Rite of Passage

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Traditional cultures retain the rite of passage, but modern society seems to have abandoned the idea.

Submitted: November 03, 2016

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Submitted: November 03, 2016



There was muted outrage when a young father took his pre-teenage daughter hunting and she shot her first deer. Her father opened the deer and the little girl took a bite of the still-warm heart. According to the father it is a rite of passage for all deer hunters to take a bite from the heart of their first kill. Personally, I’ve never hear of that rite, nor seen it done, but I’m not totally against it. It is easy to be critical of what this father has done, but I reckon he’s a good Dad. Firstly he did nothing illegal, and deer, pretty as Bambi may be, are a pest animal. The guy is obviously a keen hunter and he was sharing his enthusiasm with his daughter. Bonding, if you like. He was transferring skills, and that is what life is all about!

If you look critically at society today, it is sick! Sick with ills that are not at all new, but in relatively recent times have become problematic and arguably influenced by modernity, with youth appearing among those ills more than ever before. We all know what the ills are; substance abuse including alcohol, bullying, violence, suicide and yolo stuff generally. But let’s be clear, on the other hand there are plenty of youth appearing on the positive side too who are getting on with life, achieving and are nothing short of admirable.

While in the UK a couple of years ago I saw a programme on TV. Jeremy something where people were arguing and he was trying to sort it all out. Some of them should still be eating bananas! I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve led a sheltered life! Maybe I should add to my list of ills, aggression and a lack of respect! But hey, maybe that’s not my cup of tea but it sure adds to the diversity of mankind!

What were are seeing, without traditional challenges, many of today’s youth challenge themselves and each other with booze, bullying, violence and the other stuff. If you look at the kids who do not adhere to the objectionable clique, they generally have challenges of their own such as sport, study, arts or even volunteering. They have set their own goals and know where they are headed. For the others the generation gap can be expansive. A pleasant young woman, from a ‘good’ family, used to work for me during her secondary education. Her sole ambition for the weekend was to become completely blotto with booze! It seemed tragic to me, even though it seemed not to affect her work and she grew out of it. What possessed her to do that I have no idea, but her parents were beside themselves with worry!

During my forestry training days, we were twenty nine young men together, and we were always testing each other, much like a rite of passage. Sharpen an axe and hold it at arm’s length to bring the cutting edge down so it touched your nose – everyone did it. An average day’s planting is around one thousand trees, but we all had our day of planting two thousand. And there was the ‘Ring-buster’! A steep hill that we had to carry a fifty pound pack up and back under two hours. A tough assignment but we all did it.

We were no different to past generations or future generations, looking and being cool is what the majority want to be. We didn’t know the term, but we wanted to be at least accepted by our peers and it was better still if they looked up to you or asked your opinion. You can’t put old heads on young shoulders so whatever is required by your peers, that’s the target! The expense, stupidity, legality, or whatever doesn’t come into it, most want to join the queue. Unless and individual happens to be of strong character.

Mentors or role models, and the main ones, have a positive impact – and let’s not forget, that’s parents! When I left home to join the twenty-nine, my father’s message was simple. ‘Don’t do anything illegal, don’t do anything immoral, don’t bring your family into disrepute, respect people and property, don’t borrow money from friends and above all have the courage to say, no.’ Like most I slipped up from time to time but with a measure of maturity I pretty much stuck to those principles because those principles were stuck in my head, even though he told me just once.

There are many examples of rites of passage in different cultures, and the Maasai is a typical example. They go through a long process of proving themselves before their peers and their elders, following rituals similar to what their ancestors did (no longer lion killing but), and once through the ceremony they are proud of what they are and become respected members of the tribe.

Young people will always want to test themselves, take risks, be cool and sometimes they will fail. Sooner or later there comes a time when they think they know better than people with more years than them and won’t take advice well. The trick parents and mentors have to learn is to give advice without the young people realising it is advice. Basically kids will grow up to have similar attitudes as their parents. Parents usually know their children better than anyone else, so the influence has to come from them and because we have to generalise here, dog tucker parents produce dog tucker offspring! For the others, there will always be a measure of disappointment but encouraging kids to choose goals and to inspire them so that they aspire to be socially conscious might just afford them a more valuable rite of passage.


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