Saturday, 2 November 2013

Are Children Really Safe, Anywhere?

Are Children Really Safe, Anywhere?
            James WF Roberts
A couple of years ago I had this article published in the Bendigo Advertiser/Lead On Australia, Loop youth supplement. Just going through some old things on file and I thought I would post it here, the article is about bullying and a few other things, hope you  find it a good read.

Most Australians were  struck dumb with shock, over the stabbing death of school boy Elliot Fletcher, (February 15, 2010)at Peter’s Private Catholic School in Brisbane,  by a fellow student. The next day, in Sydney the police apprehended a  boy who was carrying a concealed knife, who they strongly believe was going to do the same thing…if that wasn’t sickening enough, the poor family of Elliot Fletcher, were not even able to start the grieving process in peace, within twenty-four hours of this terrible, unimaginable incident, a Facebook page, set up, as a tribute to poor young Elliot Fletcher, was vandalized and bombed with dozens of racist and obscene sexual messages and pictures.
But, this is not the first time this kind of thing has happened within the last month. In the United Kingdom, only a few weeks ago, there was the tragic story of the average man next door, a former police sergeant who killed his wife, and his two daughters, then turned the gun onto himself. Classmates and neighbours of one of the daughter’s set up a tribute page, with the best of intentions, only to have messages on the page, that were not only hurtful, but were completely obscene and disgusting, with things like, “she deserved it she was F#$#@$ $#&#$...etc. etc. And of course now we have this disturbing problem with the Eliot Fletcher Face book page.
Over 3000 people have joined the  "RIP Elliot Fletcher" group to leave their thoughts in the wake of Monday the 15th of February’s shocking incident, in which Elliot was stabbed in the chest on the grounds of St Patrick's College in northern Brisbane. Elliot died just minutes after arriving at hospital.  

"So young. So many opportunities you missed. But you're in a better place now. I'll see you up there mate," wrote Jacob Dare, one of hundreds of heartfelt messages from shocked friends.

But, unfortunately around midnight, of the next day, sick photos began appearing on the page, showing distressing scenes of murder, race-hate, bestiality and callous messages.  "Woot. I'm dead," read one message in mock spraypaint over a headshot of the 12-year-old.

Another picture showed an African-American child's head on a silver platter, while another was a tasteless ad for a woodchipper.  Police have removed the offensive material from the page and have said those responsible will be traced and punished.

Elliot's alleged killer was yesterday escorted by police from the school to Redcliffe Hospital for treatment on self-inflicted wounds which were described as "superficial". One student on the site said a number of Year 10 students pushed past him to get a closer look at Elliot after he had been stabbed.

"You obviously have no sense of right or wrong.  A boy's life was lost today and all you could do was make a joke of it," the student wrote.

Principal Dr Michael Carroll, who delivered the news of Elliot's death to the students, said it was a "tragic loss of a young life."

            How could any kid kill someone? How could people be so cold, so callous to such a tragic circumstance? There is no simple answer to any of this. As many Loop readers over the last few years would know, I have written many articles about internet bullying, the sexualisation of children and alike.

 There are several major issues running around this whole tragic event. Firstly, what would drive anyone, let alone a child to do such a thing, to another child. Obviously, there are question about the ‘attacker’s’ mental and emotional state—every child is bully at some point in their school life, just as everyone is at some point in their school life, also the victim of bullying. Many people see the internet as an anonymous tool for ranting and raving, for getting away with pretty much anything they want to, without any fear of getting caught.  Many people, under the age of twenty, don’t remember a time before email, the web, hotmail, IM and Google.
They have not grown up with it.  High school students and young people in general are often blame…however, as a university I wonder if my fellow university students from Australia could possibly be responsible for this type of outrageous public spectacle. Culture-jamming has been around for a very a longtime. And mostly it is used as a way of parodying—making fun of government or commercial slogan to make a rather serious political point. The T-shirts of the Sacred Heart Jesus Christ with the slogan “A Refugee” is a good example of this. However, in recent culture jamming has also been used to make fun, or to actively make light of social conformity, like we see with the Elliot Fletcher Facebook page. 

Everyone, naturally feels the need to respond publicly and emotional about some tragic event, therefore committing one of the most human of activities, conforming to a large out pouring of grief. Any act of social conforming to the Culture—Jammer is an act of barbarism against ‘the self’ and true individual identity. That is why they do the things they do—ever wonder why Kevin Rudd’s nephew dressed up as a member of the KKK on Australia day? It’s the same thing. It may seem I making light of a very serious issue, but questions always need to be asked—of all things. 

At the time of writing this, there have also been several other incidents at schools regarding knives and threats, many around Sydney, one even in Gisborne in Victoria, so one could easily ask the question is social-conformity also to blame for violence in schools and in the community at large?  Without sounding to glib, one kid sees the attention and the notoriety another one is getting for monstrously killing a class mate…and threatens to do the same thing—cause that will make him known—maybe even famous—everyone gets their fifteen minutes…so are Children really safe from the pressures of a society of instant gratification and not-being held to account for their actions.
                                    Sources: ABC. Courier-Mail.

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