Compassion fatigue for the plight of young people? they barely got compassion in the first place…

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

Fast forward the hundreds of years since Socrates said this. And the plight of young people has been described as the scourge of the status quo ‘of adult society’ ever since. From Moral Panics when young people had income and didnt need to do national service in the 1950s, to the ASBO and surveillance cultures today. In the same way that in previous decades, the younger generation was labelled ‘baby boomers’, today it is millenials. What hasnt changed is that a younger generation has to adapt and struggle to survive within an adult controlled society, and each generation is labelled in a similar way to before.

Most Millenials get labelled with the same things as Generation X did. And Baby boomers before them. So its not a matter of cultural understanding, it is cultural control. It is judgement. And as the following article suggests, the game of typecasting is never more popular.

The article goes on to say: “Millennials, we are told, “reject traditional career paths” and care less about money than about fulfilment. Yet they’re also entitled, lazy and narcissistic. This might sound convincing enough on the basis of casual acquaintance with today’s young adults. But anyone who’s been watching generational analyses long enough will recognise that they are exactly the same traits imputed to the “slackers” of generation X when they were the same age, and before that to the baby boomers in the 1960s.”

As a collective, Millenials are getting the blame. Like every generation before them, the stereotypes of unruly, wild, lazy and disaffected get spouted about them, as they do every ‘younger generation’ since , well since Socrates. So it might be part of the majority society to need a scapegoat for ills. And the younger generation can have it, as the adults left them behind. And at the same time, for every article and conversation ‘about them’ drives a misunderstanding wedge about specific young people into the gap between adults and young people. It shapes young people as a collective. Couple this with every other news story about young people, which is often about negative issues, pregnancy, housing, crime or anti social behaviour, and the though that young people might actually need compassion seems a hard stance to make.

But they do.

For everything a young person – or millenial- can be blamed for – usually becuase they are trying to fight consumerism, commercialism and universal uncreativity, there are many things that they are in need of or devoid. That might actually involve a community, society and government doing something about. It was said that the millenials are a ‘F***-all’ generation, having been shafted by the ‘have-it all’ generation. Though this is not the time to drive a wedge into inter-generational conflict. It might be to think about how young people have had services, opportunities, future choices, housing, further education budgets, housing benefit, all cut, reduced or become ‘means tested’ in the last 8 years. Whilst at the same time the battle for young persons finances, time and distraction goes on – through advertising, through targeting young people s pocket money, through technology and gaming , they are pulled in a variety of directions, by businesses with often the morality of sewer rats.

Oh and talking about technology. Its not the fake violence in the video games i worry about. And neither do they. It is the real violence on the news, that they see. on their phones, in their rooms. The fake and fictional in games, they can deal with. Its the fear that is exacerbated by news media that is worse. because it is real. And who creates the news, who selects the news, who makes the devices, apps and encourages them to be used by young people – adults. Adults who want young people to be politically more engaged , are at the same time causing young people to be afraid of the world.

So, on a quiet news day a story like this emerges.

‘Quarter of 14-year-old girls ‘have signs of depression’ –

read it here:

and stories that are similar go on and on. There is at least 4-5 a year that say the same thing. The same could also be said about the mental health state of those in nursing and teaching. 

But given the lack of attention that these stores get, and also their low priority on the news. News which is written and editted to reflect its audience, written to ‘entertain’ and keep people coming back to watch more- these stories barely register.

It is not as if Young people are the victims of compassion fatigue. It is more accurate to say that as a people group in society, they have barely registered to receive compassion in the first place. The only exception is children, and children in need. If it was known as ‘Millenials in need’ its raise about half a years subscription to the Guardian. Its as if children can evoke sympathy, young people. a different story. but even with children in need, it is only the most vulnerable rightly receive this kind of attention. 

Stories that young people struggle with mental health dont surprise youthworkers. Stories that young people were abused and ignored in Rotherham didnt surprise youthworkers. Stories that young people struggle to find work, and rebel against interventionist programmes dont surprise youthworkers. Stories that young people feel lost and afraid in the world – when they might have vibrancy, dreams and positivity – do not surprise youthworkers. Yet most of the time even youthworkers have been ignored, (especially in Rotherham), their voice silenced through cut backs, and so even those who might promote and fight for young people have had their wings clipped.

If the UK had any compassion for its children and young people – none of this would happen. They have never had compassion – so theres no chance of the UK suffering compassion fatigue on behalf of young people.

Could the church act differently towards young people in its local community? possibly- what would compassion look like…

Could adults in communities do the same- of course.

What might society look like to help everyone – including young people flourish?

If we dont ask these questions now, i wonder what our grandchildren, their children will have to deal with.


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