Beautiful babies, neglected elders

This is a short extract from the book The Whole Story by Ffyona Campbell, who walked across Australia and the USA, up the length of Africa and twice trekked the length of Britain. She witnessed this scene in America and these are her thoughts on it, which I thought were worth sharing.

“These small towns were so quiet. I couldn’t hear the sounds of children unless I went into a supermarket. There I heard the screams! The demanding squeals and ear-piercing screams of children denied their sweeties. Is this quality of life?....

In the parking lot I noticed a couple of old men, sitting on a wall. They were watching a crowd of women, young and middle-aged. I left Boy [her dog] for a minute and went to see what these women were all huddled around looking at. It was a newborn baby.

It seems there is a reversal here, of the worth of life; an African baby has less worth than a one-year-old because it may die. A one-year-old has less worth than a five-year-old and so on, till the one who has the most worth is the elder, who has great knowledge and who has lived through so much because of his own strength and his wisdom.

But here in the West, it seems the babies are more important and command more attention than the old. Imagine that! There was no circle of respect around the two old men; the baby drew the attention. Did this give the children an inflated sense of their own importance? Could this have anything to do with why they screamed and demanded?

As I hadn’t seen any children playing, I asked a woman about where her children played. She looked at me... and hesitated. It told me everything: the children play out of sight because they can be preyed on by perverts.”

I thought that this was a remarkable and acute observation; nor is it confined to America. The equivalent may be seen just as easily in the UK. Her book was published in 1996.
After publishing her books she subsequently admitted to cheating by taking lifts part-way across America due to pregnancy induced fatigue. She had an abortion then continued the walk.
No, she actually writes about that in the book. Her second walk across the US was to make amends.
I thought she came across as someone who, after an almost impossible childhood, some flirtation with drugs at one point and with more hang-ups than most of us ever have to cope with, had come to terms with herself at last. Even early on, she was remarkably observant and perceptive. I thought the book was very honest and it cannot have been easy to write.