Women and children first (“The bells! The belles! The Bells(TM)!”

There is a devilish device being used in our country today. It is called The Mosquito. It emits a loud, piercing, high-pitched scream that is only audible by people under 20 years old. The Mosquito has been used to chase scary looking young people away from shopping centres, the painful scream of the sub-audible siren acting as a kind of sonic rubber-bullet for teens.

I’m sure many people who have worked with teens over the years will be asking the same question I am: Where can I get one?

The answer may soon be: ‘nowhere’, as the children’s commissioner for England has called for a ban on the use of such devices, as news mentioned last week. I’m sure he’s right on some kind of human-rights-based grounds. As a Christian, I guess I have to back him up too. I know in my heart that interpreting ‘suffer the little children’ probably can’t be interpretatively stretched to a command to occasionally make them suffer. But, every time I walk down the street and see a bunch of kids, (and there is no other word for this:) loitering, I don’t mind admitting: I’d feel a lot more comfortable with one of those sonic teen-dispersers in my pocket.

Of course, that’s all down to perceptions and my own prejudices. Perhaps the knife-wielding, happy-slapping, binge-drinking, mostly pregnant, gob-spitting youth of our nation just need another chance? Perhaps. Particularly since, as the news last week revealed, it may not be the kids’ fault. It may all be down to cheap booze. Several ideas for curbing youth drinking were discussed last week. These included making alcohol generally more expensive for everyone (presumably so that only rich children, who are so much better behaved, can get wasted). They also included making beer cost more than water (which seems pretty sensible) by making it illegal, as it is in parts of Europe, to sell alcohol at less than cost price. The second suggestion was greeted with sneers and jeers from freemarketeers (which sounds a little like the subtitle of a bad Gilbert and Sullivan musical) and Tesco magnanimously offered to work with the government on drawing up guidelines to deal with the problem. Sweet.

Most people missed the obvious solution. Why not put The Mosquito alarm inside Stella, WKD and White Lightning? A high-pitched siren every time you crack open a brew is not just a deterrent, it’s a poetic, didactic deterrent, giving the young person a foreshadowing of the hangover to come while they are still in the phase of drinking I like to call ‘optimistic hope’. By reminding them of the phase I call ‘awful consequence’ (the morning after) and the following one, ‘oaths, promises and forswearing’ (later in the morning after), they may just be discouraged.

Such lateral thinking is what might have motivated a council in Mexico which dealt with the problem of male sex-pests on crowded public transport, last week’s papers reported, by creating women-only buses. Taking things a step further than pre-civil rights America, Mexican men can not even sit at the back of the pink buses. They are simply banned. Disappointingly, there has been no ‘Rodrigo Parks’ (a male, Mexican version of America’s Rosa) making a stand for equality.

Perhaps Mexican scientists need to work on a sound that is painful only to men (perhaps an entire James Blunt album, or the soundtrack to Grey’s Anatomy?). Or perhaps we need to start dealing with the real causes of our social problems, be they bored, hopeless youths with no fundamental moral framework in a post-religious society, or poverty, overcrowding, and the enmity between the sexes that is created when equality is pursued by excluding people.

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