ZB

John MacDonald: Violence is at a crisis point in NZ

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jun 2022, 12:30pm
Footage of a brutal attack at Otago Boys' High School has spread rapidly around Dunedin. Photo / ODT
Footage of a brutal attack at Otago Boys' High School has spread rapidly around Dunedin. Photo / ODT

John MacDonald: Violence is at a crisis point in NZ

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jun 2022, 12:30pm

There’s a video doing the rounds on social media at the moment of two students at Otago Boys’ High School in Dunedin giving another student what could only be described as a “hiding”.

It seems it’s mostly kids in Dunedin who have been sharing the video but these things can end up anywhere, can’t they?

It lasts just over a minute, but the description of it and the impact it’s had on some people who have seen it has made me question whether we here in New Zealand are being honest with ourselves in terms of just how violent a country we have become.

Politicians, for example, seem to be quick to call everything a crisis these days, but I’ve never heard one of them say that we have a violence crisis across all sectors of society in New Zealand.

They talk about gang violence. They talk about criminal violence. They talk about domestic violence. But I’ve never heard a politician stand up and say ‘we’re a violent bunch us kiwis, and we should be ashamed that we haven’t faced up to it and done something about it’.

And when I say violent, I’m talking physical violence, verbal violence, racial violence. The whole lot.

But let’s start with physical violence and this video of what happened at Otago Boys’ High School a week ago today.

It starts with two students cornering the victim in the toilets. One of them turns to the camera and smiles when the victim asks “why are you doing this?”.

Straight after that, there’s a punch to the chin. After a second punch, the kid being attacked pulls out his wallet - which may have been some sort of attempt to offer money to try and stop what was going on.

“I don’t wanna fight,” he says, appearing to lose balance after another hit. But he’s punched two more times, knocking his head against the wall.

He tries to walk away, using the wall to keep his balance. But he’s kicked in the leg and gets punched two more times - his head slamming against the wall again.

And what do these awful awful kids doing this, say to him before he staggers off?

"You won’t snitch, aye? You won’t snitch?"

Now it’s not just kids who have seen this video. Some parents have too. And one of them is saying today that he hasn’t been able to sleep after seeing it.

Which I can understand, because the description of what happened is bad enough. Let alone actually seeing what happened.

And let’s not pretend that this is an isolated incident. This stuff happens everywhere. There may even be some poor kid at a school who will have something like this dished out to them today. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

Just like there’ll probably be at least someone who’ll be attacked at home by their partner. Or yelled at by another motorist, or yelled at by their neighbour. We can’t deny it. We are an incredibly violent society.

The question is: are we more violent now than we used to be?

On the face of it, it could appear that we are. But that might just be because we hear about stuff more and see stuff more - like this terrible video doing the rounds on social media of the attack at Otago Boys’ High School last week.

I grew up in Dunedin and went to a high school there that was terribly violent. It wasn’t Otago Boys’ but it was a violent outfit. And it was one of the reasons I dropped out of school for a while after the fifth form.

It’s no longer around. It was called St Paul’s High School, but it’s since been merged with another school and it’s called Kavanagh College these days.

Although, that name is changing because the Bishop it’s named after is now considered not to have done enough about teachers sexually abusing students.

But St Paul's was an awful place for violence. And I remember the teachers and the principal seeming to be more than happy to turn a blind eye. In fact, after being away from school for a while, I went to another high school in Dunedin and I couldn’t believe how non-violent it was there.

So, from my perspective, violence has always been a thing here in New Zealand. But is it worse now?

I think it is. And there is no doubt in my mind that we are at a crisis point.