In the last 80 years, wars have cost us billions of dollars in destruction, and millions of precious lives. More recently, hatred and brutality devastated much of Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa. Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Zaire are glaring examples.

The 1994 Report from the UN Development Programme, reveals that the richest 20% of the world feast on 85% of the earth's total output. In Asia alone, 700 millions live in poverty, with little ability to read or write. Soldiers outnumber doctors 20 to 1 in developing countries, yet a fighter jet could pay for the primary education of a million children!

In developed nations, we have strayed in other directions. Crime in America for example, costs US $425 billion and many lives a year. The latest news is that the U.S. prison population have soared to 1 million; one in 260 citizens! In modern communities, where alarming percentages of marriages end in divorces, and part-time and solo parents are increasing, a 3-year wedlock seems eternity.

We spend a whopping US $800 billion a year on weapons instead of welfare, yet an estimated US $34 billion is sufficient to put the world's children on good footings. More conflicts are now within national borders, where tragically, 90% of the dead are civilians. The last 10 years saw more children killed in wars than soldiers, they fell like lambs to the slaughter, with 2 million dead, 5 million disabled and 12 million homeless!

What kind of adults will these millions of kids grow up to be, shaken and deranged bysuch mass violence and deprived of home, family, love, normal bodies and souls? Will they emerge to create or face greater problems and catastrophes in future? The global scene is a web of illiteracy, injustice, crime, diseases, famines and bloodshed.

One cannot help sinking into serious soul-searching, and ponder over the reasons and solutions for all these cruelties and miseries. Soon, an answer invariably dawns. It lies now in our offsprings, the heirs to the world. They are our hope and future. A flurry of old phrases and new words comes to mind. A tree grows the way it is bent, nipping problems in the bud, love, guidance, conditioning, mental-seeding.

These words also trigger our recall of 2 bizarre incidents reported in recent times, which can chill our spines and touch our hearts about parents' sway on future generations. One involved an infant kept with the dogs, who later barked like a puppy; elsewhere, another child had been brought up by chimpanzees, and showed behaviour approaching that of the apes.

Parental care, religion, moral guidance and good education are the foundation for knowledge, skills, altruism, virtues and even justice. Parents tend to leave things to the schools, but being most influential, and answer-able for their own flesh and blood, they should assume 90% of these duties. Beyond the family, and given the interwoven nature of society and the economic multiplier, if we would only put other people's welfare closer to our self-interests, our blessings would return tenfold!

Childhood and youth are a treasure, the most precious period of life. It is a time of great expectation, discovery, emotion, learning, formation of personality and character, and consolidation of personal substance. The new generation can in time be the powerful pillars of society, and possibly the salvation of humanity.

If all of them could release their vast potential, harness all available resources, and make combined efforts to improve and beautify the world, they could bring miracles. Meanwhile, not enough is being done to help the young. It is high time we realise that to create a Utopia, young people need a creed to believe in, a moral code, strong values, a noble purpose, causes to champion, knowledge, health, wisdom, and profound innate strength.

All our youngsters must now advance resolutely towards a happy, meaningful and rewarding life; the rest of the world and their destiny depend on them. Governments, leaders and parents, on the other hand, have a grave moral duty, to provide the all-important education, nutrition, love, and a promising future. Despite current shortcomings, it is still a wonderful world, a fascinating universe. Let us strive to find and develop beauty and goodness everywhere. Let us crown our lives with a majestic purpose.

The Author