I’m not quite sure what to think about the story in this morning’s New Zealand Herald, about a neighbour calling in the cops because she heard a small child shrieking. On the one hand, at least she took some action, of the sort that we so desparately need if we are to reduce violence against children in GodZone. And the cops treated it as a priority call, coming to check straight away. Fantastic.
On the other hand, as the mother of the shrieker said in an opinion piece (she’s an NZ Herald journo), Titirangi is a nice neighbourhood. A neighbour who went next door to check on a shrieking toddler is unlikely to be greeted by violence themselves, either then or later. It might strain neighbourly relations for a while, but then again, it might not. A mother who is trying to cope with small children during the evening rush hour might just be grateful that one of her neighbours noticed that it can be difficult.
I think we have to get over the ‘I call in someone else to deal with the problem’ attitude. It’s not enough to stand silent in the streets for three minutes; we actually need to take action ourselves. And that might just mean getting to know our neighbours, and having the guts to walk up the path, and knock on the door ouselves. It’s the village approach, and perhaps we will all end up knowing a ittle more about our neighbours than we really want to, and our neighbours will know a bit more about us than we are quite comfortable with. Surely that is better than lamenting when yet another case of child abuse hits the headlines.
But, but, but…. do we want to be a nation of surveillants? Perhaps it is better to just call in the cops, and rely on their professional expertise. The police in this case seem to have performed superbly, checking the situation, assessing it, and moving right on when they realised that there wasn’t a problem at all. However I can’t help thinking that calling in the cops is an abrogation of your own responsibility to look after the children in the village.
There’s a tightrope to be walked here.