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Ed Smith
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We were having a friendly discussion. We had just enjoyed a fine meal of Cordon Bleu chicken, complete with a dessert of Apple pie made with, according to our host, at least five different kinds of apple smothered in spices and almonds, and a lemon pie to die for.

I discovered a bit too late that the two desserts were offered as a choice between one and the other, not as a complete set.

In that regard, I think I was an embarrassment to Other Half. Coffee and a glass of mint schnapps completed what was an eminently delightful and satisfying meal.

Consequently, as we settled back in the living room to enjoy the warm aura of good food and good friends, we were prepared for conversation of the deepest kind.

So we did what people of our generation do best: we discussed at length the problems of the younger generation.

For most of us that generation was one generation removed, since we had already raised teenagers into acceptable levels of functioning as mature adults.

Any problems they had at this point were obviously their own doing. Any success they enjoyed was just as obviously due to the efforts of excellent parenting.

We weren’t suggesting, as some do, that the teenagers of today, not having had the benefits of our care, were bound for a life of frustration and failure.

We were simply wondering what the heck would happen to them once they left home and hearth.

We decried the decline in books and printed matter generally.

Some pointed out young people could read whatever they wanted online, from “Wuthering Heights” to the Playboy philosophy.

That reminded us that they could also see whatever they wanted online, and that this might not be the kind of education that would help them in later life.

My own feeling is that all knowledge is useful. As far as the nature of that knowledge is concerned, I would much prefer that teenagers watch people making love rather than dismembering each other in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways.

I know at least three people who agree with me on that. They’re the same three who read this column on a regular basis: my sister, a friend of my sister’s and a person from Great Brehat who would rather remain anonymous.

There was no question in our minds and but that communications technologies, especially as they related to cellphones and the like, were not having a positive effect on the younger generation.

Neither were the so-called social networks: facebook, twitter and Googlebuzz to name just a few from the five million that are out there. Young people are being encouraged to let it all hang out on Facebook.

Unfortunately, what seems perfectly harmless to a 15-year-old describing her relationship with her current boyfriend, is anything but innocent when she goes looking for a job in a few years.

Or a husband.

Of course, that may depend on the kind of job she goes looking for. Brothels in New Zealand are gearing up for the rugby World Cup and looking for young women who are willing to work long hours for good wages.

Don’t forget the Bible says that the wages of sin are death, if you believe that selling sex is sinful. In New Zealand brothels and street sex workers are legal. The wages of sin there are about 50 bucks an hour, depending on the exact nature of the sin.

Back to technology and kids.

Teenagers don’t know how to write anymore. They text. Texting is a whole new language. Unfortunately, it isn’t the English language.

It more closely resembles what used to be called pidgin English sometimes spoken by people who had another mother tongue. So there are no complete sentences, no capital letters, little if any punctuation and certainly no paragraphs.

Ask any texter — if that’s a word — to punctuate a sentence properly so that there is no confusion in the meaning.

For example, “woman without her man is useless.”

There are two possibilities, neither of which today’s teenager is likely to see.

Woman, without her man, is useless.

Most men would punctuate it that way. Most sexist men, that is, and that’s really unfortunate.

Happily I’m not responsible for the attitudes of sexist men. I decry them and that’s the truth. Sexist women, on the other hand, would insert the commas thusly.

Woman; without her, man is useless.

I’m not responsible for sexist women, either, and there are at least as many of them as their male counterparts.

I don’t know who’s responsible for any of them. I only know I get blamed for an awful lot of it.

How do you suppose teenagers, who are growing up constantly texting, would attempt to make meaning out of that sentence?

Or this one on which whole faith systems have been based, depending where you put the comma.

Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise. Or:

Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.

My fear is that teens who are constantly texting will lose the ability to interpret according to the way the sentence is structured.

Doesn’t take much imagination to see what havoc that could cause in international political correspondence.

I can’t wait for the first novel to be written in textese.

Someone pointed out that humankind was able to evolve much more rapidly than other animals because of the structure of the opposing thumb which enabled us to grasp objects such as primitive weapons, primitive tools and the hair on the primitive heads of cavewomen.

In other words that’s what helped us us get down out of the trees. But now that teens are using their thumbs in staccato style, like firing machine guns, where will humankind end up as a result?

I have an idea.

Right back up in the trees.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is

Organizations: Apple

Geographic location: Wuthering Heights, New Zealand, Great Brehat Springdale

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