We often hear negative talk about how much worse things are than they used to be. People talk about how much nicer it was in the days when children could play freely in the streets, and there were no smartphones to distract us. After a series of events this week, I have realised that I am actually generally grateful for the world my children have come into. There is still a lot of good to be happy about. They will see more advancements in medicine and technology than we could have ever dreamed of. As much as things may have moved too far into the realm of lack of respect for self and elders, being open-minded and expressive has also allowed us to challenge several oppressive traditions and mindsets. We can talk freely these days about how we feel, mental illness and the need for work-life balance, when these would have been seen as signs of weakness in the past.
It will be exciting to see what our children achieve in a world where they can really enjoy the freedom of speech and expression that many have fought for. Women in many parts of the world can now vote, drive, study, stay home with children, do professional jobs or whatever they want, without the level of resistance and stigma there used to be. My daughter recently made a comment about her wanting me to become a teacher at her school, so she could see more of me, but also because we had just watched a French movie called ‘The African Doctor’. I quite enjoy watching movies from different countries, and travelling with my children to give them a wider world view. This movie was about an African student who stayed on in a small village in France after his medical studies, to work as a doctor. The story was beautifully, and sometimes comedically, told of how he overcame their initial racial prejudice to eventually become a respected doctor and pillar in the society. My daughter reminded me of how the village people initially did not want to see a black doctor, which led her to the conclusion that working as a teacher would be better for me. I used the opportunity to explain that most people do not think like that anymore, and that I treat people from different races everyday at work. As a black-British woman, I am pleased that we now live in a society where gender and race are not hindrances in many places.
Disability is something else that is more widely accepted in today’s world. People with disabilities now have rights and greater access to places and opportunities than they used to. In ‘the good old days’, a disabling injury could be the end of one’s life or career, but I am pleased that I can tell my children that there are no limits to what they can achieve, as long as they are willing to work with what they have, instead of focusing on what they don’t. There is also faster travel, social media, cashless transactions, paperless transfer of information and security intelligence like never before. I have always believed that with more privilege comes more responsibility. Instead of focusing on how bad people can use these things to cause fear and terror, we can focus on the opportunities they provide, and help our children to make the most of it. We do not have to spend all weekend on the internet, just because we can. Children and adults alike can learn to be safer with their words, images and money online. We can teach them the dangers of mis-managing money (e.g. overwhelming debt), over-medicalisation of symptoms (e.g. overmedication and side effects), divulging too much personal information (e.g security risks) and poor time management.
The possibilities are endless for one who sees the opportunity more than the risk in today’s world. It helps no one if we wrap ourselves in cotton wool and avoid the ‘big bad world’. The world is now a global village. Our children can live and work wherever they want, if they really want to. There are many more acceptable options for lifestyle to suit different personalities. They do not all have to go to university to earn a good wage or respect. They do not have to speak English for their intelligence to be recognised. The issues and modern developments we worry about can work for our good if we use them wisely and in moderation, remembering the ethics and values we cherish from the past. I agree that not everyone will have good intentions, and there are more avenues for causing harm in this generation, but we cannot let fear win. We can choose faith over fear. We are all here for a reason, and it is time to shine and make the world a better place by being in it.