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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 25-Apr-08


Friday 25-April-08

Planes, teens and matriarchal society

Coming back from a break in Italy recently, we had the misfortune of sharing the flight with the noisy company of about 50 boisterous Italian 15-year-old teenagers. It's an age when the hormones are kicking in, with much posturing and confusion, as the freedom of adulthood beckons yet the comforting irresponsibility of youth lingers. The result is what is generally described as bad behaviour as they do what they like without noticing or caring about the effect on others.

The children in the plane thus shouted, laughed, sang and pushed one another around. Whilst it was no doubt all good clean fun for them, it was a significant disturbance for the rest of the passengers. Their teachers seemed pretty useless as they chatted and generally ignored the noise. The cabin crew were no better and seemed at a loss what to do. Eventually, as I was wondering if I should intervene and whether this would help or make things worse, a British woman picked on the noisiest bunch and gave them what might be called 'a piece of her mind', asking them what their mothers would think of their behaviour and telling them they should be ashamed.

Perhaps surprisingly, this outburst had a very significant effect in quietening them all down. But why? They probably didn't understand much of what she said, but I'm sure they got the idea from her tone and demeanour. Apart from the surprise, an important factor may well be that Italian society has a significant matriarchal slant, where the 'mama' is a respected and often feared figure. And to be told off by your mother in public would be a shocking and humiliating embarrassment.

So the brave and angry lady had the ideal effect, quelling the troublesome teens. As we got off the plane a young Italian couple apologised to me. I smiled and felt sorry for them. It wasn't their fault but they felt a kind of collective Italian responsibility. I also felt more hope that the noisy children would grow up into civilised adults like these.

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