Original article March 22, 1999.
Communities need order, order needs discipline, discipline needs self-restraint reinforced by punishment of failure, with those charged with punishing transgressors protected from retaliation by their victims.Understanding Order; Queues a simple example
A self-evident truth.
This simple example reveals the importance of order for everyone, and its necessary ingredients of self-restraint, demonstrated by respect for others, and a powerful authority. If any of these ingredients fail, then so does order, and inevitably the community.
General Lack Of Respect
Deep sleep was disturbed by rhythmic pounding. Loud music was pulsating from the flat below, a quick glance revealed it was three in the morning. My enraged wife leapt out of bed to hammer a complaint upon our floor, their ceiling. Immediately the volume increased. Incensed by such flagrant contempt, pausing only to grab a dressing-gown, the enraged matron stormed off to the offending neighbor. Above the music Margaret could be heard banging on the miscreants door, yelling threats and curses. Suddenly the disco ceased, lights were extinguished, silence reigned. Screamed challenges to face their victims were unanswered. The erring occupants played possum, too frightened to answer their door.
Attempt A Compromise
This was not the first time these horrors had blasted our peace, they had already made their presence known, inflicting a dreadful pulsating beat during daylight hours. The noise prevented normal life and forced me to quickly confront our tormentors. They pointed out that noise bans only came into force from midnight, and felt entitled to subject all within range to their dreadful din, however they did accept that making our flat uninhabitable was not completely fair, so after some discussion we reached an agreement; they would play their music on Saturday afternoon, a time we would vacate our home.
No Respect For Agreements
Such a compromise seemed an unjust restriction to be placed on our lives, but there appeared no option; there was just no authority that could be invoked that would halt this infernal attack upon our peace and quiet. The police rarely responded, never came quickly enough, and were not effective when they did arrive. Dealing directly with the problem by private treaty seemed to offer the best chance of success. So it was particularly enraging to be disturbed despite our sacrifice. Obviously it was a waste of time talking to these creatures, they clearly respected no-one, and their word meant nothing. Taking the law into our own hands was the only solution. Fortunately soon after my wife's attack these pests moved to other premises, without disturbing us again.
No Respect For Property
Living in our Manly, NSW, flat meant a constant battle with a never-ending stream of such people. One day the lift seemed to go mad, continuously moving from floor to floor, never stopping long enough for anyone to enter or leave. Our old lift was both noisy and fragile, this treatment not only disturbed the whole building but threatened to break the lift. Halting the runaway machine revealed a nine year old boy and his mother. Despite loud threats and appeals heard over the whine of the motor, the child had continued to play with the lift controls. The son was not large, and the parent was not small, just completely ineffectual, unwilling to take the small step of dragging her charge from the buttons. Both individuals warranted contempt, the boy was clearly a spoilt brat, and the female a useless parent.
No Respect For Rules
Battling to maintain our peace was not limited to the occupants of the block of flats. The swimming pool of an adjoining hotel acted like an echo chamber, so a large sign informed swimmers that the pool was closed after 7 PM A warning that did not stop some guests from taking midnight swims and wakening the neighbourhood. Splashes, screams and giggles make sleep difficult to maintain or achieve, so the night telephone number of the hotel was kept by our phone.
No Respect For Morality
Usually the clamour would be silenced within minutes of our telephone call, but one night this did not happen. The thoughtless bathers were with a loud party that had spilled out onto the veranda of their room, and were just part of the general midnight hubbub. No reaction was obtained by our complaints. After an hour and further futile calls, with the noise level increasing, and the water babies now publicly copulating, a complaint was made in person. Having the only quiet spot in the hotel made the night manager angry at being rudely aroused from sleep. My sympathy for his plight did not detract from my determination to get my share of repose, but even this failed to end the noise. Finally at 3 AM, when the party-goers behaviour indicated drugs were being taken, we told the mob that the police were being summoned. "The police..the police" , the phrase was hissed, and suddenly there was no noise, no lights and no people.
Constantly Disturbed Everywhere
These incidents were not rare occasions merely the more memorable of our efforts to maintain our tranquility. Being constantly disturbed was one of the reasons that drove us to move from Sydney to Townsville, though we soon discovered that while the problem was much improved, it still remained. There is invariably some household that feels free to inflict their music upon the surrounding homes, hour after hour; some lout who blasts the silence with their battery hi-fi at an otherwise idyllic picnic spot; some hoon with a car converted to a mobile sound blaster, inanely prowling around at all times of the day and night, making sure that everyone knows of their presence.
