Respect is on the cards for children

2nd February 2001 at 00:00
I was lucky to be born into a time when the obligation to respect our elders had been lifted from children.

No longer were we required to address our parents' friends with the bogus honorific "Uncle" and "Aunt". Parents also acquired Christian names and ideas were not inherently right because the person expressing them was 20 years your senior (unless he happened to be a teacher speaking on behalf of the Joint Matriculation Board of course). On the whole I did respect most of my elders but I felt they earned that respect, and I still think this criteria should hold true today.

Certainly I don't expect my children to respect everything I say just because I'm older than them. When I start speaking nonsense I hope they'll tell me. In fact they already do.

Nevertheless, I'm aware that respect is another of those words changing meaning as it transfers down from the generations. Today "respect" is the catchphrase with which Ali G ends his spoof interviews and, according to the pamphlet in front of me, it'sone of the reasons why my children should opt for a Citizencard.

With this new form of identity card any child over six years old is promised she or he will "Get Served" and "Get Respect". Now that's quite something. Even a Gold Card doesn't guarantee you respect, particularly if you try it on a bus driver.

What a wonderful idea when young Tom is losing an argument hands down. All he has to do is pull out his Citizencard and the big sisters will back off muttering: "Respect, yo' the man."

In fact a Citizencard will do little for the average child over six. True, 18-year-olds who don't look it may find it easier to buy those few goods that are restricted - cigarettes, alcohol, hard-core pornography and Cliff Richard albums - but how many do you know who couldn't pass for 25?

The real purpose of a Citizencard is to make it easier for shopkeepers and cinema management to tell you to clear off.

I don't think the younger generation are getting respect, I think they're getting conned.


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