What Happened to My World?
An older vato ponders change...
"What has happened to my world?" I stopped to ponder the other day as I helped a homeless young fellow with some change he was begging for.
Published on LatinoLA: March 11, 2008
Physically & mentally healthy, and around 28 years old, I recognized the guy as the youngest son of a neighbor of mine from the old neighborhood. Remembering him as a spoiled, obnoxious, and arrogant teenager who wore only brand names and spent most of his youth playing video games and listening to rock music, I also remember him being overly indulged by his parents. Kid was a male Barbie: he had EVERYTHING!
He should have been a success in life, I thought...I thought wrong.
"Mijo is going to have everything I never had, and he won't know hard times like I did either", I remember his mother & father boasting, about 25 years ago. Somewhere along the line, things like respect, responsibility, manners, education, discipline, and WORK were somehow misinterpreted as hard times and were never ingrained in the kid....too bad! He grew up to be such a loser.
The young man's father died, the mother became ill and went to live in a convalescent home, the older sisters moved out of state, and the son lost the family home he inherited through sheer negligence and mismanagement, spending the proceeds on partying and good times.
...and less than 3 years later, here he was on the street, begging for money and living in homeless shelters or an occasional mental hospital when he's desperate, because he has no one to take care of him (nobody who wants to, really), and he hasn't figured out that having a job pays your bills and keeps you among the living.
I go to my favorite hamburger stand for lunch once a week. On this day, a group of young high school age kids approach me to ask if I "have any spare change?" (and if I do, what's it to them?). I tell them no, and a couple of them start giving me a hard time. "C'mon, dude. You look like you got a job. What's a couple of bucks going to hurt you?", one of the young men asks. Sensing trouble, I regress to my old street vato ways, telling these punks to back off or get their feelings hurt should they become brave, holding my briefcase as a weapon. "Oh c'mon...he's acting like a dick.." one of the young girls say as they all walk away, cursing me. I order my food to go, just to be on the safe side....again, I sense that somebody's parents dropped the ball here.
Inside the hamburger stand are a dozen or more kids who I know should be in school, but are just hanging out. Most of them have cell phones, portable computer games, headsets & MP3 players, and are wearing new tennis shoes and sports attire that I can't afford on a regular basis despite a full time job.
Without regards to anyone, they openly curse each other and make sexual innuendo wisecracks, with the females out talking the males....no sense of modesty or self respect at all...what kind of parents do these kids have nowadays, I say to myself?
Later on that night, I go to a local mall for some shopping with my Lady. All throughout the mall, young girls loiter in groups while talking on cell phones. Some, as young as 12 or 13, are wearing makeup and revealing clothes that make them look like prostitutes. Young men saunter around in packs while wearing ridiculously looking oversize winter jackets, crookedly worn baseball hats, and jeans hanging below their nalgas.
Excuse me...this is a public place where families and children come to....who made this style? Who said it was style? I'm sorry, but that "just got out bed look" or "street hoodlum gangsta look" just doesn't get it, know what I mean? How looking homeless or derelict, or menacing became attractive is beyond me. Somebody please tell me I'm not alone in this assessment.
Teenage kids arrogantly, and with a high degree of entitlement, demand that their parents, especially the mothers, buy them everything they see & want, with no regards to price since they don't appreciate the value of work or money yet...just buy it, Mom! Dammit!
One young man that I was sure would be getting a well-deserved bitch slap across the mouth from his father for loudly calling his mother "stupid" in public when she questioned the price and value of an $80.00 rag he was demanding didn't...his father simply wimped out and told the mother "buy the kid that crap and shut him up". I couldn't believe it! He thought that saying it in Spanish would hide his embarrassment from the obviously non-Spanish speaking people who were witnessing this travesty, but I and a couple of other Latinos in the crowd just smiled and shook our heads in shame for the father. What a pendejo, I thought.
I go home to watch some TV, and I can't believe the idiocy that passes as young adult entertainment that my teenaged step sons watch and giggle to. This is where some of the role model of how to be a loser starts.
