Can someone please tell me what on earth happened to good, old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness foot stomping and name calling?

It seems you can't pick up a newspaper at the moment without reading about some minor misdemeanour that ended in a major altercation with the latest weapon du jour - a knife.

Stabbing people seems to have become the archetypal response to rage and offence. This is disturbing enough, but even worse when it now appears to involve children as young as 11 and priests inside places of worship.

Are we becoming a more violent society? Or are we just less able to control our rage and deal with our interpersonal conflicts in a reasonable manner?


Sadly, it is probably both.

And although it is easy to point the sharp edge of blame at a small group of people whose actions create big headlines, this lack of self-control seems to exhibit itself even in the hum-drum, everyday lives of ordinary people.

You only need to go online and read some of the responses left anonymously at the bottom of news stories and even columns like mine to see a large swathe of society has lost the ability to tolerate difference and express themselves in a reasoned and respectable way.

Facebook and Twitter have become places where little people with keyboards and a lack of a broad world view can vent with a vehemence that is embarrassing to them and disappointing to us all as a community claiming to be part of the "developed world".

At some stage in the past decade, tolerance and the ability to manage our temper has evaporated, leaving some unlucky ones bleeding in the streets, and many others, including children, the target of online abuse that is unacceptable.

Once upon a time it was said that the pen was mightier than the sword. These days it would seem the reputation of both instruments has taken a tumble, and fallen into the hands of young people who can find no other way to resolve their conflicts and furies than to lash out in hurtful ways with either tool.

Of course when I say "pen" I mean keyboard, and perhaps this new way of communicating in real time without the moderation that comes from slowly writing something down and then sealing and sending it is partly to blame.

More likely, though, it is just that we have become a more angry and intolerant population.

For once I remain utterly without an opinion on why this has happened, although experts would point the finger at the rapid collapse of the family unit in the past two decades and the insidious creep of highly influential modern media and television content into the lives of easily influenced young people.

Few would argue about what is happening. The issue is how we deal with it. Although the simple answer might be to unplug the TV and internet, being forced to grow up in a vintage-coloured bubble is hardly the solution.

Perhaps the past does hold the key though - it could hardly be a bad thing to teach our young people the benefits of simple traditions such as "please", "thank you" and "I'm sorry".

For a (relatively) young person, I do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time harking back to the "good old days" but it has to be said - how many times a generation ago did we pick up the Tribune and read about anyone being stabbed, let alone young children and priests?