It is not easy to say exactly what teenagers in different countries do in their leisure time. I think that, in the main our interests and tastes do not differ very much. They are engaged in sports activities. They listen to their favourite music bands or take part in different concerts. Teenagers discover the world and themselves. In the main, all young people are individualists. Youth is the time when young people work out their outlook. At the same time they need collective experience to share their dreams and interests. Teenagers unite in specific organisations.
The first organisation that brought together thousands of teenagers in different countries was that of the Scouts. The aim of this association was originally to train boys in various different skills such as lighting a fire and to develop their character. Now the Scouts are active all around the world. The motto of the Scouts is "Be Prepared." After the October Revolution a similar Pioneer organisation was created in Russia. The Pioneers were supported and sponsored by the government. Now the Pioneers do not exist in our country.
The Scouts and Pioneers were the first, but not the only organisations of the young people. For example today the volunteer movement is extremely popular among the teenagers. It dates back to the year 1921, when a French soldier decided to restore a German house after World War I free of charge. The movement flourished only in the late 1990s when young people of Europe and the United States went to different parts of the world helping local communities to solve their problems. Today volunteerism is very popular in American community and political life. Volunteerism implies assisting people through privately initiated agencies. Volunteers do not receive any salary for what they are doing, but at the same time their work is highly motivated. They react very quickly, immediately coming to help to whoever may need it. There are several types of volunteer work: workcamps, mid-term and long-term volunteering projects. Any young man from any continent can come to workcamps. These camps attain certain objectives in social, ecological, archaeological fields. Usually all works are done under the supervision of professionals. The mid-and long-term projects usually concern the social sphere. They include assistance to children, old people, crippled or immigrants. Volunteer fund-raising groups unite to help the needy in all spheres. They can do almost any work that is necessary. Volunteers can be found in any part of the globe. In the United States six out of ten pupils are members of some volunteer organisations.
All three organisations that were mentioned above are more or less formal. At the same time there are many informal associations of teenagers. Very often they are not even registered, and if they are, no one cares about what they are doing. No records are kept of their activities. They emerge, evolve and disintegrate without leaving trace in history. Nevertheless such organisations are extremely important for their participants. They serve as a means for teenagers to express themselves, meet new friends that have common interests, discuss problems that are really important to them. Quite often a famous book, a movie or a musical band can serve as an impulse for creating such organisations. Fan clubs of different rock and pop groups are numerous. Fan clubs usually consist of teenagers. Members of such clubs listen collectively to their favourite songs, attend concerts, write letters to their idols.
The most spectacular example of unofficial organisation is presented by the Tolkienist movement. J.R.R. Tolkien, the famous British writer created a magic world of elves, dwarves, and hob-bits. Any person who likes Tolkien's novels can become a Tolkienist. This community is open to everyone; young people come and go, they choose a race, becoming, for example, an elf or a goblin. Their imagination will carry them as far as they want. In Russia Tolkien is extremely popular now. In Moscow there are several places where his fans assemble to share their views and ideas.
Other teenagers go much further. They are not satisfied with the world they are living in, and the worlds created by others do not attract them either. They create their own worlds and universes. In this context Role-Playing Games (also called RPG) should be mentioned. The first RPG was Dungeons and Dragons (D'n'D), a Dungeon Muster (DM) is responsible for outlining the rules of the newly created world, while other players act as the inhabitants of this world, Participating in such activity can be really thrilling, but the danger of quitting the real world for an imaginary one is always present. Such groups and organisations are escapists in their essence. Unlike volunteers they are not aimed at making our world better.
- Why do the young organise their clubs?
- The young do not want to accept the world of the adults with their organisations for the teenagers. They rebel against it in different ways, sometimes in the form of creating their unofficial organisations and clubs. They organise according to their interests into different sub-cultural groups.
- Do you belong to any group or organisation?
- No, I do not. My elder brother used to be a Pioneer, but now such official or semi-official organisations do not attract me. For a couple of years I attended the meetings of the Tolkienists, acting as a little dwarf. Although I am still a great fan of Tolkien's books, I do not think any longer that I should waste my time living an imaginary life in the imaginary world. The world we all are living in is full of wonders. There is always somebody who needs our help. A lot of my friends are supporters of Greenpeace, and I will soon join their actions. Greenpeace is doing a very important job of rescuing the nature. People of different ages help Greenpeace, and I believe that young people should participate in the activities of this organisation more actively.
- What do your friends do in their leisure time?
- As I have already said, some of my friends help Greenpeace. I still have many friends among the Tolkienists. Some of my friends are fond of RPGs. They meet every Saturday in groups of 5 or 6, They draw a map and for hours discuss the fates of their heroes. One game can last several months or sometimes a year. Although my best friend who is a Dungeon Master often invites me to join his RPG, I am sure that the real life is much more interesting than any imaginary adventures.