Sunday, 22 March 2009

Hit The Road, Jake!

Teenage Wasteland
It's only Teenage Wasteland
Teenage Wasteland
Teenage Wasteland
They're all wasted!
The Who (Baba O'Riley)

A NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST invited by the producers of a television news programme on ITV-1 (Tonight: Tough Love) to comment on the book "The Lost Child: A True Story" by Julie Myerson appeared to offer the opinion that Ms. Myerson should not have written a tell-all about her family's battle with her teenage son's drug-taking. The columnist said that newspapers these days were filled with the work of columnists, like himself, who prattled on about what they were doing or seeing, and remembering what they saw and did in the past. He seemed to be advertising himself, rather than offering a reasoned impression on the Myerson affair.

I think it's safe to say that people have been updating people for millennia, calling through the stalactites into the cave next door, talking over back fences, scratching marks into wet clay, writing letters and, now, books and blogs. And there are columnists who are content to write about something they saw in the street on the way to the market (or behind the woodshed as a child), and there are thousands who are happy to read this sort of thing. A good reporter on the human condition and scene, one who writes well and entertains along the way, and even educates, is probably doing more for humanity than the scientist who writes the great tome on something obscure that might be wonderful in some way, but that is beyond comprehension to all but seven Oxbridge dons.

One of my sisters reads only two kinds of books, and she reads a great many of them, and rereads them. My sister likes memoirs of people who were abused as children (physically, mentally and sexually) and the true stories of serial killers. Mass murderers, a single killing in a moment of passion doesn't do it for her; but dozens of hookers beaten to death and dismembered by a single and determined monster … that's reading entertainment. My sister recently told me she'd read about some poor children who, she strongly felt, were abused because the parents were naturists. The suffering youngsters went to nudist beaches and camps on family outings. For Pete's sake, it's not as if the parents were Jehovah's Witnesses. Or French. So far as I know, my sister was never physically or sexually abused, or taken to a nude beach. However, abandoned by our father in the year of her birth and growing up in a fatherless environment might be some sort of emotional abuse if you get the right psychotherapist on the right day. If you are taking notes for a thesis: My sister is so morbidly horrified by the sight of blood that she cancels appointments over and over when her doctor requests that blood be drawn from her for some sort of test. Go figure.

The shelves in the booksellers are full of tell-alls, grim crime stories and celebrity biographies. I'm assuming that these things sell, to occupy so much space on the display racks.

Julie Myerson's son, Jake, was a normal 15 years old, apparently, perhaps a bit spoilt, but by the time he was 17 he was skipping school and spending most of his time stoned on marijuana. Jake's parents, professional people, his mother a writer and his father in local politics and a magistrate, first thought a little grass was the same little grass of the 1960s. However, Jake was smoking skunk (some sort of super-strong ganja) and doing just about nothing else.

In the interview with Jake on "Tonight: Tough Love" he protested his parents' protests and said that, yes, he was smoking spliffs most of the time (and still) but, for example, he sat out in the garden and read "Ulysses" while he was off his face. Which made it okay in his bleary eyes.

Jake's parents, worried most for their two younger children (early teens), and after Jake smacked his mother upside her head so hard that he ruptured her eardrum, told him to leave the house and they changed the locks. He's still "out there" as he shows no willingness to not take drugs (he said he wasn't an addict because he knew he could stop any time he wanted). Jake's parents did help him find accommodation, and he doesn't look like he's missing meals, and he seems to be enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. His complaints are expected, almost scripted for him.

One of the concerned therapists on the television programme said that now that Jake's drug use and violence towards his mother were public knowledge, his privacy had been invaded. What if he was applying for a job one day and his prospective employer recognised him as the kid who'd wasted his youth smoking spliffs (even if reading Ulysses)? What if he wanted a scholarship for schooling? What might a girl who he fancied think if his name rang a bell?

You know something: If I was hiring someone and they'd been a drugged layabout, I'd kind of like to know that, and I'm guessing the boy wouldn't offer it in his CV. What if I was hiring a teacher's aide, or a sub-editor, or a lab technician … I really should be entitled to know I was getting someone who was honest enough about his past (and currently sober, thank you). Is a druggie driving a primary school bus all that different from a serial killer driving one?

Should parents tell their teenager to leave the house until he sobers up, change the locks? I say: Yes! Jake's parents had two younger children, his father is a magistrate, in theory if they had let him stay they were allowing drugs to be used on their premises and were breaking the law, and Jake had been violent. By his own admission Jake had been a total slob and something of a wastrel (Ulysses will do that to you). He also admitted that he'd stolen money from his parents to buy his drugs, saying: "Doesn't everybody?" It seems reasonable to me to treat children as apprentices in the family, not management and certainly not as members of the board of directors.

Should Julie Myerson have written the book? It's not one that I'll read, though my sister might. It's not just a tell-all as many parents must have out of control and abusive children under the influence of drink and drugs, and one hopes there might be good advice in this book. The television and other media publicity has people talking. It's Reality TV in another form, of course.

Jake Myerson, with his grubby copy of Ulysses might end up on the telly in the Big Brother house if the BB producers are smart enough to make him an offer. And eventually he can do Celebrity Rehab when we're all heartily sick of seeing him. After that, perhaps he'll apply somewhere to be a sub-editor. If he's honest by then, he'll have an honest CV, an honest attitude, and an honest-to-goodness chance to have a better life. If he doesn't get sorted out, he'll be smoking his spliffs on the dole and insisting he's no addict because he doesn't need them and can quit any time. Just like that.

1 comment:

suz said...

his ass woulda been on the street on my watch too. not only is violence not condoned around these parts, productivity is demanded.
i have no more issues with spliffs than i do with a beer after work, but if it's farking up work, school or both, it's not okay.
i LOVE the alice pic!
suz (who can't bear the real-life horror stories, give me escapism please)