Monday, April 30, 2007

Lindsay Mitchell: It's excess that hurts

30 April 07

"According to today's NZ Herald;

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the arrival of Christianity in New Zealand and colonisation introduced the concept of smacking children to Maori.

"Our people did not hit their tamariki. That only came about through colonisation and through Christianity actually," she said on Marae on Saturday.

There is evidence this is right. It may (or may not) be that some school records have been taken as an indication that this was the case throughout the country.

But like the other 'new' behaviours colonists brought, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco (not associated with Christianity) and trading, Maori caught on fast and often went to excess, particularly in the Far North and on the East Coast. Violent by necessity, the alcohol abuse exacerbated that tendency and probably widened the scope of potential victims.

As I've said before I can't argue smacking is a good thing but neither has it been proven to cause lasting damaging. But excessive smacking, which evolves into hitting, punching, using implements, burning etc is bad.

Some Maori have a particular problem with child abuse but it is usually linked to other behaviours which are already out of control, often despite being illegal. Banning smacking is a little like banning tobacco, another Maori Party policy with no merit. It simply won't work.

Some Maori need to grow up. It's no good saying they are perennial children who cannot control themselves so must be banned from every activity that is potentially damaging with excess.

Whatever the race, focus on the minority who have addiction and mental health problems. Focus on the perpetrators of real violence instead of casting the net so wide those in real need get lost."

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