As of yesterday, the buying of cigarettes and alcohol has been banned for the under 18s (up from 16). That pretty much covers anything young people can do today – not allowed to drive, not allowed to drink, not allowed to smoke, not allowed to touch marihuana (or any other drug), not allowed to download music… and you could add onto that a seat-belts obligation, helmets, excessive police surveillance, camera’s, down to the absurd obligation to pick up the poop of the family dog Fifi (for the last parents to offer their children a puppy).
Growing up in France is not what it once was, the generation of the 60s and 70s who fought so hard for their liberty are the ones who are denying it now for their young. Every law can be explained in itself, and even if it is well meaning, this is the wrong way to go about it. Petrified by the advancing financial crisis, the already high youth unemployment rate and the regular riots are provoking the government to lash out against the victims once more. The government should know better.
What’s next? Enforcing a skateboard and roller skating ban on public roads? Increase in the minimum age for driving to 20? Fines for teenagers listening to their iPod on a Vélib? Taking kids down to the station for kicking a football in the street? The government needs to calm down and cut the youngsters a little slack. There is no reason to be afraid of the young. A repressive government is not going to make an already anxious society any happier. The government seems to think that banning all activities of young people makes them easier to control and supposedly protects them, but it does not work that way. Young people are creative enough to find their way around bans, and growing up with a guilt and habit of defying the establishment is not the way to raise responsible citizens. They have to learn to take their own responsibility and that can only happen if they are accorded some. Society can help avoid dangling cigarettes and alcohol in front of children, but for the rest they will have to learn to deal with it – just like everybody else once did.