Last weekend as usual there were young lads playing in the forest beside the lake. I can see this spot from the house. So like all my neighbours, I tend to keep an close eye on these boys. I wonder who they are? The years pass and still they come. Anonymous teenagers with all kinds of excitement on their minds. Bitter experience reminds me where the fun usually ends up.
Some like to dive into the water from the big tree at the lake. Some like to cycle their bikes off homemade ramps into the water. And often as not, as evening sets in, they like to fish and light fires.
At the fire lighting stage things can go either way. A nice evening sing song with a few beers or a chaotic urge to destroy this beautiful place that has been giving them so much joy. I puzzle over why and at what point the fun outing turns into an urge to violence against the very place they obviously love?
By 5 o’clock last Saturday, sure enough, their small fire became a raging blaze. At the point where trees were being dragged onto the fire, Himself headed out with buckets to begin the process of damage limitation. One of the neighbours had already called the brigade. By the time they arrived the lads had legged it and the fire was somewhat under control. Mainly thanks to other bystanders who chipped in.
The Fire Service will tell you, forest fires are always set deliberately and intentionally. The massive out of control fires in County Galway are an example of where this can lead. Walking as I do in many of the beauty spots of our stunningly beautiful county I often come across the remains of this kind of destruction, beer parties and illegal dumping. I’ve started to call this insane phenomenon “Primitive Man”.
Primitive Man is a fairly unevolved animal with, I imagine, a smallish brain. His remains in the woods tell us that he likes to sit in circles around a huge campfire, drink vast quantities of cheap beer, and has to mark his territory with piles of crisp bags and sweet wrappers left scattered across the forest floor.
But why can some boys be so destructive? Himself, who is a bit of an expert, says that boys are not encouraged enough to care, show love and look after things. It starts when they are small. Often mocked and slagged for being too soft and showing their vulnerability, they are asked what kind of man are you? You need to toughen up.
What can be done to stop boys hurting each other, animals, the environment? We all know incredibly kind and caring men, fathers, brother, partners. Men working in air and sea rescue, caring for elderly parents, men who work as stay at home Dad’s and give children wonderful lives. Some boys grow up to be amazing. But not all.
Himself is very strong on the need for the caring side of boys to be nurtured. Yes they need to be physically challenged but more than that young boys need to understand feelings and caring he says. Caring for each other. Caring about what is right. Caring for the planet.
But grown up Primitive Man can give some terrible bad example. Illegal dumping, killing off the environment with chemicals, thumping each other for sport. A new study from UCG shows that domestic violence which impacts so much on young children is perpetrated by their father in 80% of cases. In the hands of the grown up, careless Primitive Man, the world can be a frightening place.
Recently I was talking to the Environmental Protection Agency. I was asking about the water quality in this same local lake. Is it healthy to swim in? Eventually the man from the EPA told me that the water quality has been deemed “less than satisfactory” When I expressed shock, he reassured me that this is the case with most of Ireland’s waterways!!! He just seemed to take this for granted. It won’t kill you he said.
No Primitive Man is already seeing to that, I thought.
Our generation may not have given the best example. Except maybe for Primitive Man’s cousin Boy Scout Man. He can be seen on many weekends cleaning up the forest for others to enjoy, and singing songs while sipping from a mug of hot chocolate.
Young lads are the best fun. They have such energy and craic. Gwan lads, have a few beers, just pick up the remains and take them home with you! Is that the wildest most radical gesture of all lads?
Showing us all that deep down you really do care.
First published Waterford News and Star