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Putting out the fires

I couldn’t bring myself to write a comment about the forest fires last week; I was too upset and angry on many levels – as the majority of the island was.

We all know what a tragedy it was with the loss of human life and incalculable environmental destruction, plus there is also a huge financial cost attached to fighting the blaze. On top of that, there was an outpouring of outrage or even malice towards the 12-year-old boy who reportedly started the fire whilst playing with a lighter – and his family for failing in their duty of care.

I have to admit that my immediate reaction, too, was anger towards the boy and family; how or why did he have a lighter, and why were the family unaware? But reading some other comments and blogs, and listening to the news, I realised that we cannot lay the blame solely at the child’s feet, as the inferno could not have raged so wildly if better procedures and plans, and more personnel, were in place.

But it did get me thinking generally about our youth and how there are no real mechanisms in place for dealing with juveniles, and also, how we have come to the point of our youth behaving in anti-social and/or criminal ways.

Firstly, when it comes to fire, it was only a matter of time for something like this to happen when our young boys are basically raised with exposure to – and permission to engage in – pyrotechnics. I am of course referring to our ‘lovely’ Easter tradition of setting off firecrackers and pipe bombs and setting furniture alight. So, how would a child be able to discern the difference that lighter = bad news, whilst starting bonfires at a certain time of year is okay?

Secondly, how can we expect our youth to have the maturity to make the right decisions when we are openly discussing giving 14-year-olds gun licences so that they can be trainee hunters, and brainwashing them politically, which manifests in football hooliganism and vandalism as a result of our sports teams being linked to political views?

Drugs; underage drinking; disregard for authority; illegal and reckless driving; and even murder. How do we as an island deal with these issues? From where I am standing, it doesn’t seem like we actually ‘deal’ with them.
A lot of these issues were raised in 2014 when a 17-year-old who was known for multiple counts of criminal behaviour murdered a young adult in Larnaca. The family of the victim campaigned for a knife amnesty and to have a system put in place to deal with juveniles. What has changed since?

I am in no way implying that the child reportedly responsible for setting the fire engages in any criminal activities – for all I know, he could be the sweetest, well-behaved child, but I do see him as a poster child for our youth. So the question remains, ‘how do we put out the fires of juvenile actions’?

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