I refuse to believe that my friends and I were the only people back in the late 1950s and early 60s to dance on city sidewalks and sing along to tunes on a transistor radio.

I know that other people did that. In fact I know there were a lot of other kids who did that. All over North America. In any given neighbourhood you could hear boys singing doo wop songs a cappella. You could hear girls clapping their hands and see them stepping in unison to a new dance routine.

It wasn’t everybody. There were hoods and greasers and some kids who just didn’t get it. Some thought it wasn’t cool to snap their fingers to the music and some were simply unequipped when it came to rhythm.

But most kids I knew weren’t like that at all. In my day kids literally danced in the street.

It has become harder to remember, and even harder to believe, because kids today just don’t do stuff like that. They have been overtaken by indifference. It breaks my heart.

I see them walk the streets with their listening devices. They have MP3 players, iPods, and all sorts of other music machines plugged in their ears, but I have yet to see one kid, just one kid, take a dance step or move in a way that reflects any involvement in the music they are listening to.

It is as if they don’t care at all.

I have been thinking that kids today didn’t come upon this indifference by themselves. I wonder if somebody taught them to be this way or worse. I wonder if somehow we made them this way.

We have done them a great disservice. We look to this new generation to achieve more, do more, fix more and invent more.

We want them to go for the gold, reach for the top, get to the highest level and be the best at everything. And we cannot understand why sometimes they may not want to achieve the greatest awards that are available to them.

I believe that no generation of children has ever had more pressure on them than this one. We want them to take responsibility for the world. We want them to fix the world. Yet, we have not taken responsibility for the fact that we made the world into the mess it is today.

When it comes to dialogue, we have none. We’re not talking about the world, thank you very much. We don't even talk in our neighbourhoods anymore.

We became indifferent.

What’s even worse is that we have taught indifference to our younger generations.

How did we do this? The best way to teach children anything is by example. We have not exactly led stellar lifestyles when it comes to making positive differences in our society. Certainly not in the last few decades.

We have never been richer in Canada, yet our contribution to less fortunate countries lags embarrassingly behind many others. We have the cherished right to vote, yet almost half of us choose not to cast a ballot on voting day.

As the world struggles to restrict energy use, the sales of gas guzzling behemoths like Hummers hit record levels in our country last year. The bad news is that we are close to catastrophe morally, economically and environmentally.

The good news is that we can still change.

We can buy cars that are smaller and more fuel efficient. We can get out and vote for a government that will commit us to helping others. We can do many other things in our particular work and personal life style.

Because it isn’t just money, money, money. It isn’t just location, location, location. It is also comfort, understanding, sharing and helping. And it isn’t just physical help. It is also moral commitment.

A good place to start might be as simple as showing young people how to come out from behind their headphones and share some music. If you get a couple of people of any age together snapping their fingers to the same beat, you’ve got a band.

If you got them to tap their toes or take a step at the same time, you’d have a dance band.

If you did either one of these things, you would be doing something very important. You would be showing young people that they are not alone. You would teach a young person how enjoyable it is work together. You would be setting an example of how comforting it is to accomplish something small and meaningful.

It is not the whole answer. But it is a good place to start.

 

Heino Molls is publisher of REM. E-mail [email protected]  or discuss this article in the REM Discussion Forum.

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