If the Straitjacket Fits ...

  • Russell Brown,

    The push to (re)raise the drinking age, restrict party pills, ban fireworks and otherwise legislate safety into our lives raises the question: are we becoming too safe for our own good?

    Are we trading our innovative edge - that spirit of risk and adventure that sends us on our OE's and brought us bungy jumping, that dared suggest we could make inappropriately good vodka or climb a remarkably big mountain somewhere in Aisa - for a culture of over-protective nannying?

    NB: This was originally posted by Hamish in 'Monitor', which we actually intend to be a TV discussion slot, but it's an excellent topic, so I'm kicking it off here, verbatim.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

105 Responses

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  • Hamish,

    Strike one for not reading the invite properly. Cheers Russel!

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report Reply

  • kmont,

    I have to say that your previous comments about live music were bang on. It would be very sad to block young people from those venues that play live music due to changes in the liquor laws. I am living in Japan so the whole safety obsession thing is taken to new heights. I will be interested to see if New Zealand is how I remember it when I get home.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Strike one for not reading the invite properly. Cheers Russel!

    De nada. Saved me thinking up a topic ...

    When we have the other glitches ironed out I'll get the guys to create a "suggest a topic" button.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Anne M,

    The 'Nanny State' or 'over-protection' measures are aimed primarily at protecting (and protecting the rest of us from) 14-18 year olds, who seem to have, in a number of cases, absolutely no 'this is not a good idea' filters on their brains.

    The bungee jumping, vodka producing, tractor-driving-to-the-South-Pole people are older, wiser, and not affected by these laws. Or are smart enough to bend them to their own ends.

    Since Nov 2006 • 104 posts Report Reply

  • Gary Rawnsley,

    Yeah, interesting set of issues. And it's all Labourites pushing them: Hobbs, Gallagher, Anderton (a Labour MP in all but name).

    Is there some method to this? There does seem to be an effort by Labour to balance its second-term social liberalism (civil unions, prostitution) with some good old-fashioned conservatism, so as to appeal for the types of people who'd usually vote UF, NZF and National but might give Labour a second look were it not so damn liberal. It's re-capturing some of this vote that Labour needs if it's to build a stronger Parliamentary mandate in '08 than it currently has...

    And if it loses some adventure-seeking hedonistic liberals in the process, at least they'll probably only jump to the Greens who - whatever its leaders say - will only ever support a Labour-led Government.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I'm happy to see the end to indiscriminate fireworks sales.

    Partly it's because some people seem a lot less responsible than we were (and we were pretty irresponsible - so that may be just my perception) and the fireworks seem to be crap compared to what they were (might also be my perception).

    Although, it occurred to me we should ditch November 5 as our fireworks night & have it in Winter, out of daylight saving - two reasons, 1. it's less of a fire risk, and 2. kids don't have to stay up so late till it gets dark enough for the show.

    As for kids & live venues, our 14 year old attended an Odessa gig the other night at the San Francisco Bath House (once we'd persuaded the Mrs that it was no longer a massage parlour), but they had 2 shows - one earlier on for the youngsters, with no alcohol, and a later one where presumably, the older fans imbibed.

    I thought that was pretty great. But probably a bit naff for an 18 year old.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Partly it's because some people seem a lot less responsible than we were (and we were pretty irresponsible - so that may be just my perception) and the fireworks seem to be crap compared to what they were (might also be my perception).

    I fear your memory might be faulty on both counts. When I were a lad, we spent the two-week sale period hurling serious bangers at each other and doing various other very dangerous things (we made a gun that fired batteries nearly 300m). You can't get the bangers any more, but I think the display fireworks are a lot better then they used to be. I recall crappy little things called 'Mt Vesuvius' and 'Mt Egmont' whose flames barely rose a foot ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish,

    ...the fireworks seem to be crap compared to what they were

    Probably because we already banned all the good stuff years ago (under a National government, if I'm not mistaken).

    There are a couple of kids next door that hang around in the street playing games after school. I catch myself thinking that those kids must be causing trouble because they're out being noisy - instead of staying inside watching TV. Now that's depressing.

    The bungee jumping, vodka producing, tractor-driving-to-the-South-Pole people are older, wiser, and not affected by these laws...

    Not anymore they're not. But you can bet that they were the biggest pyros in their neighbourhoods back in the day.

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    "I recall crappy little things called 'Mt Vesuvius' and 'Mt Egmont' whose flames barely rose a foot ..."

