Disturbing videos showing two boys engaging in senseless behaviour in the heart of The City emerged on social media on Wednesday.
We are told they were engaging in what has been described as the slapping prank that went viral in the United States more than a year ago.
The act involves sneaking up on an unsuspecting person and slapping them around the head, while capturing the assault – for that is what it is, a crime – on video.
In Wednesday’s video, two elderly men were sitting having lunch when they were slapped; others were slapped while walking along the street.
In one of the videos a woman can be heard shouting, “Stop it. That is not nice,” as a boy runs away.
It boggles the mind and vexes the spirit as to what could have led to such insensitive, inexcusable actions by these attackers, children or not.
We have since learnt that two juveniles are now in police custody. The authorities say they will insist they apologise for their actions, presumably in a bid to avoid criminal prosecution. That would be to bookend tragedy with tragedy.
Nonetheless, we hope a strong message is sent.
First, our senior citizens, homeless or not, are not punching bags. They helped build this nation in ways great and small. The meagre pittance they earn in pension is dwarfed by the respect and care they have earned from young and old.
If young people are allowed to disrespect and mistreat our veterans of modern Barbados, then the road to our ruin is assured.
We wholeheartedly support Minister of People Empowerment And Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde who said: “We also have an obligation to our young people, to make sure that we educate them and sensitise them to respect everyone so that they do not see the vulnerable among us as targets for ridicule.
“Our young people must never be socialised to view human beings as ‘other’. We are all God’s children, whatever our circumstances in life, and therefore discrimination and stigma must have no part in informing how we relate to one another.”
This brings us to the crux of the matter.
We know that children are easily influenced but certainly we must draw the line.
It‘s too easy to blame young boys. The finger points right back at adults, parents and guardians who have fallen short in their duty to train and inspire responsible, well-rounded youth.
Whether or not we are willing to accept it, there is no getting away from the fact that much of the deviance which eventually turned into the violent crime of which we are all so painfully familiar, started this way.
There are too many households where children are left on their own. Discipline is virtually non-existent, the latest gadgets and all types of the latest gear are handed to children as a substitute for quality guidance and training. Parents these days prefer to be their children’s friends rather than their guide. It is neither what our children want or need.
Hardly are adults setting the right examples on the basics: good manners, respect, hard work, kindness, honesty, empathy and other virtues that were once the bedrock of our society, in times when so many had so little.
We have to do better. We must do better.
So it’s time the grownups are held accountable.
But yet there is a role for the rest of society to play.
The old proverb that it takes a village to raise a child could not be more relevant, even in these times of physical distancing and social isolation.