Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: People at fault soon blame anyone but themselves

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In the past decade 89 preschoolers have drowned as a result of adult complacency. Photo / Getty Images
In the past decade 89 preschoolers have drowned as a result of adult complacency. Photo / Getty Images

The outraged opposition to my column last week - in which I expressed disgust at two Otago academics who concluded that obese people have lost the willpower to stop overeating and that it's the fault of government, food industry, advertisers and the market - proved my point.

I'm not supposed to offend the "differently sized". But when it comes to the rest of us who drain the public health bill (oldies, drug addicts, boozers or crooks) commentators such as I are allowed to cast judgment. Somehow they're fair game.

At least smokers and boozers, through considerable sin taxes, contribute to the health budget. How do we solve the looming problem with obesity-related illnesses when there are so many who continue to feel it's their right to be fat, blame everyone else and, unless they have private insurance, expect them to pay?

Tax sweet and fatty foods when grocery bills are already high? Load every cafe, cake stall, sausage sizzle, corner dairy or restaurant that serves pomme frites with more levies because the food police want a tax on burgers, fries and coke?

Yes, there are many complicated reasons why people pig out, but reasons are different from excuses, and blaming the food industry won't solve anything.

But we love to blame someone else for everything. Despite the road toll coming down we're still among the worst drivers in the world and, unsurprisingly, the age group that refuses to improve is the 40 to 59 year bracket.

But it's never the driver's fault. Media reports said a car crossed the centre line near Wairoa killing four people in late January. Really? The car must have read Stephen King's novel Christine.

And in Paraparaumu late last year critics blamed the Transport Agency for a man and woman's death in a fatal accident because a planned median barrier had been delayed. But police said their car veered across the centre line. Inattentive driving caused their death, not the state of the highway.

Now we're blaming the loss of school swimming pools for the rapid rise in drownings. But isn't it our own stupidity and carelessness?

Talk to the lifeguards and they'll tell you that idiots are swimming drunk, perhaps with all their clothes on, outside the flags. Or fishing off rocks but not wearing lifejackets.

People go fishing in overloaded tin cans, in ominous weather, with no lifejackets - or stow them under the hatch.

Parents once ignored everything else when bathing babies, or watching kids swimming in pools or at the beach, but these days it seems that phone calls, text messages or chatting with friends are more important. "I was only distracted for a minute" is enough for a little one to drown. In the past decade 89 preschoolers have drowned as a result of adult complacency.

Often these adults blame anyone but themselves. Yes, it's tragic - dreadful - to lose a child, but if two toddlers wander off near the Gisborne river and their mothers don't notice for 15 minutes it's hardly the fault of the Gisborne District Council (as the family claimed) when 2-year-old Sukhraj Singh is drowned and his cousin is barely alive. Toddlers must be kept within grabbing distance.

So on one side we have the mollycoddling parents, this week taking time off work to camp outside school so nervous was one mother about her 5-year-old starting school.

I remember the type - they made the child's vegetable animal and sand posy - perfect creations beating my kids' haphazard messes for prizes.

Then we have those who don't deserve to be called mummy. On Monday police charged Matthew Ellery with the murder of Ngaruawahia baby Serenity Jay Scott-Dinnington, found last April with appalling injuries. Ellery was Serenity's mother's boyfriend.

Why do these women let these mongrels into their lives? If these mothers were animals they'd fight to protect their babies from these predators.

In Once Were Warriors Jake the Muss was this country's hero, when it should have been Beth, with her line: "You'll never hurt my babies again, Jake."

- Herald on Sunday

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