    They still barely rise a foot.

    And yeah, I can remember taping loads of thunderbangers together, twisting the wicks together & we'd play handgrenades at each other...

    and the skyrocket battles with the flats across the other side of Nairn Street... so it probably is my memory.

    But, the closest I ever came to igniting myself was when I bought two of these weird birdcage things - bear with me - you hung them from someplace, lit the wick & retired, and it did this clever, yet unspectacular chinese lantern thing & unfurled in coloured embers to become a birdcage complete with a little plastic bird on a swing.

    At least the first one did. The second one fizzed & then went idle. After leaving it a while, I inspected a little closer. WHen my face was about a foot away it exploded with an almighty bang so that I landed on my arse in fright, looked up to see just a piece of string hanging from the roof.

    Some months later, I came across a charred plastic canary about 30 metres away in the empty section next door.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    As for kids & live venues, our 14 year old attended an Odessa gig the other night at the San Francisco Bath House (once we'd persuaded the Mrs that it was no longer a massage parlour),

    Even when it was a massage parlour it was a cool place to go as a teenager. No, not that. It was just around the corner from our flat in Boulcott St. As well as the 'rooms' it had sauna, plunge pool and a bitchin' pool table. You could while away the hours and then go next door for a steak and a stack of buttered white bread at the Casablanca. We lived like princes.

    We also did whatever we felt like doing, whether the law said it was permitted or not. Kids always will.

    We never really bothered with the fireworks, though. There was usually more fun to be found indoors.

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    andrew.... sweet jesus that made me laugh...

    we used pvc pipes as rocket launchers and had neighbourhood wars. when he got cars they automatically became 'tanks'. scaring the piss out of the elderly by yelling 'nazis!' and firing at them was the order of the day.

    and, if you've noticed an emphasis on 'safety', it might be the current emphasis on injury prevention and public safety. apparently someone put a price on how much injury costs 'the nation', and now there's a number of schemes to cut down the amount of darwinism.

    i'm happy to forward information, in my boring capacity as a public servant, that is.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Call me a pedant, but I cannot see any necessary connexion between fireworks and entrepreneurial flair. I think our chances of producing a new generation of business leaders will be enhanced if more teenagers get to become adults, with the added bonus of a full set of fingers.

    Mind you, that kid who decided to have a smoke while he was sniffing kerosene was probably unlikely to be one of the future movers and shakers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish,

    Call me a pedant, but I cannot see any necessary connexion between fireworks and entrepreneurial flair.

    No, but I consider it a symptom of the changing mindset around here.

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report Reply

  • Conor Roberts,

    If they ban fireworks, will there be cool stores that sell them out the back, like that Simpson episode where Homer buys fireworks amongst pornography and moonshine. Classic.

    There is a Simpsons episode for every social commentary.

    Is there anywhere in NZ that sells bangers? I will pay good money.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 57 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Graham,

    Surely there's a middle road - sell fireworks but only allow them to be let off on the one night. Or let organised local community groups apply to have local fireworks sessions. Anything to keep them out of the hands of bloody louts who made last weekend like a holiday in Beirut and will continue to do so for the next three months until they finally run out...and then find another bloody box of the cursed things in time for New Year's Eve.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Kearney,

    Banning. Hhmmm.

    Has banning Murder stopped murders?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 73 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin Moar,

    Ignore the Flynn effect - people get stupider every year. They need government in their life.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Mind you, that kid who decided to have a smoke while he was sniffing kerosene was probably unlikely to be one of the future movers and shakers.

    Are you referring to the 5 teenagers in Blenheim, one of whom died, who were inhaling from a BBQ LPG cylinder in the back of a car when one of them decided he needed a smoke?

    Anyway... we were woken up at 2am this morning, by drunken youths shouting & screaming, throwing crackers (yes, where DO they get them from?) and setting fire to letterboxes.

    How do I know they were drunk? Because on my way to work not so long ago, I had to pick my way carefully through the broken bottles, fireworks carcasses & chunder at the cable car look out, where not coincindentally I suspect, someone had ripped all of the park benches out of their brick foundations & arranged them in a semi circle to look out over the harbour.

    Really, I wouldn't mind if they went somewhere & shot skyrockets at each other instead.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Dying for a cigarette... heh.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Piping up to agree with Anne M, whose sensible comment got rather swamped by all you firecracker-happy bad boys, chucking double-happies under flowerpots with snails to see what would happen...

