Pubdate: Thu, 23 Dec 2004
Source: Times Of Malta (Malta)
Copyright: 2004 Allied Newspapers Limited
Bookmark: (Youth)


The news is that the local consumption of ecstasy by the young is
down. That is something positive. It is, at least, a note on which to
rejoice a little, but not too much. For in other things, Maltese youth
race ahead of many other nationalities.

Social Solidarity Minister Dolores Cristina had sombre reflections to
make on the results of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol
and other Drugs (Espad), held last year among 16-year-olds in 35 countries.

The survey results with regard to Malta are mixed. Maltese
16-year-olds smoke less than when the last survey was carried out in
1999 but their alcohol consumption has remained on the same level and
so has drunkenness while the use of drugs has also risen. Drugs or
drink, both are used to achieve a stupefied state which is perceived
as happiness.

What our own eyes tell us is that too many young people binge - and
too many of them smoke. We see them smoking even on the bus-stops
waiting for the schoolbuses to arrive.

We wonder not only at the psychological depredation that is at work
there but also at the expense. As for alcohol and drugs, they are
hardly given away free of charge.

Berating the young of our society is never easy. It brings alienation,
as well as antagonism between the generations. In fact, it could
create a sort of class hate, as it often does in families where
authority may be exercised with excessive force and little
rationality. On the other hand, say what we will, we do have a certain
responsibility towards future generations and we invest more than
anywhere else in our youths.

But how do we get the message across without raising opposition and

It is not a question to be answered lightly because authority has lost
its teeth to say nothing of respect. Our post-modern mentality has
eroded accepted norms and we have created a society where every
individual decides for himself what to believe and what to deny
himself, if anything at all. Playing around with relativity and making
fun of those who lay down the law has produced a generation of cynics
who will not take orders from anyone.

It will be difficult to apply what Ms Cristina has been suggesting,
namely a banning of the consumption of alcohol (and not only the
buying) by those aged under 16. If we know anything about local
behaviour, it will be difficult to enforce the ban, for a start, even
if by a miracle the will to do so can be found. Besides, as the Health
Promotion Department's director, Mario Spiteri, has suggested, the
very idea is fraught with difficulties, and for various reasons.
Banning always lends an attractive colour to the objects that are banned.

Joe Gerada, the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Social
Welfare Services, noted that the Maltese placed eighth from last when
it came to illicit drug consumption. When it came to alcoholic
beverages, the country placed 14th from the top. And when it came to
smoking, it placed second from last.

As always it would be prudent to insist on more persuasive education
in schools and young outlets... and by parents. Perhaps youth councils
and groups could be asked to provide feedback on the problem, as the
youths themselves see it and as they think it can be controlled. In
this way, one would be sharing responsibility and spreading its exercise.

But we must legislate wisely.
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MAP posted-by: Derek