Youth and Authority 3

On the other hand, there are those who oppose this wish to return to old certainties. They who suggest that the society whose ideals surround the idea of the creative and enterprising individual, must also accept responsibility for the consequences of those ideals for the more deprived and less fortunate members of the community, and that therefore a greater level of tolerance for delinquent youth is required. It may even be argued that the rebelliousness of youth is in some senses praiseworthy, drawing attention to the inequalities in society and ensuring that the attention of those in authority is properly drawn to those in need. Here however the tendency seems to be to frown on the enterprise culture and to yearn for a greater sense of collective solidarity amongst working people. There is a suspicion, or even a rejection of individualism and a wish to assert the authority of the majority over the few.

I have put these two points of view as extremes when, of course, most people have views that fall somewhere in the middle and have sympathies that can fall on both sides; but the point I am making is that the problem of youth and authority, the attempt of young people to achieve their own sense of individuality, and the conflicts and destructiveness that come with this, arouse mixed and conflicting feelings in most of us. The certainty and dogmatism of the few disguise the uncertainty and mixed feelings of the majority of us who are working with this kind of problem. This context of uncertainty seems to me to provide the background to the difficulties that we may have in working together with the problems of youth and authority. It is all too easy to see in each other’s agencies a level of certainty that we may not possess ourselves, and to attribute to other agencies views which are fixed and rigid.

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