Greg the builder wasn’t particularly good at his job. He didn’t have a van, nor the right tools and he didn’t pay much attention to detail. But what made me hire him was the thickest Jamaican accent I’d ever heard. I used to strike up conversation with him just to revel in it and it made up for the mediocre work he produced.
What I will never forget is the utter blankness of my father’s expression when conversing with Greg. It reminds me of the expression I probably display when conversing with a lot of the younger generations. The intergenerational gap seems to grow remarkably quickly when we hit our mid-twenties. Most of us haven’t a clue about what makes them tick and while we may exchange superficial niceties, meaningful conversation is rare.
There is a lot going in terms of engaging the Iraqi youth. The legendary Iraqi Welfare Association camping trips are still running, the latest Mamdani brainchild, Ansar Youth Project is going strong and the Friday Night Project is a new and successful venture. The slightly older generation has Noor Youth, IUS, Bonat-Al-Mustaqbal and IMM on offer. I am sure there are others but forgive my ignorance.
What is of concern though is the cohort of youngsters that don’t seem to fit into the traditional mould. We seem unwilling or uncertain about how to establish an environment where meaningful interaction can take place. I recall the difficulties Haraka Haideriyah came across in holding their weekly gatherings and Cricklewood Youth Club seem to occupy their own world in reality and online.
I could well be wrong about the marginalisation of a whole set of Iraqi youth but it underlines the fact that many of us don’t have a clue as to what is going on in our community, or even what our younger brothers and sisters get up to in their spare time. We may feign shock at the odd youth-gone-bad story but do little to understand the underlying reasons let alone try to help tackle them.