It was encouraging to hear our First Minister say that she wanted to treat the people in Scotland like adults and start a conversation. It makes sense, though how you have a conversation with 5 million people I am not sure. But the invitation is there and if we have any interest, any ideas, any vision of how things should turn out, we should certainly take it.
I remember several years ago being involved with a youth advisory group that was based in our local Secondary School. It included teaching staff, social workers, the police and community Councillors. I was there representing the chaplaincy team. It took me a while to get a hang of what was going on but eventually I got it.The problem was that the youth lacked information and were therefore unable to make informed choices. So the solution was straight forward. We would carry out a consultation among all the pupils to establish what they needed and on that basis set up an information centre with others in the town centre that would be open and exclusive to young people. I remember one meeting particularly. I had the opportunity to speak and raised the question that maybe the best help we could give young people was to help them to become adults. I remember it, because it was met with stony silence and after a pause the discussion went on where it left off as if I was invisible. My heart just wasn’t in the project and I didn’t last long. I was humoured, however, and given the opportunity to lead a small group of senior pupils to talk about what it meant to be an adult. It was great but it didn’t last long.
It occurred to me afterwards that the maybe the advisory group didn’t want to think about the children becoming adults. Maybe they wanted them to stay as youths the way some parents don’t want their offspring to grow up and no longer become dependant on them. I can see that when you are a parent or a teacher or a youth leader or a counsellor or a pastor or even a politician, the seduction of keeping people dependant upon you, can be quite intoxicating. But it is deadly for you and them. Whoever they are: children, or pupils, or patients, or clients, they are not yours and the prime motivation must always be to lead them to the place where they don’t need you anymore. But it is hard, when your instincts are to sort things out, to engineer relationships, to fix things and you think you are the one to do it.
So it is right that our First Minister treats the people of Scotland as adults, for that is what we are. And I think it is time to abandon the mandatory top down regulated “lock-down” with its prison connotations and allow people to take responsibility for how they organise their own lives. People understand the issues. These have been made very clear. All the news networks and media have been saturated with it for weeks. Everywhere you go there are signs and reminders. People are fully coignisant with the danger to themselves and others and people are able and adult enough to make their own decisions. People generally have common sense and the resources to navigate a way through these times. Headteachers have the wisdom and expertise to decide how to reopen schools and the same would apply to other institutions, colleges, churches, libraries, parks etc etc. Supermarkets have proved that they have been able to do this now, so every organisation can and should be allowed to, without mandate from above.
There will always be those who will act recklessly and who endanger themselves and others. This minority is always with us. Any amount of enforced clampdown will never completely stop them and only serve to alienate those who act with common sense and respect. That is why I do think this is the time to change the tone, respect the dignity of the people of Scotland, allow them to take responsibility for the organising of their own lives and declare this unprecedented period of restriction over.
I have feeling it is not going to happen, still it helps me get it off my chest and that’s maybe what being an adult is about.