand the issues they face and engage them in initiatives thereby reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. If we, as adults, are the leaders of society then we need to act as such and understand the issues teenagers face instead of vilifying them. We can learn a lot from the late Stephen Covey, author of many books including The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 5 in this book says;

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

We need to understand our teenagers and engage them in our decision making processes. They are the future after all.

I think many people believe they are anonymous on social media. Do I? No. I know I’m not anonymous as too many people know who I am already. Some people go to limited lengths to hide themselves and others go a long way. In either case do you really think you are untraceable? The answer is, unless you’re a serious computer geek, no. Paris Brown has fallen over because comments submitted to twitter, which are wrong, are there for all to see. Such comments, like mine as a teenager, can and often do come back to bite you. Ask Boris Johnson about his phone call with a friend to sort out a journalist from a few years ago! Anything we say or do is generally witnessed somewhere and can have huge implications later. Youngsters struggle to see this even more than us adults do. In my case I guess I’m a little safer because social media wasn’t available to the masses then but for Paris it’s come home to roost. All she can do is pick herself up (which she appears to be doing very well), apologise (which she has done) and get on with showing all her naysayers that they are wrong.

There is an argument that some of our youngsters don’t really understand the implications of comments on social media. Some adults haven’t grasped it either! Greater training and familiarisation in schools should be a priority. In the meantime I share words of wisdom from my Gran and from my tutor constable that have both steered me well through life.

Tutor Constable

Error is the discipline through which we all advance

Gran

Your future lies before you like a sheet of driven snow, be careful how you tread for every footstep will show

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