Years ago there was a big anti drugs crusade launched by the wife of the President of the USA called "Just Say No!". A horde of washed up rockstars, most of whom were wheeled out of rehab were featured telling the youngsters of the time to "Just say no" to drugs. At the time I thought it was a ridiculous campaign. The whole concept that credibility conscious teenagers would listen to the wife of a president or a bunch of washed up has beens seemed to me to completely ridiculous.
The most offensive thing for me personally about the campaign was the sheer negativity of the whole message. It seemed to be "If you are at a party and everyone else is having a great time and getting mashed, become a social pariah and refuse, because in 30 years time you won't end up in rehab". The reason such "crusades" fail is because they are negative and simplistic. They insult the intelligence of a generation of young people who are all too clued up about the issues of drugs.
There is no point "Just saying no". What has to be on offer is something better, something more attractive, something you can say yes to. I would hate to be a teenager today. My generation had free university education, we even had a grant if we wanted it. We were not stigmatised if we wanted to do arts degrees and we didn't leave University saddled with debt. When we looked at the future, it was realistic to imagine a future where we could buy our own flat without a bung from the bank of Mum and Dad.
I didn't go to Uni. When I finished school I absconded to Stockholm to play guitar and write songs. Given the price of alcohol and the puritanical views of my then girlfriend, I lived a totally absteemious life for six months. The point was that I had something far better to do with my time than get stoned and get pissed. Now we can't all get away from our woes by moving to Stockholm and shacking up with a beautiful babe, but if we are given no options and no hope, then we won't say no to a life of oblivion in a drink/drug fuelled nivana. Of course most kids won't go that route anyway, but a significant number are becoming extremely nihilistic at the moment.
We as a country are storing up trouble for the future. We need to address the issue of how we keep our teenagers on the right track and give them purpose and meaning in life. The current coalition who know the price of everything and the value of nothing made a huge mistake pricing an education so highly. Like all bean counters they can't see beyond the end of their nose. And what about the major firms who offshore work, so that they can save a few quid? What prospects are they creating for our youngsters.
We need to offer young people proper prospects. I want my kids to say yes to life affirming values and a healthy lifestyle. I want them to see the point of educating themselves and see that if you work hard, you will not simply spend the next 20 years repaying loans. There is a general election in 18 months time. We need someone, somewhere to start making a case for a future young people can say yes to.