MUM'S THE WORD
A RECENT experience of my daughter and a friend has prompted me to ask for a 'rewrite of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Forget the ' old version, this is how it should read.
A certain man went down ' from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his raiment, ' and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest ' that way: and when we saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on hint, and passed by on the ' other side.
Then along comes Johnny the Engli ;hman (you see we " have jokes about you too). Came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. And ' went to him and he said unto hits: to those who have robbed you, and injured you so grievously and left you here to die by the wayside, I must journey forth and find them for surely they need hell.Then two excited adolescerrs rushed in, their faces alight. As they gabbled -together, the story emerged.
"He was running really fast • and when we turned the comer there was a whole crovd of people shouting and scresming and this Indian famly and this Indian girl -poining at her neck and crying "My gold! My gold!" ' We hunk it was her wedding -gold And then we saw the polie and they had caught him'.
"I said I'd seen him rtuung really fast and so had she and we told them what we saw and they took our name. He'd thrown the jewellery under a car by the time they caught him."
"And he was so fit. About 16 and so fit. I really felt sorry for him."
"So did I."
"What?" I asked trying not to show my rising anger. "What about the poor girl? Imagine what it must feel like to have jewellery snatched from your throat. Did he hurt her? Being robbed is a horrible experience."
"Oh. She'll be all right," came the nonchalant reply. "She had all her family and friends around her, all screaming and shouting and making a big fuss."
"Oh, the robber," they sighed in unison. "Well fit. His clothes were all torn. He looked so poor." I pointed out that mitigating circumstances would be taken into account at any forthcoming proceedings.
"They won't prosecute him?" they asked with concern. "Oh, no. We'll take him home and look after him." They giggled, wishing they could. "Well fit." And with that they vanished like characters in Through the Looking Glass a world I feel I am spending a lot of time in these days.
Forty minutes later they were back wearing identical track suit bottoms. An Oxford Street store had unwittingly become a footnote to my rewrite of the Good Samaritan story. A pair of those tracksuit bottoms had been purchased the week before, worn several times and found wanting because they were too long. So they were returned, as new, in exchange for the right size. A fallback position had been arranged. If the store refused the exchange then the taller of the two girls would get the old track suit and her money would pay for the required shorter version for her accomplice.
I pointed out the dishonesty of returning clothing that had been worn and asked how they would like to buy as new clothes already worn.
"Oh, we probably do. Everyone does it. On the other hand we might not have. I could have sold mine to her because they were too big and bought another pair. You can't tell. And anyway the manufacturers rip off the workers in poor countries. Trainers we pay k50 for cost £2 to produce and most of this stuff costs about that so why shouldn't we rip them off too and see how they like it?"
Have I been talking to thin air all these years about personal responsibility and that it is what you do that matters? "Yes," I said metaphorically throwing my hands in the air, "And that poor robber with his tattered clothes. We are all guilty. Society is to blame."
"Big joke. Ha Ha. You sound stupid, Mum."
Stupid is nothing as to how I feel. Both of the cases I describe are "petty crime". The Tories want a "lock 'em up and thrown away the key" approach while Labour merely sloganises "Tough on Crime: Tough on the causes of Crime".
What caused them to deceive the shop if that is in fact what they did? Why is all the sympathy for the robber with hardly a thought for his victim? They've had sound moral guidance from the beginning.
These girls know the difference between right and wrong. They are choosing to ignore it. Or have they now lost a true conscience and have only a false conscience? Is this corruption or is this what teenagers are like? I don't know. I've never had to bring one up before. Stupid is nothing as to how I feel. It's enough to drive a mother to crime.
I'd like to prowl the streets of the better parts of the capital, stalking well-brought-up girls and robbing them of their labeled trainers, tracksuits, jackets, bags and see how they'd like it,