11 April 2008

Invasion of the Smurfs

Being somewhat a creature of habit, I usually do my weekend grocery shopping Thursday evening or Friday afternoon. But today, due to other commitments in the afternoon and evening, I had to go shopping earlier.

When I entered my local supermarket at about 12.30, I was quite surprised to see it overrun by a large number of smallish people, all wearing light blue outfits. There were at least 200 of them, and they were everywhere: down various aisles, forming a large queue at the deli counter, and smaller queues at the check-outs. What was going on? For some reasons the Smurfs had invaded Ireland, and of all the possible places to gather they chose a normally quiet medium-size supermarket in Waterford City...

I was really puzzled, and it took me a while to realise that those light blue people were 1) all female, 2) did not wear white classic Phrygian caps but mostly unattractive hairstyles, and 3) had not light blue bodies, but all wore jumpers of that colour. They were in fact pupils of a nearby girls' secondary school, wearing their school uniforms. But what on Earth were they all doing in the supermarket? Was there any special promotion on I had not heard of?

One of the shop assistants opened my eyes completely. There was nothing special about the girls and their time of appearance, I was told. This happens every weekday - Monday to Friday - at the same time, when the girls have their lunch break. I thanked the assistant, whom I know for many years, for enlightening me, but I was still bewildered. Why do they not have lunch in their school? Are there no longer dining facilities and meals served every day? In my school days that was normal, and no one needed to go out to a supermarket for lunch.

And if there is no longer a working kitchen in the school, why don't the parents give their girls a decent lunch packet? Are the mothers of our time not even able to make sandwiches anymore?
It is none of my business what other people eat and how they behave, and I am not sitting here in judgment over anyone. But I could not help noticing that not one of the girls was buying any healthy food. All they bought was fast food, fizzy drinks, crisps, chocolates and sweets. Not one bought fruit, not one anything else that would have given them a nutritious meal. This shocked me somehow.

I wonder how many of the girls' parents are aware of their unhealthy eating habits, and if they do, how many really care. Many parents these days seem to believe that all they need to do is to give a teenager enough money and then let the teenager do what she or he wants. This is neither education, nor proper upbringing. It borders in fact on child abuse and certainly is a form of bad child neglect.

After what I saw today, I am no longer surprised that a large proportion of Irish teenagers are overweight or even obese, have serious medical problems and are less physically fit than previous generations. I am also not surprised that ever more young mothers give birth to children with birth defects. We are what we eat, and if we systematically destroy our bodies - or allow our children to do it - we will have to live with the serious consequences, even though we might not live very long and happy. One also wonders why the school is no longer providing meals for their pupils.

If we continue to run this country on the largest possible amount of ignorance and the smallest possible amount of common sense, we could as well all turn into little blue people and live in a world of fiction. It would not be much different from the world in which those schools girls I saw today live already. These are supposed to be the mothers of tomorrow... But how will they ever be able to fulfill this role if no one even bothers to educate them now as responsible young adults? It is sad, but not really that surprising if one thinks how silly and irresponsible most people have been living their lives for the past fifty years or so...

The Emerald Islander

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