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‘Drunken teenagers need to respect one another’

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Before I blamed reality television for most things that were wrong with the western world, I used to blame soap operas.

Nobody listened and I can see their point. The sad reflections of some nursey bloke bemused by the influence of Kerry Katona really cannot be expected to compete with the pure entertainment value provided by dancing newsreaders or that bloke who used to be in Dollar eating bits of kangaroo.

It’s just a matter of taste isn’t it? Saying you don’t like X Factor (prime-time karaoke) or I’m a Celebrity (a car crash of needy people and big spiders) makes you sound a bit like that curmudgeonly uncle nobody likes. So, forgive the TV criticism and be assured I am not going to write mean things about Robert Kilroy-Silk. Instead, I thought I’d do some reflective practice.

The main reason I don’t like reality TV is that it humiliates people. Bad singers sing badly then are told in front of loads of people they are rubbish. Failing actors or actresses desperately try to raise their profile by putting locusts in their pants. It’s ugly and belittling.

Ritual humiliation has become ever more popular. Where once we saw someone losing self-respect and turned away in embarrassment, we now see entertainment.Take the drinking culture. We know that binge drinking is a problem and the concerns about health were compounded with the news of a rise in young people developing liver disease. And we know
that a wander through most town centres of a weekend will show us lots of drunk people falling over, being sick, sobbing uncontrollably or snogging livestock for bets. And they are watched by others and it’s seen as funny.

Inevitably, we will be told that more needs to be done to make young people aware of the dangers of drink – maybe nurses will be invited to hand out health-education leaflets at midnight on a Saturday. That will work. Alternatively, we will be told about the moral decay underpinning our descent into drunken despair. As if we were never curious, confused or a little bit reckless.

Maybe it isn’t about moral decay or about persuading young people to look after their health, but about persuading them to look after each other? To protect friends from the degradation of passing out in the gutter or of dancing on tables to music nobody else can hear; to think a drunken teenager wetting themselves denigrates a group rather than entertains it. To help people be healthier or safer, we surely must encourage them to respect each other enough to not be entertained by their disarray.

Because, let’s face it, there is a limit to what health education is managing to do. And so very much more needs to be done.

Want to read more of Mark Radcliffe’s opinions? Just click on the more by this author link at the top of the page.

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