Every time a child, usually Maori, is killed by a family member, there are calls by children's advocates for Maori to "own the problem".
There's so much about that I don't understand. "Children's advocate", for instance. That sounds about as meaningful as "peaceworker" or "man about town". Is it a profession? Are there people who are against children?
As to Maori "owning the problem", I'm even more confused. Does it mean every Maori should do something about it? Does it mean only Maori need to do something about it?
The figure for violent child deaths is shocking, but it's not an epidemic. And it's not Maori who have the problem. It's a few sick, pathetic thugs.
Telling Maori to own the problem is a tidy means of shifting attention from the ways in which our social and economic system provides the opportunities for these deaths to happen.
And you can stop rolling your eyes. I am not talking about welfare dependency, colonial legacies or any of the other factors which rednecks dismiss as excuses. I am talking about an interdependent network of reasons. To choose just one example, most of these deaths occur in families which have a long list of obvious risk factors. Most are known to local community workers. Many of the children could be removed from dangerous situations in good time if that were easier than it is.
That there is even a possibility of the late J.J. Lawrence's little brother or sister - due shortly - remaining with that family is shameful.
CYF is on to it with characteristic efficacy. It bends over backwards to keep endangered children at risk by insisting that every effort be made to keep them with family members. But it has said it will act in the Lawrence case if the child is in danger.
"Dear CYF, my big brother died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen. I am wondering if, perhaps, I might be in danger?"
We hear a lot about the cycle of abuse. The CYF policy maintains that. Instead of shaking our heads and sighing about this cycle, here's another cycle to think about. You already feel pretty bad about yourself because you're constantly told your race is top of the list for crime, poverty, health problems and preferential treatment. But you struggle along doing your best to hold your head up and telling yourself you can beat the statistics.
Then one of your race kills a child and you're told it's your race's problem. You know that the non-Maori walking past you in the street the next day as you wheel your baby in its pushchair are thinking: "I wonder if that baby will be statistic."
It's not easy to hold on to your self-esteem when that's happening. In fact, you're starting to wonder why you bother. So the cycle of low self-esteem and low achievement continues.
As for Maori needing to own the problem, I'm sure the child tumbling around in a clothes dryer won't much care whether the hand that opens the door to get it out is brown or white.
Today we awake to an election result which, whether it thrills you with the hope of a bright new dawn or casts you into a grey swamp of I-give-up-on-this-country-I-really-do, tells us exactly who we are.
The beauty of any election result in a proportional system is that it reflects what everyone wants. It is the ultimate piece of market research because it encapsulates the national mood. If we are anxious and fearful about the world and our place in it, we return a conservative parliament comprising known quantities. If we feel threatened, we look to more extreme solutions. If we are optimistic and confident, we look for moderate change.
Whatever the final make-up of our government for the next three years, we have got what we wanted. We can sit back and enjoy watching our servants do our bidding, or we can work to chip away and change things again in three years.
CRUELTY TO MICHAEL LAWS
A couple of hundred years ago, the fashionable set visited asylums for their entertainment. They promenaded past the lunatics in their cages, making witty observations as the mentally ill drooled and screamed. We know better now. We know it was cruel of people to use those unfortunates to amuse themselves.
By the same token, for all the entertainment I have had from Michael Laws over the years, it is cruel of us to use him in this way. It would be a kindness to remove him from the airwaves to live out his days in peaceful anonymity.