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Marc My Words - 25 August 2006

Marc My Words - 25 August 2006

Political comment By Marc Alexander

Sailing lessons from the captain of the Titanic

How things change! When I went to school I was strapped, canned, made to clean the school grounds and subject to a whole menu of interesting torments to correct my behaviour. I was at boarding school and whenever we got canned we used to make a dash for the showers to compare the bruising and grouping of the marksmanship of the housemaster. It was a momentary shot of pain that was subsequently translated into a rite of passage. On the flip-side I ended up being educated and reasonably well equipped for life. We listened to our educators and they, in turn, listened to us. We respected them.

Of course that was back when we were allowed to climb trees, ride on the back of a Ute, drink water from an artesian well or the end of a hose, and deliberately made our bicycles skid perilously without helmets. Even though we were not protected by the Ministries of Harm Minimisation nor the Bureau of Rights and Entitlements, we survived and thrived. There was an expectation from us to measure up in terms of basic educational skills and sense of civic responsibility. We were expected to grow up as social beings - as citizens. We did.

We had parents that parented, teachers who taught, and neighbours who were neighbourly. Government had not yet decided to emasculate its citizenry with a horde of legislative intrusions to make our lives safe (sic) and accident-proof. Ideological zealots had yet to inhabit the treasury benches trying desperately to reconfigure our national character to conform to their theories. By contrast we now have a battery of government departments who justify their own existence by regulating us to kingdom come. A Ministry of Woman's Affairs? A Families Commission? A Children's Commissioner?

If we really do need these bloated extravagances, (and I doubt it), then it can only be because successive governments have castrated our ability to be self-reliant and fully empowered individuals. We now have a government Minister telling poor people how to cook? How sad is that? Whatever happened to social justice as a consequence of personal responsibility? Do we really have to resort to looking to government for all the answers to the vicissitudes of life? Hell its government that creates most of the problems in the first place. I still remember when government was seen as employees of the people, now it seems the other way around.

Within a short period of time right and wrong have been replaced by what can be legally provable, while personal culpability has been relegated to the dustbin. We now have a government that is seriously entertaining the idea of passing a law that makes legal, retrospectively, what it knowingly did illegally (with regard to the election spend). Criminals up and down the country must be green with envy to have such power! Imagine being caught speeding and then simply raising the limit retrospectively to render your velocity beyond reproach. How about reclassifying other people's property so that embezzlement and burglary becomes legally defensible? Wait a second, isn't that already called Cullen's tax policy? - But I digress.

The end result is that we now treat success as an embarrassing reminder of the ineptitude of others, parents as a means to a government end, and criminals as victims. Compared to just a few short years ago its all back to front. The risk assessment strategy model so beloved by big-government devotees has denuded character from the people it's supposed to serve. We are starting to lose what it is to be human. More and more of our young are replacing the friends we kicked a ball with, with isolating pastimes like Play stations, iPods, and internet chat rooms. Parents who used to side with the law and made us own-up to our transgressions now wilt under the various agencies who speedily yell child abuse if they as much as look like disciplining us. We used to feel shame if we did something really bad. Now it’s a self-esteem issue requiring counselling.

The Greens Sue Bradford, not content to diminish parents' right to protect their children by wanting to do away with reasonable force, is demanding an investigation into the private Tyndale Park Christian School because parents are asked to work with, and consent, to teachers disciplining their children with the strap if necessary. Predictably Ms Bradford calls it assault. She says, “I believe this is a disgraceful policy, which will encourage abuse of children. I am appalled….”Yadda yadda yadda.

Ms B. needs to get a grip. Does she really imagine that our parents and grandparents were all brutalized and abused? A couple of decades without the strap certainly didn't save the Kahuia twins; or Lillybing; or any of the increasing number of child abuse victims. Don't get me wrong there were teachers and parents that went too far (and no abuse should ever be tolerated). But let's face it after banning the use of such disciplinary measures are we really better off? Child abuse has jumped (around 13,000 reported cases per year), truancy is up, youth crime dramatically on the rise, and children committing violent crimes are way up. We have more teen pregnancies (and abortions) than ever before. Ditto the various sexually transmitted diseases. Intolerance of un-acceptable behavior has been replaced by a fear of saying or doing anything in case we end up on the receiving end of an army of sanctimonious Ms Bradfords who seem unable to distinguish between consequence and genuine mistreatment.

Of course it's all relative. Back when I was a kid being bad didn't mean what we mean now. It meant naughty. Now we have fourteen and sixteen year old kids beating up bus drivers yelling "kill him". And no I'm not looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses. It wasn't all good. We have a much higher standard of material living today. Our houses are better, our cars made better (even if they are somewhat less interesting to look at), and medical advances (assuming you actually benefit from them and aren't culled) are light years ahead of what they were.

But amidst this explosion of wealth and material prosperity something has been lost. The soul of our nation has been left behind: absent and under-nourished. It's also worth remembering that the generation that helped build the wealth we now enjoy were also the last to grow up with a semblance of discipline.

The ones who managed to reach adulthood, who broke bones, went on camping trips, hitch-hiked, answered and were answerable to their parents, were the risk-takers and problem solvers who made it all happen. They didn't just build houses and subsist; they built homes, families and a life. We're losing that in a sea of mediocrity and falling expectations.

Our parents and forefathers accomplished much because they had the freedom to try, fail and succeed. They also had something we can no longer take for granted: freedom from government. Its time we reclaim our lost individuality and the spirit that forged our nation's character.


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