When I was a teenager, the world we live in operate on faxes and telegrams. There was no internet, and "Cyberspace" is a term that sound like some sort of hollywood movie. The favorite haunts were Mac Donalds and Burger Kings. Starbucks Coffee have not even been bought over by Howard Schultz its founder, and there is certainly no such thing as 'people watching' in a cafe. Plus paying 6 bucks for a cup of 'kopi peng' is a luxury most of us cannot afford. Heck, a combo meal at Mac Donalds cost less than 4 bucks in those days.
The youngsters today have it all. They carry mobile phones that send messages across continents, have never operated a cassette walkman, while mp3 and IPOD is the standard denominator in their dictionary. They hogged cafes like their living rooms and smoke cigarettes at the age of ten. They might have invented the term "alcohol bingeing', and they prowl the roads like they paid road taxes more than the capacity of songs that their multi-gig IPOD can hold. Some of them can even be hard to fathom.
Unusually hungry straight after dinner on the first day of Chinese New Year (those set meals in Chinese Restaurants during the CNY period doesn't exactly tickle my tastebuds), I drove to a movie mall frequent by youngsters, Orchard Cineleisure, for a takeaway Burger King meal. The green man in the traffic light has turned red, and the crowd dispersed fast on the walkway only to reveal 2 teenagers taking their time strolling on. I rested my hands on the steering wheel and waited patiently for those 2 chaps to cross over while the car behind me is increasingly finding my car bumper as attractive as a canine's ass.
For easy reference, I will name them Mr Moonwalker and Mr Colorblind who obviously cannot differentiate green from red. Watching them stroll across the pedestrian walkway is like smoking weed and making you witness everything in slow motion signature of John Woo's style. With pressure building up from a salivating car behind my ass, I tap a quick horn behind the wheel.
Mr Moonwalker fast paced himself a little, but still enough to annoy because concubines in Qing Dynasty movies walked faster with their feet binded. A more dramatic Mr Colorblind still in the middle of the road gave me a stare and waved his hands across the walkway still holding a half-smoked cigarette. He must have muttered something which I am guessing is hokkien swearing. I pointed towards the red man sign suggesting he should go back to kindergarden for some coloring lesson. Clearly displeased, he lingers in the middle of the road displaying gangsterism by swaying like a monkey.
Now, I know you might probably be looking for some drama that might involved an uncle slapping 2 teenagers thereafter. It did not happen. I stepped on my accelerator and moved on. Compliments of my wife who reminded me that there is a baby at the back of my car. And it is a small matter to begin with anyway, I probably wouldn't mind if there were no cars behind me, but because of those 2 jokers I had road hogged the entire stretch of cars. But I have to say I was very agitated for a moment, holding back my fume I parked my car and promised my wife I wouldn't beat anyone up. I got us some burgers and drove off.
Those two looked barely 18 to me. They were in fact, boys who have not even entered the army for national service. And yet they behaved like they own the world. I was concerned. Although rebellious teenagers are spotted around everywhere in the world, especially in the west where they went about their killing spree by firing machine guns into crowds, I find the trend escalating in Singapore. News of teenagers beating people to death locally have tolled up over the years.
My personal observation simply in Singapore context alone is that, things are getting worse. I have witnessed fights that erupted simply by a mere stare while sitting in a coffee joint. And these kids were mostly in their secondary schools. I have also witnessed kids talking back to their parents in total disrespect. Their behaviour suggest a total revisit in our education system and uninspiring parenting.
A recent article I read suggested these are the "Generation Y" lot, intelligent and well informed with IT knowledge. They know what they want and usually have a short attention span to things that interest them, simply because, well they are too intelligent. The article also suggested that to keep the 'gen y' nation in your workforce you will need to constantly give them new and challenging roles or else they will move on.
I say screw it.
Because whether they are 'gen y' or 'gen x' or whatever, basic courtesy and personal conduct of behave still matters in life.
I did not live through the times of hardships like my parents did. But they taught me well, instilled mannerisms and dignity in my approach towards life. I was brought up with confucious values as a Chinese descendant. I doubt many of these kids bother, afterall our fast advancing society had diffused our roots and cultural values, opting for one that is perhaps more westernised. But still it is not an excuse for impoliteness, a lot of ang mohs are in fact cultured and polite people.
Back at home after some burger dining in car, I looked at my baby daughter who was sleeping like an angel in her cot. I am sorry the word 'angel' is so overused in my entries that it is probably a cliche now, but that is only way which best describes her at such an adolescent age. That is until she grows up to be a teenager who has to succumb to peer pressures and what not.
For a moment, I shuddered at the thought of my little girl talking back at her dad. But that is a little too far in the future for me to anticipate. For now, I'll just watch her grow up with joy and promise to instill to her the very same values that my parents instilled in me.
And for the first time in my life, I felt old, like a father, a parent.