Monday, May 13, 2013

Loss of innocence

I found Eamonn Duff's story Age of innocence lost forever as trust clouded by paranoia dreadfully sad. As I have said before, it fits with my own experiences in bringing up girls in a primary child care role. I was yelled at only once, accused of being a paedophile -  it was a primary school break-up and all the kids wanted to be swung around. That was a nasty experience, but it reflected shifting attitudes, including sometimes subtle discrimination against men looking after children. 

I don't think that we can do anything about it. It just is, an example of the way that social pressures in combination with shifts in the law work in practice. Sometimes you have to accept that, accept the losses involved.

Has any of this made children safer? In some cases, maybe yes. As I write, the number of charges against Father F, someone I know, has been increased. Without commenting on his guilt or innocence, the type of systemic abuse revealed by some past cases is, I think, less likely to happen  or more likely to be found out. 

Do I think that my children would be any safer were they born today than in the second half of the eighties?  Do I think that those social attitudes portrayed in Eammon Duff's story, that the experiences of Leo and granddaughter Emma, of Newcastle dentist Andreas Schwander, of Uncle Lachlan in the Coffs Harbour supermarket, would make my children safer? 

Just the opposite, in fact. In a society marked by certain types of paranoia, children actually become less safe. They can be hurt by the very social attitudes and laws designed to protect them. In NSW, mandatory reporting of certain types of suspected offences against children brought the entire child welfare system to the point of collapse. Those who suffered were the kids, as well as the staff who had to try to operate the system.

As I said, I don't think that we can do anything about it. We can fight against certain restrictions, but others we have to accept. It would be a brave person, especially a man. who would argue for a wind-back in child protection legislation, a braver person who would challenge or fight back against the social moral mafia.  


Evan said...

I certainly wouldn't argue for a windback in the legislation.

I would argue for transparency and parallel structures.

Hierarchy where those above do the controlling of behaviour are prone to creating abuse. Instead we need other structures that those in the hierarchy are also members of and where they can speak honestly (also not a widely known characteristic of hierarchies).

Jim Belshaw said...

I don't know about that, Evan. In these areas Governments play to community opinion creating a feedback effect. In NSW, mandatory reporting came about in part because it played to perceived community attitudes. It was wound back because the consequent problems were just so great that was also having political affects.

Most of the examples cited were triggered by members of the community that then triggered official responses with adverse human results, so you had the two way effect. Now those adverse human results if they become serious enough may force change.

Anonymous said...

No excuses either for the scourge of paedophilia or for the ineptitude of busybodies. As a regular swimmer, I'm daily confronted with lots of bare kids in the change room and one needs to be pretty circumspect - especially when some fathers insist on bringing their toddler daughters into the men's change room. There are prominent warnings restricting the use of mobile phones (cameras)in change rooms but no one seems to take the slightest notice. Bureaucracy tripping over itself again.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, anon. The difficulty is that if are on your own and don't bring the toddlers in with you, you have another problem.

Anonymous said...


As I see it, these sorts of problems follow a fairly set path:

1) community outrage over some particular (usually small scale and isolated) problem.

2) 'the government' being urged to 'do something'

3) government legislation to address the outcry, not necessarily the cause.

4) public servants being lumbered with implementation of legislation

5) said public servants quite naturally concerned with the first rule: 'cover your a...'

6) inevitable (isolated, but dreadful) recurrences.

7) re-cycle to 1)

It is a very sad thing that parents and grandparents (and I am one) must now pay heed to this sort of incoherent, totally out of the park, response. And we, as a community, are now much the worse off, much less free, for all the shouting and gnashing of teeth.

I completely agree with your last para - with great sadness.


Anonymous said...

May as well mention your own mention of the buskers' $300 public liability insurance fee - coverage what? $10M?

And that Queensland council held liable for no signs on the sandhills - because some idiot injured himself. And wasn't there another one a few years ago on the northern Beaches where an idiot injured himself by diving from an unsafe rock ledge?

Grow up people. Government isn't a solution; it's just there to collect the garbage and provide clean water, and maybe the hospital you will find yourself in when you are stupid - because if you bleed out on the sidewalk, some other idiot will step in it.


Jim Belshaw said...

You capture the cycle, pretty well, kvd. And on your last comment, you can't legislate either risk or silliness away without creating another set of problems.

Anonymous said...

The $10m PL insurance is just a lawyers' picnic. The purpose of the insurance should be to protect the net assets of the busker - likely nowhere near $10m. The net result a vortex for litigation and the risk of massive moral hazard. This problem manifests itself all over the public sector space in Australia to-day.

Jim Belshaw said...

Anon, the moral hazard issue is a very real one - the vortex of litigation illustrates that.

Rummuser said...

Paranoia about children's safety. Society has gone bonkers everywhere Jim. I have young nieces and my daughter in law who are frequently seen with me and on more than one occasion I have been called a dirty old man! For exactly the reasons that the grand father could not understand, I have stopped making friends with young children in our local park as some parents think that all of the oldies there are perverts.

Jim Belshaw said...

That's interesting, Ramana. When did the process start happening in India and why? When did you become conscious of it to the point that it forced you to change your natural behaviour?

Anonymous said...

I would advise you all to be very careful. Merely the suggestion that society might have gone a little overboard is enough to make YOU the next target of the witch hunt. I have seen this happen many times.

Jim Belshaw said...

I hope not, anon, although I guess it's possible!