Relative Reality

 

Our young friend B is in his early thirties (same generation as our son Greg). He tells stories about his experiences that bring into focus the different realities we live in. The shocking truth is this: if B and I went on the same trip, separately but at the same time and on the same day, we would not have the same journey. Why? Simply because we are of a different gender AND (perhaps more importantly) because we are not of the same age group. 

As the academics put it, B and I are of similar socio-economic and educational backgrounds. We share the same ethnicity and we speak the same language. In spite of all these common attributes, we live in different worlds. I am aghast (the word is not too strong) when B recounts some of the many incidents that pepper his every day life, just because he is a young male. 

Firstly, young males seem to be automatic targets for other young males who have trouble on their mind. B has to skilfully negotiate all sorts of unpleasant encounters that I would never normally expect myself when walking about in broad daylight. The fact that B is exceptionally good at handling such situations makes me wonder how a young man with lesser communication skills would cope! I suppose he would do what many young men do: never go out alone and stick with a group of mates he can trust not to turn against him. It doesn't take too many steps to end up in gang land.... I am only just now realising that our children do NOT live in our world. It's no wonder so many adolescents end up on the scrap heap of education. Unless we are prepared to really listen to them from a young age, we simply have no idea of what they are experiencing when they step outside our home (and sometimes in our homes when plugged into all that virtual reality out there).

Secondly, B has learnt not to be too helpful to women and older people. His kindness has landed him in trouble when terrified people have treated him like a potential rapist or mugger for offering to help lift  a heavy pushchair onto a train or carry a heavy shopping bag up some steps. How shocking is that. Something is terribly wrong when our good young men are afraid to act out who they are for fear of being taken for who others might be. This thought breaks my heart, for B and all our good young men.

Thirdly, officialdom treats B like a gangster on the prowl. He tells of a dreadful incident when he was actually penalised for being honest by a public organisation that will remain nameless. It's not as if  B looked in any way threatening or 'dodgy'. He has an open smiling face and his eyes show no aggression, BUT he is tall and as such he has an impressive physical presence. As I have already mentioned, B is very articulate and he has a solid sense of humour. It's just as well or else he might have punched somebody and ended up on the wrong side of the law for having been on the right side of morality.

Now, if a good-looking, decent, educated, young man can have all that hassle, what hope is there for all the other young men out there who do not possess B's qualities and skills! I fear that such a negative social environment only encourages them to come up to the standard that is expected of them - i.e. that of a rude aggressive mono-syllabic moron. Great! That's just what we want more of....

Reality is indeed relative but it should never be blindly distorted by our prejudices. So please do me a favour: next time you see a young man and he does NOT push past you, or he holds the door for you, or whatever other considerate attitude he may exhibit, look at him straight in the eyes, smile and say a BIG THANK YOU.

It's relatively little but it will make a real difference to him just the same. And you never know, it could be our B and he would definitely appreciate it  :0)

Hope

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