Putting violence in context

In 1993, Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie wrote a book on Violence in New Zealand:

Many now consider that violence is escalating, that society is breaking down, that the family is falling apart, that the young – especially the young – are subjected to new temptations and influences. People now lock their houses, install property protection devices; some even have firearms under their beds (or say they have). Are such views  and actions really justified, or are we fighting our own shadows?

Is there a greater threat to life? The number of murders has certainly risen in recent years but is still only a tenth of road fatalities that occur each and every year. Cigarettes kill far more people each week than are murdered in a year in New Zealand.

Violence is related to a whole range of phenomena: the age distribution of the population; the health of the economy; the social context of control around an individual; the availability of firearms; the development of anti-social groups; the nature of sex roles and gender relationships, our history and institutions.

At the widest level, there are cultural patterns that lie behind the way violence is expressed and against whom. So our task is not only to ask how much violence there is in New Zealand, but also why it takes the pattern and form that it does. Everyone says that they want less. Why has that not happened?

is there anything distinctive about the patterns of violence in New Zealand? There are historical factors which make New Zealand different from any other part of the world, and there are beliefs about ourselves of which we must take account. Perhaps we are not really as bland, as assured, and as peacable as we would like to think we are.” (p.5)

“Of one thing there is no doubt: the topic of violence provokes strong statements and powerful reactions, many of which are as irrational as violence itself. Violence as a concept is a trigger which releases culturally patterned explanations that are, in themselves, subtly linked with the origins of violence. …we use a variety of defences to protect ourselves, not so much from violence itself as from the necessity of making life-style changes so basic that they call, in the end, for changes in our national character.” (p.6)

Ref: Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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