Disturbance A Deliberate Attack
People who inflict noise upon the neighborhood are demonstrating a contempt for their fellows. Continuous loud noise generated by electronic speakers does not occur by accident, it is a deliberate choice. To ignore the possibility that such a high level of sound must disturb others reveals a selfish or malicious character, which is captured by a car bumper sticker popular around 1995 - "If You Think The Music Is Too Loud, You Are Too Old". This makes discovering a remedy to their assault difficult. Unless they respond in a considerate way to a simple request, then either the din has to be suffered, or trouble must follow.
Private Peace Requires A Public Struggle
If you want quiet, you will have to discover a method that persuades selfish, disrespectful people to modify their behavior. This is a difficult and dangerous (see the murder of Gordon Mott) task as it amounts to a battle. Once when visiting an elderly relative in a Canberra, we were suddenly deafened by loud music from the flat below. Our lunchtime conversation could only be conducted by yelling, so an attempt was made to lower the level of interruption. Loud banging on the offender's door produced a surly thug who refused point-blank to turn down the volume, despite a threat to call the police. Retreating to give effect to my promise, the noise-maker was observed leaving his residence, with the music still blaring. So after telephoning the authorities, I revisited the offending flat and ended the din by turning off the electricity. My satisfaction at obtaining peace was spoilt by renewed anxiety at the immediate return of the thug and the arrival of the police, however it quickly became evident that the complaint about noise was just the excuse the law enforcers were seeking to confront our tormentor. Within an hour he was arrested and dragged away.
Private Peace Requires Breaking The Law
The peace is not just interrupted by loud music but just as often by alarms. Car and house alarms regularly (1998) disturb the residents of our suburb, with the latter being far the worst offender. At 2 AM one morning the siren of a house awoke everyone within half a kilometer and showed no sign of ever abating. After half an hour I dressed and visited the source of the noise, to discover that the house was empty but untouched, with the owners having departed for a holiday. Before leaving they had informed their neighbors of the combination needed to switch off the alarm, but failed to give them a key to achieve this aim. And the police, who finally arrived, were adamant that they could not do anything to restore peace without the direct permission of the owners. Fortunately after and hour and a half, the instigators of this breach of the peace were contacted and gave their permission for someone to force an entry so the surrounding area could get back to sleep. This was a clear example of both the impotence of the constabulary, and the reversal of the function of law. The people who needlessly disturbed the sleep of hundreds of citizens should have received a significant penalty, while the police should have immediately destroyed the noise maker - but the very opposite occurred. Those residents who wanted to regain the peace needed for sleep would have had to break the law. Either they had to force an entry to allow access to the informed neighbour, or commit criminal damage and wreck the infernal instrument that was harassing the entire neighbourhood.
No Respect From Children
Noise is not the only symptom of the death of order, in the end of 1995 a small child from next door decided to regularly visit my wife. She quickly revealed she had no respect for anyone, as she would walk into our home unannounced, interrupt conversations, ignore our requests and those yelled from our neighbor's house. This invasion was intolerable, but proved difficult to stop. As soon as the girl ignored my direction to leave, she was picked up and placed outside the house. Instantly there were tears and sobbing and a rapid flight home to tell how she had been assaulted. As it is now against the law to discipline children, any bruise, mark or cut would have been sufficient reason for a visit by the police. Indeed if the brat had said I had touched her private parts I could well have been placed in gaol. This meant that controlling this odious infant required a good deal of effort and placed me at some risk.
Emasculation Of Authority- no power as no immunity from victims.
Imposition Of Order Needs A Powerful Authority
The effective imposition of order requires an agency with two qualities, public respect for its office and power to exercise its authority without fear of retaliation - otherwise it fails. The soldier must obey their officers, the child must obey their parents, if this is challenged, or able to be challenged, then there is no authority, just an argument.
The problems we experienced were not just because technology has made it easy to make loud noise - musical instruments have been around for a long time - but because of the disappearance of respect for anything outside of self-interest and the growing impotence of authority. There is no agency that can be summoned to end the torment inflicted by anti-social individuals whether they are acting from contemptuous indifference or malice.
Newspaper stories of the time (1996) covered relatives who found themselves in court for inflicting punishment that could only have been described as thoroughly deserved. A fractious niece whose disruption of her uncle's squash court business was only ended by being dragged outside and soundly smacked, had her relative charged and sentenced. A teenager with a history of flagrant disobedience who was finally locked in her bedroom, had her gaoler scolded by a magistrate. Obviously no authority was respected by any of these children, wherever they went chaos followed and it was beyond the efforts of any-one to prevent it, unless they were prepared to risk judicial penalty.
