Editorial: Dealing with cowards

02:06, Apr 18 2012

America is the place where, if you see a fight, you walk on. Right?

All those guns. And knives. And ... well ... hassle.

Good thing it would never happen in New Zealand. Let alone Timaru. We look out for each other here.

But not so, if an incident in Timaru on Sunday is anything to go by.

Late afternoon, a pack of teenage males assault a single male from a group of four. A former police officer stops, intervenes. Other adults, despite pleas for help, drive off.

Which would you be? Really? Fifteen of them, punches flying, no idea if knives or worse are hidden away?


Or would you be the witness the police advise you should be? "We are probably better having a reliable witness than another victim," says Sergeant Geoff McCrostie. Once upon a time that wouldn't even have been a question worth asking.

Should such an event have happened ... unlikely in the first place ... all adults to hand would have got involved. Why have one victim would be the prevailing thought.

What's changed? How have we become, somehow, like big-city America?

Where to start? Video footage of public disorder making it more normal; cowardly perpetrators who have had a lifetime of not taking responsibility for their actions; cowardly parents of cowardly perpetrators who have abdicated their responsibility and left it to a justice system that knows not what to do with kids so young; video footage of adults intervening and becoming court defendants in an overt PC world; and stories of good citizens who become victims themselves as the cowardly pack turns on them.

Did I mention the perpetrators are cowards? Hope so.

But back to the rest of us, those who are "normal" and reflect the norms we want in our community?

Benefit of the doubt then, and let's say one of the adults who drove off was headed for the police station. Another, perhaps, genuinely feared for her own safety. Or was running to get a cellphone.

Please, no, that they simply drove off, knowing what was happening. Not in our Timaru.

And thank heavens we have people like Paul Davis, whose first reaction was to become involved. And wrong, wrong, wrong that he has to be worried that video footage of his actions could land him in trouble.

Not all of us have to become involved as he did. We may not be physically able. But we should all do something ... even if it is just bearing witness .. and then standing up when called.

We get the community we deserve, and we don't deserve one like this.

Did I mention that the perpetrators are not cool. That they are cowards. Hope so.

The Timaru Herald