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IT WASN’T ME WOT DONE IT – IT WAS THEM BAD PEOPLE

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  • IT WASN’T ME WOT DONE IT – IT WAS THEM BAD PEOPLE



    E
    veryone is shocked by the treatment of incarcerated indigenous youth in the Northern Territory. There are calls to get the perpetrators and punish them. How dare they treat children that way? Unfortunately, their baying for blood is the same side of the coin. When will we learn that more of the same, doesn’t solve the problem? And it’s not just in the Territory. How we treat our less fortunate fellow humans is pervasive.


    I listened to a woman raving on today about the injustice of it all. “How could such an atrocity happen? - and one of the boys had written such a nice letter to the papers – his situation was so sad.” She continued on about how hard his childhood had been. Perhaps for the first time, she saw a young offender as a human being. And it seemed like for the last time, as she quickly reverted to her usual stance. She now had to find someone to blame for his ‘sad’ childhood. She was sure his mother hadn’t loved him. Then came the king hit.

    “That lot down here in Victoria, breaking into people’s houses. They’re just thugs. They should be made to watch that report. Then they would see what would happen to them. That would make them stop.”
    Hello. One short breath later, and she is justifying the use of such treatment as a deterrent to other young offenders.

    My inner delinquent was rising. For a minute – or two - I wanted to find a head to smash in, and the one in front of me was looking especially appealing. If I can respond that way, how much harder must it be for a young person who has had hope stripped away before even reaching adulthood? The paths to a fulfilling life blocked in a number of directions.

    Then I listened to people advocating removal of the dole from young people after six months. That will make them get a job. Then I see the real youth unemployment levels. Believe me, they are not around 6%. You have to do some serious statistical manipulation to come up with that figure. Actually, it requires an advanced course in old-fashioned lying. It’s even higher if you’re an indigenous kid or from another ethnic minority.

    Interestingly, I read an article where a well-known woman is interviewed. She shares a simple meal with the journalist - one course and a bottle of something – maybe throw in a coffee. The bill came to $240. That’s about the same as a dole payment for the week. That is, before we decide young people don’t need money at all. They can live on fresh air.

    Then I listened to some more reactions. After a burst of anger at the treatment of the young people concerned, responses quickly shift to calling for punitive measures against the perpetrators, who surprisingly, are responding to our own behaviours. How many people have I heard complaining that ‘they’ should bring in mandatory sentencing, ‘they’ are not hard enough on young offenders.’ Punish! Punish! Punish! Never realising that those very responses add to the problem. Social media, which is designed for quick, and often hateful, responses, is part of the problem.

    Yes we are entering challenging times, where the world as we know it is changing. As technological revolution engulfs us, the less advantaged are the first to go to the wall. People are frightened, which makes them angry and looking for someone to blame.

    This isn’t the first revolution humans have lived through. Some more successfully than others.

    The Neolithic revolution, with the domestication of plants, led to hunters and gatherers moving into settlements. Property ownership evolved, leading to a hierarchical society with centralised administration and political structures. An elite social class developed.

    Then the Agricultural revolution came in. Wealthy landlords bought up public fields and pushed out small scale farmers. There was a migration of workers to the cities, looking for work. Most of them residing in areas where there were scant facilities.

    Along came the Industrial revolution. People started making things instead of just growing them. The working class made up 80% of the population at this stage. They were employed in the factories and mines. But it was not all joy. 50% of them were only employed ½ time. There was no sick leave or Occ. Health and safety rules. They lived in slums where cholera, typhus, and tuberculosis were rife, and work accidents a common event. If they got sick or injured, they lost their jobs.

    It was illegal to unionise, so they were powerless. There were workhouses to provide for the poor and starving, but conditions were harsh, to discourage people from using them. Can we see a pattern here?

    But eventually, we are all affected. When we exclude a large group of people from meaningful participation in society, we also pay the price. We know that something has gone wrong, but we don’t know what, or how we will survive whatever it is. We are frightened of the unknown and need someone to blame. If we can only get those ‘bad’ people, our world will be fixed. The ‘bad’ people are of course a different religion, race, class, etc. to ourselves.

    The Donald Trumps of the world thrive on people’s fear. They deliberately make it worse. Shock jocks also buy into this action. They actively encourage our worst behaviours. They dehumanise the poor, the ethnically different, the various religions, and redefine groups as the ‘other.’ Note how we changed the name of refugees to illegals. This allows us to abuse them. Take a stroll through social media. All varieties of people are falling into the hate trap.

    I think we should be really cruel. No, I’m not suggesting beating up shock jocks, media trolls and random members of the Senate. Let’s be really cruel. Ignore them. Turn them off radios and televisions, don’t respond to them, or elect them (Sorry, too late for that) That’s what they thrive on.

    And while they’re more dangerous than any amount of thugs on our street, as they cause more problems than they cure, we are just as dangerous when we buy into their game. Underpinning racism, sexism, and gender bashing, etc. is a subtle, or maybe not so subtle, support of abuse. Joining a mob condemning such abuse, is no answer if we then think we have done our bit and can carry on with our own version of hate and discrimination.

    But it’s not easy, trying to respond humanely to fellow humans. Every time I hear someone complaining that it’s the fault of all those bad people who have different coloured skin, eat different foods, don’t have jobs, or differ in any number of ways from our perceived norm, my inner delinquent wants to physically lash out at the complainant. I know that won’t solve the problems we are facing as the technical revolution develops. Action, however, is a natural human response when nothing else is available.
    I don’t know which advice to follow:

    “Keep on a-dancing, Maria,” courtesy of an older sister,

    Or I could re-read ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling.

    If you can keep your head when all about you.
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…
    Then you will be a man my son. (or a woman)
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