Posted on Apr 02, 2012
As a sequel to last month's tale of an experience attending family group conferences of young offenders, during the month I received several envelopes full of paper from CYFS.
In private enterprise we are always searching for better, faster , and more efficient ways to do things. Perhaps in part that is because often it is so hard to generate a profit, that better, faster, and more efficient normally also equates to cheaper. Obviously that is a mindset which has yet to reach CYFS, as they still insist on supporting New Zealand Post and various stationery vendors, rather than using the much more efficient (and cheaper for the taxpayer) email. Not to mention the impact on forestry of all the trees necessary for the wads of paper I (and doubtless dozens of others) received.
The packages included "feedback forms". I duly wasted some time filling in these forms with my views on the way CYFS works. I say wasted because it is difficult to imagine CYFS changing course and getting into step with the people who pay the bills (taxpayers), rather than their constituency (ratbag offenders).
But what did catch my eye in the wads of paper (I went to three family group conferences, so there were three virtually identical packages. One offender had eighteen victims, so there would have been at least 18 packages go to the victims, plus family group members et al) was an apology written by one of the juveniles.
It was obviously his own work. I could tell from the grammar, the spelling, and the syntax. Or lack of it. But buried in the apology was this reference to the offending spree: "because I wasn't man enough to stop it then I'm going to have to man up now and take whatever punishment is given to me" (Spelling corrected by me so as to make sense!)
This statement resonated for two reasons. Firstly because it made me think that someone had actually connected with the boy, and that he was now seeing some sense.
But secondly the "man up" made me think. Before I thought too much I had to go in search of meaning, as the phrase never made it into my high school English curriculum. A little surprisingly, Bing was actually of more use than Google in this search. After some dead ends, it seemed that among the multitude of possible variations of meaning for "man up", most sense was made by :
I am picking ( or is it just hoping ?) that our young offender has the second meaning in mind as he contemplates punishment, and definitely hoping that in the future he will demonstrate the first meaning - and develop some backbone in resisting the criminal tendencies of his ratbag mates.
But the concept that he would "man up" set me thinking about the extent that we as a community are prepared to do the same.
Often , not a lot.
It seems that too often there is an excuse for the inexcusable. He beat his children because he was neglected as child. My brakes failed. I come from a deprived background. My baby was crying all night and I didn't get much sleep so I am not performing well today. My business isn't doing well because of the Global Financial Crisis. People aren't spending because of (insert here the excuse of the day ). The receptionist gave me the wrong key so I can't show you inside the building. The council allowed my leaky house to be built. The listing agent didn't fill in all the details.
Perhaps it is time that we encouraged more "man up" . Perhaps it is time we encouraged " I stuffed up, and I need to change my ideas". Perhaps we simply need to say that we really do have the ability to control our destiny, but we have to take charge and stop blaming other people. Perhaps we need to take a lead from a 16 year old offender and "man up" that it really is our responsibility, and that we, personally, really do need to take charge of our own destiny.
P.S. As an addendum to last month's story detailing the experience following on from the burglary of my beach house, this week my South Auckland house was burgled. No surprise, you might think - if I choose to live in South Auckland ! The crime was reported, and the interesting suggestion made that perhaps we should adopt Sharia Law. Not as a punishment of course. The "they come from a deprived background" league would say that punishment doesn't work. But cutting their hands off would make it a lot more difficult to nick stuff.