By John Kelly
What’s bothering the Irish people, North and South, as we wade through the last dead leaves of the 20th Century? What do you think? Christmas shopping, the millennium, what’s open, where to go to celebrate the second thousand years A.D., that’s what’s bothering the denizens of the Celtic Tiger just now.
There are other problems, of course. In Dublin, a court battle is being waged about the opening of a sex aids shop. The Ann Summers den of frills and other delights is directly opposite the GPO, the historic headquarters for the 1916 Volunteers.
No matter how modern Ireland becomes, no matter how essentially trivial the subject, such as the opening of a sex emporium, part of a British-based chain, we are always eternally tied to the history of republicanism.
In Northern Ireland, the 865 strong Unionist Council faced its final
D-Day on devolution at the same time as headlines blared the headlines about the garish Ann Summers store.
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Ireland has changed — that’s for sure.
While Northern Ireland kept the island on tenterhooks, the results of a new survey into the lives of Irish teenagers was transmitted by RTE. In the longer term, assuming that there is some final settlement in the North, its surprising findings may yet give the majority of people more reason for concern in the early decades of the next century 2000.
The survey concentrated on the attitudes of teenagers toward drink, drugs, sex, and general lifestyles.
Social researchers now confirm that Irish teenagers, along with their counterparts in the UK, are most at risk of serious addiction to a variety of substances, ranging from alcohol to hard drugs, and at younger ages than their European counterparts.
It seems that we made the mistake of falling for our own delusions many years ago.
When drugs first began to appear on the Irish scene in the 1960s, they were so relatively innocuous that authorities and various governments just did not pay the serious attention.
The majority of drug addict today, the survey concluded, are already afflicted at the average age of 18. Drink abuse can start at the astoundingly young age of 13. There is little statistical difference between the sexes.
Young people confess that alcohol is easily available. They obtain cans of beer or cider, courtesy of older friends, through off-license outlets. Drinking parties are then held in isolated spots, often in parks when available, or even down alleys.
Not only drink changes hands. One young girl of 15 estimated that it would take her only about 15 minutes to obtain hashish or e-tabs in the streets of Dublin. Police have regularly admitted that, in the cities and bigger towns throughout the country, drugs are becoming more freely available all of the time.
Hash, e-tabs, magic mushrooms, containing mescaline, are the most popular substances. Peer pressure is enormous, especially in discos where the majority will pop e-pills, especially at raves, whether indoors or outdoors.
Youngsters are also becoming sexually intimate at surprisingly young ages.
Eleven per cent in the 14-15 age groups claimed to have been sexually intimate. As many as one in three admitted to having engaged in oral sex before they turned 15.
The survey is backed up by government statistics that confirm dramatic increases in sexually transmitted diseases, coupled with a declining number of teenage pregnancies.
Not surprisingly, 70 percent also believe that their parents are unaware of their deep involvement in a culture that is totally alien to all that they experienced in their generation.
At the risk of sounding unfashionably moralistic, one cannot help wondering just what sort of world these youngsters will build by the year 2050.
To sum up the conclusion of the survey, the majority of young Irish people are intent on self-satisfaction above all. What they want, they want now.
Nothing unusual about that, you may think. Was it not always so in the teenage world?
Indeed, it was. But there was a huge difference in the past. Poverty
carried its own restrictions, however unfair or unwelcome they were.
Self-discipline and social moral codes that were perhaps too strict were much more prevalent than now.
The "Me" generation, if teenagers continue to carry it into their
adulthood, can only create a succeeding generation on similar lines.
The richer West can only become richer, more selfish, and more self-indulgent. Relatively poorer regions that makes up that majority of the globe will become even more impoverished and much more resentful as the result. That is a recipe for serious trouble, no less than it was in the halcyon days of the Roman Empire.
An Ann Summers sex shop in Dublin’s main street is only a straw in the wind compared to what is likely to come. Serious drink and drugs abuse of the type revealed in the survey just cannot bode well
for the future.
Teenage magazines, propelled by explicit advertising and articles, all based on making money for the proprietors continue to hammer home the message of self-indulgence at all costs.
Alleged liberals continue to insist that censorship or public moralizing is wrong. Their influence seems to so pervasive that that few are prepared to attack their philosophy lest they be labeled right wing, conservative or even repressive.
Nobody seems willing to argue that if advertisers use the media to sell their products, the stories carried and the ideas projected must also have very powerful effects as well.
In the long term, the island of Ireland, no more than the West in general, faces much more serious problems than the achievement of a political settlement in Northern Ireland.
It could be of greater benefit if politicians and administrators concentrated energy on the longer-term issues, rather than to focus on short-term vote catching.
Surely we all owe something positive to the world of the future? And surely, the young people of Ireland deserve better in the early decades of the second millennium than what some of us seem intent on storing up for them.