Discipline Prevented By Bureaucracy
These cases are not exceptions, or rare extremes, but the tip of an iceberg. Children are now very aware of their rights - their ability to have their guardians arraigned and prosecuted, which makes controlling them arduous and hazardous. There is no-one in our community that can command instant obedience. Even if off-spring should accept parental authority, there is no guarantee that some outside agency will not interfere and disrupt the whole process. Social workers kidnapping children and accusing parents of Satanism, are not the inventions of a fanciful imagination.
No Order Within Families
In effect there is no longer any order in family life as there is no longer any authority and respect. The once unquestioned role of the father has been usurped. Indeed the whole concept of a family head has been lost. The neighbours responsible for the child who invaded our household were a case in point. The mother had three children from various fathers, her current partner (The very word partner reflects the disintegration in relationships - it is no longer de facto, but something much more casual) had only been installed for a few months, and gossip had it that she showed him little fidelity. Barry and Robin remain together out of convenience, certainly the male was not master of the household, he was there only on female sufferance, one wrong word and he would find himself evicted.
Authority Beyond The Powers Of A Single Mother
Robin was the matriarch but she did not have the respect of her off-spring or the physical strength or character to impose authority. Her maturing children demonstrated less and less concern for their mother, and the eldest boy could often be heard treating his parent with loud contempt.
Demeaning Of Male Role Made Official
Nor is this arrangement unusual, it is so common that is has become officially recognised by the department of social security following an administrative appeal tribunal ruling in January 1994. A Townsville female had objected to the department considering the wages of her male partner as part of her household income. Ms Melinda Hinschen claimed that though this man had been taken into the bosom of her family, and had full access to the temple of her body, financial concerns were exempted from the arrangement. Such sacred rights as the sharing of finances were reserved for when she met Mr Right, which her man friend was not.
To save $4,311 she had successfully managed to foist these values onto the community. An action abetted by Ms Stephanie Forgie who felt her position in the tribunal provided her with the discretion to amend social values. The deputy president found that a man can enjoy the privileges of the fathers role and evade the responsibility previously demanded by tradition, on the whim of the mother.
Male Impotent Whether Father Or Not
Not that this judgement actually does much except recognize the growing anarchy in human relationships within our community. Nor is family order necessarily maintained any better when there is a traditional husband and wife rearing the children. Nearly opposite the residence of Robin is a house from which childish tantrums could (1996) regularly be heard. Here Ross and his wife lived with their two daughters, aged five and thirteen years, and it was clear to all within earshot that the younger residents tyrannized the home. When events occurred that displeased either of the girls, and this was often, piercing screams could be heard. Parental action was demanded immediately, in a tone that suggested they had better get it right this time, and often continuing uninterrupted for some minutes. While the mother could sometimes be heard loudly voicing her dissatisfaction, the father seemed only able to express appeals for reason and moderation. Never could be heard the sounds of strong admonition, not once the slap of flesh being struck by the open palm, a result which both justice, order, respect and the community mutely demanded. (see also "The Father's Role In Society" by Dr. Daniel Amneus.)
Teachers faced with controlling children raised without respect for authority find themselves in an invidious position. If they fail to control the class they fail in their duty, if they attempt to exercise their authority they risk court action. The Daily Telegraph - 2/3/99 reported such a trial where a 50 year-old high school teacher had to defend his actions in dragging a child by his shirt collar across the classroom. This odious teenager claimed he was scratched on the left leg, found it difficult to breath for about ten seconds and had a red mark around his neck as a result of the incident; trivial concerns that should never occupy any court's time, and certainly never be sufficient reason to question a teacher's behavior. A "Not Guilty" verdict did nothing to repair the undermining of the authority of all teachers caused by subjecting this teacher to a legal ordeal for doing his job. Nor did it achieve any purpose for the Newcastle magistrate Steve Jackson to condemn as "totally wrong" for a teacher with 30 years experience and of good character to be before a court on a charge of assault because of a "grossly provocative" 15 year old student. The damage had already been done by the case being brought. The injustice wrought by prosecuting the teacher for doing his duty was not helped by the ban on reporting the names of the revolting child or the persecuted adult , but merely reminded everyone that justice is no longer seen to be done.
