Via Tim Worstall, I came across this article in The Guardian about how British kids nowadays hold adults in contempt. I don’t recommend you read it as it is tripe of the highest order, particularly when the author attempts to identify the cause of the problem. However, there is little doubt that the problem exists. British kids know damned well that they are immune to all but the most feeble of punishments, and behave accordingly. I remember well the gangs of kids who used to smash up the buses in Manchester knowing that even if they were challenged by an adult they could tell them to eff off with impunity, and in the unlikely event the police caught them they’d be too young to charge.
Russia seems to be slightly different, or at least in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Shortly after I arrived here, I went to go into the entrance to my apartment building and found half a dozen kids sat on the step blocking the way. I expected to have to ask them at least twice to move and have a string of abuse thrown my way in return, which would almost certainly have happened in many British towns. To my surprise, as I approached they fell over themselves to get out of the way. Having seen this, I started to notice a pattern: Russian kids have a healthy respect for adults in the street, and far from going out of their way to abuse them, they steer well clear. There’s a reason for this.
If a British kid hurls abuse at a man, or refuses to get out of the way of his front door, the adult is powerless. If he does take any action more severe than raising his voice slightly, the police will be round within half an hour to charge the adult with abuse and a quite likely a sex offence. The British kids know this and act accordingly. In Russia it’s a bit different. If a Russian kid badmouths a Russian man on the street or blocks his way, he’ll get a slap round the head that he’ll not forget in a hurry. Were a passing militiaman to notice this, he’d likely slap the kid a second time to make sure the lesson sunk in. Russian kids know this, and act accordingly.
As Tim asks the author of the piece:
None of it, of course, could possibly be part of the children’s rights movement?
It’s a good question, with an obvious answer. It is the children’s rights movement that have put children above the law by failing to differentiate between genuine abuse and discipline. I do not know the figures, but I would be willing to bet that incidents of genuine child abuse in the UK have fallen over recent years and are way below that of Russia, and that is to the credit of the UK government. But in solving one problem they have simply created another, one which is likely to have rather unpleasant consequences in years to come. And for me in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, I am somewhat embarrased that Russian society is managing to produce children with far more personal responsibility and general manners than that of my motherland.