Clip round the ear

In Newsletter Editorial5 MinutesBy Gavin MyersJune 17, 2022

There’s a school of thought that posits every generation needs something to fight for. Looking back over the past century, there was always something to really get the blood flowing and people mobilised. The first that comes to mind, naturally, are the two world wars and the many, many conflicts that preceded, interlinked and succeeded them. Such was the impact of these conflicts that their ramifications undoubtedly shaped the world in which we live today.

Of course, war is a horrendous, disgusting thing. Humans are as humans do and some form of conflict has followed our species since the earliest of days – but if we never see another world war again it’ll be too soon. However, war is not the only example here.

The fight for civil rights, counterculture and others flowed through the 20th century. They all had a global impact, while at a local level many countries dealt with their own strife. Whether to conquer, defend, demand or uplift, people have always had, needed, something to fight for. Something for the betterment of the next generation. Something to instil appreciation, respect, humility and perhaps dignity in them.

I think it’s fair to say since the turn of the millennium humanity – first-world countries, at least – has mostly lived a carefree life. Rising consumerism, digitalisation, the internet – all are among the advances that have made life easier and more convenient; people have never had to do so little to get so much so quickly. And lots of good has come from it; there’s probably never been a better time to be alive when you really think about it. But what are we fighting for?

These thoughts ran through my head as I read with dismay a story on Stuff during my daily morning news check today. 17 ignition barrels, 10 cars and four dairy robberies: A 13-year-old’s trail of crime was the heading. It’s just the latest in what seems to be a continual flow of youth-crime news items at the moment.

Sure, youth crime, gangsterism, peer pressure (or influence of social media in the modern context) and lack of consequence aren’t new or unique to New Zealand. And happily, we’re told, in New Zealand youth crime is falling. So why the increased instance and regularity of these news stories, then?

Car theft and ram raids seem to be the two most common crimes but regardless of that, common themes seem to come up. First, the influence, information dissemination and inherent instant gratification of social media seems to be a driving force. Second, the perps are aware that for all the thousands of dollars of damage, pain, misery and inconvenience they cause, they’ll get a slap on the wrist at most – if caught.

One line in the article on the 13-year-old is telling: “Some parents find it ‘really difficult’ to try to stop their children”. For my feelings on that, refer to the headline of this piece. Of course, society’s perception of ‘discipline’ and ‘abuse’ have long been both conflated and confused – so excuse my lack of political correctness. Nonetheless, if it’s gotten to the point of needing to stop your children, you’re failing as a parent. Kids have been and always will be kids – and learning the difference between right and wrong has always started at home. Failing that, the judicial system needs to step in hard.

For at least two generations across much of the globe, there’s been very little to fight for on the home front. Here’s something we should add to the agenda.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers