Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When did we go bad?

Jordan and were driving along and saw something that stood out as not being the norm.  It was a beautiful sight to 
My moko, Taylor, enjoying the outdoors.
behold, flowers, long grass, sunny day and a group of six young children, BY THEMSELVES, walking through the grass having conversations and enjoying their time together.

When I saw them my first reaction was what a beautiful picture this made.  But why did it stand out in my mind?  Jordan also commented that it was unusual to see children out experiencing the freedom to explore and engage with their environment, not his direct words but this is what he meant. 

Jordan then said that he remembered hearing about children in America and children in Africa and how the children in Africa made up their own play but the children in America didn't have time to do this.  He said that he thought the children in Africa were happier.   I was surprised at this comment as this was his abridged version of the movie "The Babies"  which I watched several years ago and had probably shared my thoughts on it with him.  This is an amazing movie if you have not watched it you can get the DVD from the video stores.  I reminisced about the movies and the wonderful way in which the African child had freedom of movement and the joy of being cared for by everyone.  He also added to this and said, "Yes, the African child could make their own things to play with and move around, imagine if we could live like that here in NZ."  

Then Jordan asked me, “When did New Zealand go bad?” Jordan is 13.  I asked for some clarification of this comment and he said, “Well, when did we get gangs. And years ago when there were murders people would have talked about it for weeks because it wasn’t normal and now it is just another murder and we are not as shocked. Back when you were a kid there wouldn’t even have been gangs.”

I said that I am not too sure that much has changed - there were gangs, there were murders and there probably were people who abducted children.  I think the thing that changed is that we started listening to America through the media.  The media brought instant news from every part of the world and suddenly we became aware of dangers.  

Years ago I read a book, which I have passed on now and cannot remember the title, but in the book the author talked about the 70’s when children could freely play in the neighbourhood maybe up to as far as 2km away and over the years the boundaries had moved in.  Children a few years ago may have been able to play on the street outside the house and now possibly the norm would be within the front yard and where you are visible to an adult.  In this book, which I must find the name of, the author wrote about living dangerously and the biggest danger at the end of his study was driving or being driven in a car.  He went through all the possible dangers for children and then put them into context - things such as stranger danger - often it is the people that know children who are the most likely to harm them.  The reports we get from overseas about children being abducted generally are people known to the children, possible in marital disputes and mostly the children are returned.  He suggested we have listened too much to the media and not really filtered out the sensationalism and put it into reality context for New Zealand. 

Back in the day there were groups of children freely playing within the neighbourhood. They would arrive back home when they were hungry, be uncontactable by cellphone for hours and hours, have bikes to go great distances, climb high trees and have the ability to explore and imagine for a whole day.  They would return home exhausted, hungry, healthy and happy having had the time to play outside.

I would like to ask these questions, “When did New Zealand go bad?”  “Are we any different today than yesteryears?” 

How sad it is when a beautiful picture of children outside, unsupervised by adults, having fun together evoked the response of "This is something we do not see anymore".  It stood out as being something different, not the norm.  Have we really moved so far away from being a safe country?

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