Editorial: Why do we permit mayhem?

By Craig Cooper


PERHAPS it's the end-of-year "bah humbug" in me but would someone remind me why we tolerate the public sale of fireworks?

Gathering together to watch a fireworks spectacle, I don't mind.

The more "wow" moments a community can share together, the better, in my mind. It's not just the creationists among us that like a big bang, accompanied by an explosion of light. Those situations, though, are supervised. A fireworks expert at a public display is unlikely to have ever considered strapping several sets of fireworks together "to see what happens".

Or pointed a powerful sky rocket at a streetlamp and watched the unguided missile snake its way toward the light, miss, and carry on to who knows where across the street. The origins of Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes are probably not known by the average Joe Bogan who decides to have a party, light a fire and blow some stuff up'cos it's Guy Fawkes. Fawkes was caught guarding a stash of explosives destined to be used in an assassination attempt on King James I. Bonfires were lit to celebrate the king's survival - not Fawkes' part in an assassination attempt.

Nowadays, the commercialisation of Guy Fawkes sees a large volume of fireworks sold in a restricted time period to 18-year-olds and over. There's a lot of money to be made in a short space of time. And then the consumer heads off and explodes the product. And has to return for more.

It's one of the more successful retail cycles, if you're a manufacturer or retailer. In Auckland, a petition seeking a ban on public sales gained 9000 signatures in quick time. Firefighters, animal lovers - it's not just the fun police who want them banned.

I suspect, though, that we will only see fireworks banned from public sale when something terrible occurs. A death, a maiming, a torture of some form, so despicable that the public appetite for purchasing explosives to celebrate a long forgotten reason will wane. Until then, the fireworks issue remains a lit fuse, waiting to explode.

- Northern Advocate

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