HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Teenager Caught Partying! Police Swoop! World Ends!
Pubdate: Fri, 18 Jan 2002
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: John Robson


The prime minister just said the press too often writes headlines 
first and stories afterwards. I didn't know he was familiar with this 
or any private business (he spent 1986 to 1990 with a law firm but 
forgot, telling reporters, "I am not a lawyer"). Still, since we 
often tell him how to do his job, why shouldn't he tell us how to do 
ours? He then ignores us, so we will ignore him. Besides, if it lets 
you write a headline like "His Royal High-ness" or "Harry Pot-ter," 
how could you resist writing a story about Prince Harry smoking 

How could you resist even if you had to quote people calling a teen 
caught partying "every parent's nightmare"? Give me a break. Every 
parent's nightmare is having their child vanish, leaving bloody 
scraps of clothing behind. (Having your kid caught fighting for the 
Taliban ought to qualify too, but so far Johnny Walker's parents seem 
to be taking an "I'm OK, Osama's OK" view of that one.)

Even among things that are unpleasant but not nightmares, I say a 
teen drinking and "experimenting" with drugs isn't that bad. Not that 
I ever did such things, officer. Any rumours to the contrary are the 
work of my enemies. But in principle, it's understandable.

What's with this term "experiment" anyway? How come no one ever just 
takes drugs? Why do they always experiment with them? Our Oxford 
English Dictionary calls an experiment "trying something or putting 
it to the test" (as part of a long, repetitious definition such as 
the Oxford often gives obvious words, while "pogy" gets just the 
terse, cryptic "menhaden").

So when you "experiment" with drugs, what are you trying to find out? 
Whether they're fun? Whether taking them too much will make you 
stupid and antisocial or maybe dead? How much is the right amount? Oh 
wait, sorry, did I say that? Death to drugs. Let no one ever take 
drugs. What was I thinking? How could I have entertained for one 
moment the idea that the purpose of youthful experimentation is to 
learn to take drugs responsibly, not to learn you'd rather have Satan 
himself in your living room than the dreaded assassin of youth?

Still, for something worse than discovering your own personal kid got 
blasted at a party, try being born a small, helpless baby, and by the 
time you're old enough to ask "What's going on, man?" they say you're 
already stuck being third in line to the British throne and anything 
stupid you ever do will be written down, broadcast to a giggling 
world and never forgotten. Very little that you do can cause you to 
lose your position, although joining the Taliban would presumably 
qualify. But nothing, including joining the Taliban and even leading 
it, can ever make the media attention go away.

You can abdicate, be deposed, go live under a bridge in New Jersey, 
it doesn't matter. Do something dumb and one of those "Did you ever 
wonder what happened to ..." stories will appear beneath your 
egg-stained mug. You might one day wind up in a celebrity The Weakest 
Link. Prince Charles, who has played a difficult role in life with 
considerable grace, was caught trying to order a drink at 14, and the 
mere mention of the beverage in question makes him wince to this day 
(but then, it was cherry brandy).

I don't know whether Prince Harry just did some hard partying or 
whether, as some stories say, he's become a total bucket who spent 
last summer puking on the entire British aristocracy. If so, he 
definitely should cut down a little. But such tongue-wagging, even by 
people not up to their clavicles in booze, Prozac and other 
middle-class psychoactives, really gets my anti-Puritan goat. A 
totally regimented life in which no one ever takes risks, or stops to 
ferment the roses, is no life at all.

A major reason why is that, as I think one of the Harry Potter books 
says, boys who are not mischievous do not become brave men. Schools 
and parents need rules, but someone who never tests limits while 
growing up had better never face a crisis as an adult. Think of poor 
George VI, who never wanted to be king and was temperamentally 
unsuited to it, practising with a Tommy gun in case the Nazis invaded 
and he had to join the Resistance. Should England ever go really bad, 
I don't want Prince Harry asking an aide what the protocol is.

So to him I say this: Of course you must obey the law. Alcohol helps 
most people enjoy life, but for a minority it is poison. Never take 
white powder for fun. And if you smoke marijuana, check who's 
downwind first because it really smells.

Meanwhile, here's my headline: "Teen parties: World shocked." Even 
Mr. Chretien could tell you there's something not quite right about 

John Robson is Senior Editorial Writer and Columnist.
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