Traveller's tales

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What’s happening to Glasgow?

Vandals wreck facilities at a football club – a cancer hospice – vandalize fire hydrants in the city

We came to Glasgow four days ago – the first time ever for both of us – and we love it! This isn’t a diatribe, it’s a tribute – with a question for the city’s parents.

All week, we have had doors opened for us, directions explained to us, we’ve been let into lanes on the M8 as we realize at the last minute that we need to be three lanes to the right.

Filling up at a petrol station in Argyll Street this morning, another car owner came over to help us – we looked like we were having difficulties.

And that’s been the pattern here since we arrived from south of the border – actually, from Dubai, where we live and work, via Oldham, where I hail from originally.

It started at the Asda Superstore not far from Parkhead – that one! From our first stumbling steps to locate various items - washing up liquid - chocolate biscuits - tea bags - all the rest of the stuff we need to live here for four weeks while I teach English to pre-sessional students at a university in the city – everyone has surprised us with their bonhomie, help and a smile. We have quickly come to like Glaswegians.

So, what’s the problem, I hear you cry: it is this, that since we arrived we have been reading about violence and mindless vandalism.

First it was reports of a local football club having its facilities vandalized, then fire hydrants across the city wrecked, leaving precious water pouring out of the ground in fountains.

Finally, and most disturbingly, a cancer hospice has today been reported as having been vandalized – what kind of people do such things?

The answer evades me – my wife and I are both amazed that such a friendly city can produce monsters that behave like this.

Call me old fashioned, but I put it down to parental control, or rather the total lack of it, and an absence of discipline – self-discipline and the other type. But mostly, it’s that parents don’t know what their kids are up to when they’re out of the house. That excuses them, does it? – it certainly does not.

Old hat time again – when I was off out with my mates - in my teens – my parents did know what I was up to – not because they came to snoop on me, but because they knew they could trust me – they knew who I was, what I was like, and they knew what I got up to, and what I would never do.

Bringing up responsible children isn’t just about inflicting punishment on wayward kids, it’s about knowing them – taking an interest in them – trying to understand what their life is like – not to excuse them their wrongdoings, but to give them values that will endure into adulthood.

I’ve long known that in this life, you can either attune yourself to the norms and values of decency, and be respected for it and enjoy everything life has to offer, or you can go against these norms and be at variance with society and thus feel isolated from it and alienated by it, and never enjoy anything.

I was brought up properly, by parents who cared about me, and cared about other people – other people everywhere. And guess what, I live a good life – I’m not particularly rich – I have to work hard for the life I want, and I enjoy what life has to offer.

The biggest boon to my life, apart from my family and my friends, my career and my aspirations, some of which are still unfulfilled, is my ability and my wish to communicate with my fellow human being.

We have both enjoyed our short time in this friendly city, precisely because people like us fit in anywhere, with anyone.

How will someone who knows he has wrecked someone’s chances of staying alive ever fit in with anyone anywhere? And what will our society – our streets, our shops and pubs, our cinemas and clubs be like filled by people living with such self-knowledge?
Robert L. Fielding

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