Mature women ‘cussing out’ in the street, using expletives of the most colourful kind. They raise their skirts or dresses to reveal their underwear in an effort to mock their opponents, or read out and reenact family sins. They threaten to stain each other with old urine from the ‘posey’ sitting under the bed and often do.
There are also middle-aged and older men gathering at drinking spots from early in the morning, arguing over some cricket game or mumbling over a pack of cards or dominoes. Before you know it, they’re drunk long before lunch and sometimes an eruption would occur. Somebody conned somebody and a broken bottle would be the weapon used to threaten murder or wounds.
The women reminisce on when they used to party; how great the music used to be back then. Sam Cooke, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye (just to name a few) used to have them floating on air. That was music back then! “Dem young people singing share ‘faught’ now!” they say.
There are whispers about how they found themselves in a dark corner of the party with someone nibbling on their neck and how they sneaked out in the middle of the night to go meet their lover under some tree, in the bushes, by the koker or by the seawall.
The men boast about how many women they had; how they used to move from village to village and in every village they had a woman. In every village, they left a child or children, many of whom they did not take care of. But now the children are grown and they proudly talk about their big sons and daughters.
They sit and talk about gender-based violence like it was a necessary part of life; how many bodies they used black and blue; how the women had to respect them because they were ‘beat men.’
The old felons take pleasure in talking about how much of a ‘bad man’ they were. “I kill aready yuh know! I been to jail!” they say.
These are both the past and present of the older generation of Guyanese. Of course, this does not reflect the generation as a whole and these are not all their stories.
But we often hear about how things were back then. How there was order. The women were chaste and the men all gentlemen. Children were disciplined! And any adult who saw a child engaged in wayward behaviour could put a good whipping on them and they dared not complain to their parents, as they would receive another. The wild cane kept them focused in school. Those were the glory days, some claim.
But the mature women cussing and throwing down in the streets and the older rum boogies drinking themselves into a fit are still familiar sights in parts of this country and often much to the amusement of onlookers and young people observing this behaviour.
So why do we often hear the expressions, ‘dem young people dis’ and ‘dem young people duh,’ which is said often to condemn the outrageous behaviours of the new generation?
Some from the older generation will never speak about errors that they made back when, but will maintain the façade that they were virtuous and without fault; but lips of those who can be called griots and some actions now reinforce the fact that no generation is without fault.
Nevertheless, young people fighting in the streets now are viewed as a breed of miscreants. They are said to be in need of discipline like being sent to the New Opportunity Corps.
The young girl who finds herself pregnant or runs away with a male is said to be too ‘hot.’ “A good cut ass would fix she,” they say.
How embarrassing are the leaked recordings of school children engaged in sexual acts. Some hold their heads as they exclaim, “Dis is de last days!”
The young men who are alcoholics are seen as vagabonds who drink too much and have no sense of direction. Cries of “kill dem out” are often heard when they engage in criminality.
The unmarried young women who wear revealing clothing are said to be dressing like harlots and have no shame.
“You gon get wha’ you looking fuh,” they say.
What a shame when a young woman finds herself pregnant with her third child for a third man and hears words like, “Dis generation hopeless and has no morals!”
The young men, who are having children and taking no responsibility, are good for nothings. So are the ones beating and killing their women.
Often, when I take into consideration all that is said about ‘dem young people’ now, I have to shake my head. Yes, many of the criticisms are valid, but what really are the differences between ‘dem young people now’ and ‘dem young people’ then?
Maybe it can be said that the generation now is more visible or bolder in engaging in risky behaviours. But is that even the case or is it a case of how things were recorded? With the advances in technology, like smartphones, it’s easy to document happenings that would have never been on put on record back in the day except through word of mouth.
But the older generation can in no way detach themselves from the behaviours of this generation. Did the young people come out of the womb being disrespectful? Who are their parents and grandparents? Who are their teachers? Who did not bend the tree when it needed to be bent? What are the social issues that have contributed to their behaviours? Should I mention the way some of our leaders behave in public and in the Parliament? What example is being set? Did the methods that were used fail? Could it be that a good flogging is not always the answer?
My aim is to in no way to excuse destructive behaviours of young people. My point is that often some folks from the older generation pretend to forget that they too would have erred in their youth. And I’m quite sure that they had the same fingers being pointed to them by the generation before them.
Choosing to criticize ‘dem young people’ and not offering suggestions or mentorship, does more harm than good. It is the responsibility of the older generation to lead by example. This cuts across the very fabric of our society.
The fact that because of human nature ‘dem young people’ will stumble and fall many times should not be disregarded. The job of any generation is to do what is necessary to create a world that would be better for the generation to come.
Let us move to diminish the culture of only criticising ‘dem young people’ and pronouncing them hopeless. Efforts should be made to expand and explore forms of discipline besides flogging – listen to them, let them know that you hear them, reinforce the value of education, work assiduously to contribute to the structures already in place for their advancement and when they fall offer them a helping hand.
No generation will ever be perfect. And no matter how many systems are put in place to contribute to the well-being of the nation, there will always be those who err. But with a little patience and guidance, many more can be saved.