Low intelligence and alcohol a bad mix

By James Penn


What a shame it is that what could be such a uniting and enjoyable holiday season, with some of the best weather seen (on Christmas day at least) for years, has been soured by a handful of thugs who have somehow construed this period as an opportunity to attack some of New Zealand's bravest and most devoted public servants.

An attack by a mob of cowardly youths on two police officers on Christmas day marked the fifth such attack on police officers in four days. To compound such a repulsive attack, one woman proceeded to attack the two with a brick, knocking one unconscious.

Christmas celebrations often and inevitably involve a touch of alcohol here and there, a social lubricant if you like.

The benefits of such alcohol at social gatherings are not to be ignored. But it is troubling for our nation when such habits exist in the extreme and are mixed with individuals who frankly have little or no intelligence and nothing resembling any form of moral guidance.

There is certainly a culture among youth of one-upmanship, attempting to prove who is more of a man, who can prove their ability to consume alcohol the most and gain the respect of their peers. But, in reality, all these events prove is who in our society are the least respectable or mature individuals - the cowards, not the men.

Let's be sensible: in almost all cases, even the most drunk of our generation don't turn to violence against our police officers in the way we have seen of late. This does not mean such acts are acceptable, if anything it proves how ethically defunct those who do turn to such actions really are.

They are those who have such little moral guidance that nothing can cut through the cloud of inebriation that exists in these instances to tell them that an act as heinous as outnumbering and beating a police officer is downright wrong.

In my mind, that indicates that there are problems with the way these individuals are raised or educated, not problems with the level of protection afforded to the police force. As such, calls for greater arming of police officers are misguided and don't represent a solution to the real cause of alcohol-fuelled violence.

Instead, greater arming of police officers with firearms would provide the catalyst for conflict on a more lethal scale. The woman who attacked two police officers with a brick also attempted to seize control of their Taser and use it against them. As Inspector Tracy Phillips has stated though, this could have been a far more fatal attack had she been seizing control of a firearm rather than a Taser.

Just as claims by conservatives in America that increasing gun possession is the correct response to the shootings like that seen in Newtown recently is absurd and dangerous, so too are calls for ramping up the level of gun use in New Zealand law enforcement. They will only make perpetrators of violence more extreme as they defend against fear of the guns with more dangerous weapons themselves.

It is claimed that the Christmas day attack was motivated by vengeance for a child caught in the crossfire of the police's pepper spray. If police were to be permanently armed with guns, the incorrect perception of them as oppressive and tyrannical agents of the state held by some would only be fuelled further.

It's important to be realistic: a whole lot of people my age are going to get very drunk over the New Year period. Whether or not you think that is sensible, it will happen and most will likely enjoy themselves in good spirits.

The danger lies in the minority and some sort of change must be made to identify these people before the point of no return is crossed and further attacks on police officers occur.

James Penn was deputy head boy at Wanganui High School in 2012 and captain of the New Zealand secondary schools debating team.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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