    I think Anne's right, especially since the Latest Scientific Research (TM) tends to suggest that the teenage brain is still radically underdeveloped in crucial areas, like empathy, and keeping a curb on addictive tendencies, and thinking ahead. See also smoking, suicide rates, gaming marathons, dropping concrete blocks off motorway bridges, youth group cultism, etc.

    Which is not to diss the teenage brain in wholesale fashion. I happen to think that the megalomania, passion, and global all-or-nothing thinking common to that age can be the heart of a truly powerful activism. Or at least the beginnings of some powerful, lifelong fandom. (Do we need a thread on "gigs and protests that changed my life", or would that brand the whole site with a scarlet F for fogey?).

    For my part, I'd advocate a Euro aproach to introducing kids to the pleasures of alcohol -- drink the good stuff, at home, around the dinner table or in ritual contexts, so you have a sense of epicurean ease about the whole thing, rather than it being a forbidden excess. But that relies on the parents having a similar approach to the stuff, and if they grew up with yard-glasses and crates and casks, then good luck.

    BTW, couldn't agree more about fireworks and wintertime. We've just gone back to standard time here, and I would have loved to crack some fireworks off for Halloween, when it got dark at 5pm. Alas, they are only sold around 4th of July, which is, duh, the middle of summer.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    BTW - long before that Westie movie whose name I can't recall, a bunch of us on a tramp someplace I also can't remember, experimented with primus cans on an open fire.

    I'm not suggestig anyone try this at home, but holy fuck, it's impressive.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish,

    I spent my last few years of high school in Germany and completely agree with you about the drinking thing - Germany has a very low drinking age and yet the kids are very sensible about it. But then, you need get a license to go windsurfing on the Rhine and the national past-time seems to be walking in the country side.

    That's really what I'm getting at - of course there are down sides to being liberal with what you let your citizens get up to. The consequences are obvious, measureable and popular to grumble about - but there is a cost in surrounding everything in bubble wrap as well. Personally, I think the long term cost to our spirit is too high (yeesh, now that's a bit fluffy, innit).

    And about the emerging research about the teenage brain - as true as it may be, it seems to be carted out to justify all sorts of shady causes. 'Underdeveloped', or just wired in a way to keep the rest of us on our toes?

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    There seems to be a sort of hideous political consensus in this country around banning things "for the sake of the children"/"for the sake of public health"/"for the sake of good order."

    City and district councils of every stripe lined up to ban alcohol consumption in public spaces (especially the fun ones like downtown areas and beaches), and now prostitution in their target.

    Shipley never found a ban she didn't like ("marijuana paraphernalia" is a particularly vivid one), and now the social conservatives from left and right are lining up to prohibit alcohol sales to some adults. A certain self-styled Drugs Tsar from Sydnenham springs to mind.

    "Old enough to vote, old enough to drink" should be enough to disarm the prohibitionists, but alas it doesn't work. Their minds recoil in horror at the prospect of others having uncontrolled fun, which might even lead to an injury or two along the way.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Read Ulrich Beck, the German green philosopher. It's all
    about what he calls 'risk society.' It goes something like
    this- it is one of the weak points of the neoliberal right that
    in deregulating and privatising like there was no tomorrow,
    they contributed to increased privatised risk. Therefore, the
    centre-left reinvented itself to provide effective centralised
    risk management through stronger emphasis on smart regulation
    and public safety.

    Therefore, fireworks are a risk to public health, as is smoking and
    the use of some recreational drugs but not others. It's a matter
    of nuance and evidence-based proof to substantiate degrees of plausible or possible risk. Sex work carried risks to sex workers if criminal penalties were maintained.

    And hey, the right does it too. Check out their repetitious Muslim bashing and Judith Collins call for a jihad against solo mums on the basis of deviant family structures and youth criminality...risk.

    Craig Young
    Wellington

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    "are we becoming too safe for our own good?"

    I'm pretty sure this is a big part of Wayne Mapp's anti-political correctness campaign - over-regulation of our lives - children getting hurt in lolly scrambles - unaccompanied minors not to sit near men on aeroplanes - not keeping score during sports for fear of promoting competitive behaviour etc.

    An obsession with "safety" - perhaps by banning the sale of fireworks, or raising the alcohol purchasing age - that is out of all proportion with the dangers?

    (I note Dr Mapp is proposing a split age for alcohol purcase 18-on-license/20-off-licence)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

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