What’s The Lesson?

Too easy to end up in here, nowadays.

A German father abandoned his 14 year old son at a service station on the autobahn in Bavaria the other day. They were still several hundreds of kilometres from home when they had an argument and the Dad let the boy out, gave him five euros and told him to make his own way back. Passers by alerted the police who called the father and convinced him to collect his lad. He suggested they keep the boy at the police station overnight, to ‘teach him a lesson’. Eventually father and son made up and went on their merry way together, no doubt lesson learnt.

So what was the ‘lesson’? How often do we do that, teach other people a lesson? Does it ever work? Does it make them change their ways? Does it all too often backfire on us? Afterall, this German Dad will now be reported to child welfare and be under scrutiny. A decade or three back you could teach your errant teenage child a lesson and most likely people would respect, admire or at least accept it as your right as a parent to parent as you feel is right. (That’s a chiamus by the way, I learnt the name for those things just yesterday at Roger’s Reference website) Back then, the lesson would be that sometimes you are not in control and you have to do as you are told whether you like ti or not and if you want to do it your way then go ahead but it isn’t easy. Or something like that.

In 2010 the lesson would be the same in the father’s mind but the son would think it is all about taking away his rights and freedoms and stopping him from being able to do it right now and not have to pay for it ever. The authorities would see the lesson as an attack on their control of the population by a parent who thinks he knows better than post graduate childless academics and career focused public servants and self focused politicians. It starts with a lesson in self reliance and ends in more rule breaking and tax avoidance and unwanted media attention and loss of budgets and votes and its all your fault!

I think leaving him by the side of the road, at dusk, with just a few bucks is tough love of a rather too tough kind. The kind that can backfire nowadays. Whereas once there was less likelihood of the boy falling afoul of predators, today and especially on the autobahn’s of Germany and main roads of Europe there are predators galore. People traffickers and other low life pouring out of the former Soviet Bloc and in from the Middle East and Africa, mingling amongst the genuine asylum seekers and people looking for a new life. Preying on the young, the weak, the vulnerable, the destitute and the desperate. Not a wise move, Dad.

What is the lesson here, then? That society has changed in what it believes is appropriate parenting? No doubt but then it changed over the first few decades of my life. I can’t say when I last heard, even spoken in jest, the old ‘children should be seen but not heard’ saying that was around still in the 1960s when I was a boy. Even though it was used to show how not to parent and how things had changed, it was still relevant and we were still close to those days when it was accepted as good parenting.

So, what is the lesson? Think about that for a while, now and then as you go through your day. What is the lesson we really try to pass on? Is it what we say it is or something deeper, more inward? Something about ‘now I have the power, I am the teacher of lessons’? Sometimes I catch myself giving my children lessons my parents gave me, yet they are no longer relevant in this day and age. And then there are the lessons that will never age, never go out of fashion or be obsolete. The lessons about respect, responsibility and character. They are the hardest to teach, especially if one never properly learned them in the first place. But they are what holds civilized society together.

One Response to “What’s The Lesson?”

  • I see this all the time in the Philippines with some foreigners wanting to “teach” the Filipinos a lesson. The only thing the Filipino learns is to resent the person and maybe foreigners in general. Both are ignorant of each others perspective and while one might seem to be triumphant it is only in their own mind. No real lesson is learnt when one bullies another. Christopher Bennetts – Living In The Philippines

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