There used to be a time when children wouldn’t even dare to raise an eye in a way that could be construed as answering back (albeit non-verbally). A day when one cold stare from a person more than 4 years older, would send waves of fear and bowel-debilitating horror at the prospect of this person reporting their rowdy behaviour to their parent. This person could be an absolute stranger, but these children certifiably knew that the report would reach a parent’s ears whether by letter, by mouth, by pigeon, a facsimile in a bottle that washed up on the banks of the Thames, etc. In these instances, these children knew that going home was near enough a death sentence following the automatic conviction as a result of third-party reports. There would be no Amnesty International to intervene, no European Court of Human Rights ruling that would be adhered to, merely tenfold punishment. The goodbye hugs to friends would be slightly longer than usual, the
condemned knowing that this could possibly be the last time they saw their friends this side of eternity. Apparently random comments such as ‘you can have my trainers at school if I don’t ever need them again’ and ‘I noticed you like this watch I have – well it’s yours if I get another one’ would be made (knowing full well that in the grave there is no need for watches, and they were going home to be timed-out anyway), and the child may have seemed teary and slightly reluctant to exit whichever form of transport they were on. The walk from the bus/train stop to the house would take three times longer than usual, the sky would appear black even though the sun was shining brightly, every squawk of a pigeon became a clap of thunder, innocently languishing clouds would suddenly look like evil smiles haunting the valley of the shadow of death (i.e. the walk home), and the condemned child’s heartbeat would be playing wilder afrobeats than an orchestra of talking drums.
Then they would make it to the front door.
The key would twist very slowly in the lock. Upon discovering that the door would not open, the child’s soul would leap for joy. It meant that nobody was in! The second key for the bottom lock would be drawn out in haste and jubilation, almost broken in the opening of the door. The top key would be put in and twisted again…
…and before they could push the door fully open, a set of hands would fly out and snatch them with supernatural speed into the darkness of the gap between the door and the porch, and the door would close soundlessly.
Witnesses would later say it was as if the child had teleported in half a second.
Directly adjacent neighbours would say they heard thuds.
Childhood friend Tommy would say Seun/Sade hadn’t been outside to play in a while which was weird because he/she used to come out once a month.
No-one would say they heard any screams.
Dustbin men would report seeing people leaving the house in the early hours of the morning in “wan ah’ them taxis that tayke pee-pol to tha’ ear’port”.
Seun/Sade would wind up at Lagos airport (We think. They could equally be lying under the new potato plant planted in the garden) less than 48 hours after initial reports of vagabond behaviour, walking slightly funny.
And the rest is history.
Why all of that account? Because times have changed and there’s no longer that terror in the youth of today; no longer that threat of imminent death or family-facilitated deportation. Today some children are the vilest human beings that you can actually come across.
One incident I witnessed recently really brought home to me the freedom of existence some children are enjoying liberally right now.
A Modern Plague
I was sitting on a bus journey one weekend, a small bus, and a group of about 8 girls (it transpired later that they were in year 10/11 although you never would have believed it from the way they were talking) came on quite loudly, and proceeded to continue to communicate in an excessively high decibel; much to the chagrin of myself, who one plonked herself next to, and a lady with her teenage daughter who was sitting in front of them. My solution? Put my earphones in my ears and hope Tinie Tempah – Pass Out could drown out the sounds of their screams and laughter, which as it happened were over some boys they’d flirted with from afar at the bus stop who’d also got on the bus (those scenarios where they don’t actually want the boys to come up to them, it’s just for attention. The boys did not even speak to them once on the bus so they were even just gassing loudly ten times as hard. Classy -_-). The lady however, was visibly disgusted by their apparent disregard for anyone else on the bus and told them to ‘calm down’. This was followed by a pause, then a peal of laughter. They were quiet for a little, then resumed dog-hearing levels of communication. It got to a point where I was getting really annoyed and considering clipping the one next to me over the ea….sorry, I meant asking them to be sensible. The lady got there first. In audible irritation she said “Be considerate, there’s other people on the bus! Calm down” or something like that. Can you imagine what one wretch had the audacity to semi yell back?
“Are you going to throw me off the bus though? When you can throw me off the bus, then I’ll shut up”. And the other fools, emboldened by this cretin’s bravery started laughing and mumbling things to the same effect.
I felt righteous anger rise in my chest. I envisioned my forefathers azontoing (reluctantly mind you. My people would never advocate that helter-skelter reverse pop and lock) in their graves. I recalled memories of threats to be catapulted back into some village in Lagos. I trembled at the recollection of past punishments. I looked at these children, saw spoilt brats and was ready to enforce Old Testament (pre-2000) corporal retribution…but…what I really did was take my earphones out and say in a croaky voice ‘Don’t speak to her that way. If you don’t like what she is saying, then keep quiet. There’s no need for that rudeness’. In my defence, you can’t be too careful these days. You might chastise the wrong child and before you know it you’re getting thumped down in Tesco by Taneshia’s mum because you told her child to behave. And she will quote that as a reason as to why she is defiling you in public. This is the world we live in. In a MIRACULOUS turn of events though, none of them said anything back to me, one even told her friend “let’s be quiet” and they were fairly quiet for the rest of the journey.
But can you imagine? Do you think that if I had ever had the courage to lift my tongue and let such obstinacy sprint forth from my mouth in my day (to a fully-fledged adult at that) that I would have prospered to tell this tale? Not on your nelly. Is that not wretchedness? Would that not have been life-threatening folly?
But not in this day and age obviously for this is just one of quite a few incidents I’ve seen recently that made me pause and consider the freedom some of my generation are languishing in. Some of the other incidents are unrepeatable due to the language used and funnily enough involve mostly young teen girls.
When Prevention Doesn’t Work, We Flip The Script Straight To Cure
What is the solution? Some would suggest prayer, sprinkling of holy water, and
exorcism deliverance, which I agree with, but I’m also very much a practical person. Now seeing as nowadays intervening is quite Russian Roulette-esque in the sense that it more often than not involves a quick weighing up of whether the incident is worth possibly losing your place in the land of the living over, I’ve come up with a few less potentially life-threatening practical solutions:
- Smack that ass when the child is a toddler so it doesn’t grow up thinking it runs the world. That wasn’t the gospel according to Beyoncé now was it?
But perhaps the child is already too corrupt and has evolved into a rotten teenager (one calamitous blend right there). Simple solution:
- One way ticket to a small village in a barely heard of state in Nigeria. Forget Lagos. That’s like sending them to the Hilton.
If they’re extra bad, send them to DR Congo. Anywhere there to be honest.
Any child of any race.