Fully conscious and responsible…

It is a myth of popular psychology that our actions are initiated by ourselves, that we are fully conscious of and responsible for all that we do and intend. The truth of the matter is that most of our behaviour is going on from moment to moment in response to stimuli of which we are but dimly aware. …Most behaviour is under what psychologists call stimulus control; that is, because of past experience, the appearance, whether conscious of not, of a signal of some sort, whether external or internal to ourselves, brings about a more or less automatic response.

We ought then to attend very closely to the signals that instigate violence. We can never eliminate them entirely, but we should set about limiting, or detoxifying, the sea of stimuli in which we swim. This is an enormous task because, without realising it, we have allowed our social environment to become heavily contaminated with the triggers of violence.” (p.105)

The authors continue: “…guns really are – instruments with no other purpose than to kill, injure, or intimidate. The marketing of war toys, both those of devastating realism and those that go well beyond into the realms of fantasy, enormously extends the gun as a symbol of violent potential.” (p.107)

“War, and the glory of war, played a greater and more jingoistic role in the founding of Australian identity than might seem the case in New Zealand. But the effect here was just as significant, indeed profund. We found ourselves at war; we ‘came of age’ through war. Nothing speaks so strongly of the ideology of violence in our culture than this fact.

New Zealand does not actually have a glorious tradition of military victory and conquest whatever the popular mythology may say. When it comes to warfare we are not actually very good. The early wars against the Maori produced neither victories nor heroes. On the part of the colonial troops there was an appalling display of disorder, indiscipline, defeat or near defeat, and inability to adapt to a new environment, a new adversary, and a new style of warfare. It was not the performance of the colonial troops that came to be studied at Sandhurst; it was the strategies of the Waikato warriors in the Waikato campaign and of Titokowaru in Taranaki.” (p.109)

The Ritchies continue: “After that we joined in other people’s wars as extra troops for causes that were as remote as the battlefields. Nevertheless, jingoism whipped up a sense of patriotic pride strong enough to bring young [-p.110] men to the point where they were prepared to kill, to be killed or to be maimed. The military cult ensured that the horrors of war were more than balanced by the glories of war.” (pp.109-110)

“The relative infrequency of public disorder is not evidence of lack of inclination but the ubiquity and strength of the controls that ordinarily apply. We are not a pacifist people. We are controlled, and we admire the controller. The strong-minded, strong-armed politician in New Zealand will always climb high in the polls, the more so if he comes across in Parliament like a pugnacious street-fighter or a stern father figure.” (p.110) [I thought this an interesting statement – especially in light of the number of political biographies that seem to have been published recently… how have these figures been repackaged and sold to us???]

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

Note also: http://www.crime.co.nz/c-files.aspx?ID=123

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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!
This entry was posted in Literate Contexts, Metaphors and Narratives around children and learners, social and political contexts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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