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Uncensored generation

Jan 07,2018 - Last updated at Jan 07,2018

An age-old problem is that every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world and of the petulance and insolence of the young.  Even Socrates, in all his wisdom, lamented that “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

When I was young, my generation was rebuked for listening to Beatles songs and wearing bell-bottomed trousers.  These fads, we were told, were part of the Imperialist Zionist conspiracy to corrupt Arab youth and distract them from their mission of liberating Palestine.  

Today the corrupting influences are universally believed to be the Internet and social media.  The young today have access to an infinity of influences which neither parents nor governments are able to control.

Real dangers exist, such as drug trafficking, paedophilia, and human trafficking, but they existed before the Internet, though perhaps the Internet made them more pervasive.Others are a function of the speaker’s values and politics, such as opposing political views, unfamiliar religious views, or irreligious views.  

All this is on the Internet and there is much more on the deep web and dark web that we cannot imagine. Like most technology, the Internet is a neutral instrument and inevitably it has mixed effects. One of these effects is that it created a new and complicated context for the age-old dilemma that pits the demands of security against the desire for freedom.

It is natural for parents and educators to want to protect their children from undesirable influences, but how can you do this in a world that is like a classroom with billions of giggling children passing notes to one another?

Invariably, governments react with censorship, including those which claim most fervently that they oppose all forms of censorship. They just call it by another name and often their people do not realise that a rose by any other name...  

Censorship, the most extreme form of which is assassination, has always been widely practiced, but it failed in the past because banning a book immediately puts it in on the bestseller list. In the Internet age, no firewall has yet been invented that could not be circumnavigated by a teenager.

The problem is not new. Throughout the ages, the dilemma of every parent was how to protect his child from a future, much of which neither of them can comprehend, when the parent’s references are all from the past.  

In the end, there is no alternative to trusting children to make the right choices, and be ready to help them when they do not.  A parent must hold the past with one hand and reach to the future with the other, just like the late King Hussein articulated his mission: “It is my firm belief that I have a link with the past and a responsibility to the future. I cannot give up. I cannot despair. There’s a whole future, generations to come. I have to keep trying.”

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