But Pops still insists: "Are your chores done? Homework? Pick up your plate & glass so your mother or me don't have to? Don't EVEN think about going out or staying up late watching TV or being on the computer after 10:00 on a weeknight, and don't leave clothes & shoes all over the house! We can't afford a maid!"...some things are still right in my pad, homies! And my kids are not traumatized for life, either.
I get my turn at watching the tube, and I thank the heavens that "American Idol" doesn't allow rap or hip-hop or punk rock noise in the competition, and that host Ryan Seacrest is now consistently shaving, combing his hair, and wearing clean & pressed clothes. Finally, a good example for kids. The male contestants however, continue to look like unshaven, disheveled slobs, and some even push the envelope on looking and performing like females. When a contestant comes on imitating Richard Simmons or Tiny Tim, I'm outta there!
Luckily, some can actually sing, and Paula Abdul looks great, so it isn't a total loss...
For some reason, it seems that reasonable discipline is now seen by some of today's parents as punishment or torture that will scar their kids for life.
For some reason, it seems that some parents who were disciplined and taught responsibility in their youth now let their kids run amok like wild animals, falsely believing the kids will "get it" one day on their own and grow up, and that their lives will be better for that.
For some reason, some parents who made mistakes and learned from them by either punishment or restriction back in their youth, now feel that even sternly admonishing their kids when they screw up will traumatize them for life , and they try the "It's OK" approach to build up their self esteem, believing it will make them understand the error of their ways.
For some reason, some parents believe that buying their kids every and anything they want will make kids feel more loved, and will show them how much they care, which should teach kids to love and care back.
For some reason, some parents give their teenaged daughters almost unlimited freedom and no direction....then blame young men when the daughters turn up pregnant.
For some reason, some people reading this will crudely think I'm terribly off base, and that are no exceptions.
WRONG!...it's just that the exceptions are far outnumbered by the brats who turn into losers!
With the success of such TV shows as Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer, Jose Luis Sin Censura, and the 3 or 4 TV court programs that display the folly and debacle of dysfunctional adult losers, almost nobody seems to see that the stupidity of adults who never got it as young people is entertaining, yet embarrassing to us as a society. Those that do get it should use them as a "what not to do, who not to be like" guide to life. Sadly, the former outnumber the latter by a huge disparity.
I'm not saying that every parent should start beating and abusing their kids after dinner tonight, or start depriving them of unearned & undeserved luxuries right away...
...but some simple discussion about discipline, respect for others, the meaning of appreciation, responsible behavior, and the meaning of the word "no" would really be a good start for some young people & their parents.
Like the Stork, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy, kids should be taught from an early age where money comes from, what it takes to get it, and the value of it when you don't have it.
Some people have worked hard at parenting, and have some beautifully disciplined and polite children that will obviously grow up to be successful adults and I salute them with the utmost respect.
Some people don't have a chance in hell of being a successful adult or parent because they have never had a good role model or example, and I encourage them to seek help and support through the various public agencies and community organizations available.
I respect you for taking the time to read this, and my heart goes out to you for your humanitarian loss that may cause you problems in life.
...and THERE ARE exceptions, of course. Love and education are the greatest gifts we can give our children, so let's start giving that which is priceless!
My children, my step children, countless nephews and nieces, my god children and now my grand children have all learned my 10 golden rules of life that I learned the hard way:
1) Nobody rides for free
2) Love don't pay the rent
3) Having a baby don't make you no adult!
4) How you deal with children today, determines how they will deal
with you tomorrow!
5) Feeling sorry for yourself doesn't mean people should join you
6) When you die, who cares what you had, who you knew, or where you went?
It should only matter to you while you're alive!
7) You only stop dreaming when you die, so keep dreaming.
8) You don't get old by being a fool
9) If you have to get high to feel better, you must feel pretty low about
10) Listen, learn and enjoy life , or ignore and die stupid
Like I said...love & education are the greatest gifts we can give our children....
...and each other!
Together...we can make our World a better place to live in!
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul.