Adopting the voice of a misunderstood youth, Mashael Khaled, a student at Zayed University, began an opinion piece for The National last year: "They don't understand me. They don't trust me. They don't believe in me." As Ms Khaled pointed out, 50 per cent of the UAE's population is younger than 20 years old. Their voices can't be ignored. The nation has developed more rapidly than nearly any other in human history but, as it has grown, so has the distance between generations. Describing one source of the generation gap between parents and their children, Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid, the Ruler of Ajman, said yesterday that some lessons about morality and tradition are lost on the nation's youth. This is not entirely their fault, he explained, since parents were no longer consistently teaching them. "Implanting ethics of truth, morality and love of work in the current generation is our work," Sheikh Humaid said.
There are many more resources available to families today than there were when the UAE was born, but this can be as disorienting for children as it is liberating for their parents. At the nearest mall, one will likely share the car park with teenagers driving their own cars to the movie theatre. At the restaurants inside, nannies share the burden of supervising and caring for children. Parents should not be criticised for wanting the best for their children, or for receiving additional help in tending to a young child's constant need for supervision. But there are certain lessons that are best taught to children by parents or by their extended families and communities - the lessons enumerated by Sheikh Humaid among them. Sheikh Humaid, a member of the UAE Supreme Council, stressed that teaching morality should be one of the top priorities for the Ministry of Education. While he is correct, morality and good behaviour should be taught, they are best emulated. This is part of the "work" that Sheikh Humaid mentioned. A society is energised by the dialogue - and at times, tension - between generations. As Ms Khaled wrote: "While we take pride in and honour our traditions and culture, culture moves on; it's not static. Perhaps some of today's trends will become tomorrow's traditions." She is right. But a healthy respect for tradition must also be timeless.