Teacher's Cane Replaced by Panic
The impotence of teachers is confirmed by their publicly confessed inability (November 1994) to control all their charges with a request to have certain pupils banned. Most education departments have removed the power of teachers to chastise their charges, but in place of the cane they are planning to supply a panic button.
As these undisciplined selfish young progress from education to employment, they take their chaos with them. Few contemporary Australian managers will hire permanent staff (1996) because awards make these personnel almost impossible to sack, a condition that would encourage the most dutiful employee to take advantage, and one that ensures contemporary workers enjoy anarchy. Certainly the old image of an all-powerful boss is obsolete, the growth of industrial democracy, the explosion of rules and regulations, and the death of respect, has meant the end of clear cut authority in the workplace, and increasing industrial disorder.
Naturally maintaining law and order with such citizens is an impossible task. The police officers who try will become penalised, like those detectives who attempted to discipline some unruly aboriginal children in Brisbane in 1994. Instead of going through official channels again, the repeat offenders were picked up and driven to a remote location from which they had to walk back. The reaction of the community saw the officers taken to court and only just managing to escape punishment. They were fortunate in their magistrate who dismissed the charges, claiming no offence had been committed as the youths, all well versed in official police procedure, accepted their treatment.
Police Unsupported In Perilous Job
The threat of violence is part of the job of being a police officer, which is why they are armed. While this minimizes the risk to life and limb for police it does not prevent them from being wounded or murdered. An armed assailant can deliver a fatal blow in a flash, without any warning, which means any hesitation in the use of their own weapons may cost them their lives. Every dangerous confrontation means taking their life in their hands, and deciding the moment they must fire to save themselves. This should mean that the courts must support their own agents by giving them the benefit of any doubt , but it is no longer true.
Incident On Bondi Beach
On June 28th, 1997 police officers shot dead a man armed with a knife on Bondi beach , but instead of being hailed for bravely doing their job, those involved found themselves under investigation. The courts wanted to know if the victim's behavior warranted him being shot dead. Naturally this is a crucial issue, but unless there are reasons to doubt the officers actions, such an investigation can only put those involved through unnecessary anguish and be detrimental to public regard for authority.
The Situation Was Simple
The situation was simple: when confronted by a man armed with a knife who was clearly menacing all in his vicinity, the officers did their duty. They asked him to put down his weapon, and when he failed to do so they shot him. There is no doubt Mr Levi was armed and dangerous, and his actions suggested he was deranged. If this lunatic decided to kill whoever was close then the target had only moments to save himself by sufficiently harming their attacker. This was mortal combat where the only warning of a deadly attack could be a change in the focus of the eyes, with any sudden move triggering violence. Only Mr Levi could end the threat, so only Mr Levi can be blamed for his own death. Every moment the police failed to fire increased their uncertainty and encouraged the criminal. Mr Levi got what he demanded, and his death served as a warning to all those who feel tempted to challenge authority.
Authority Needs Respect
To fail to shoot Mr Levi would have been a demonstration of official impotence and lack of resolve. The community needs a respected authority to function, and such respect must be tinged by fear won by demonstrations of what happens when authority is resisted. It was the duty of those officers on Bondi beach to uphold the law and demonstrate the power of authority to the community. To act in any other way was to fail their community. It is not the function of authority to save people from themselves but to ensure the law is upheld and respected. To place on trial these officers who risked their life in the execution of their duty is to contradict the function of authority and encourage crime.
Putting the officers involved through the ordeal of a trial revealed the public disquiet at seeing authority inflict a just penalty. It was widely suggested that the police did not do enough to avoid killing Mr Levi, but this concern is placing the private needs of an individual ahead of the needs of the community. Those who criticized the outcome clearly felt it was better to save a life than uphold public order, justice and reason. A stance that emphasizes their selfish nature by placing private survival ahead of any other concern.
The inability of the courts to control law-breakers is revealed by their impotence in the face of juvenile crime, as well as the inadequate sentences they hand-out, which is not just because contemporary courts re-enact the role of indulgent parents , but because they have been emasculated in the penalty they can inflict. While any citizen may take a life, the justice system in Australia can only imprison and not execute law-breakers , demonstrating the comparative weakness of authority. The proper exercise of authority needs its charges to be more frightened of the authority than anything else, otherwise it falters in the face of the more potent influence.
Example Of Referee
Without order there is chaos, but to achieve order there must be authority - an agency with the necessary public respect and administrative power to impose immediate penalty. Just about every football game is a simple demonstration of this fact; without a referee the match would never get past the first disagreement between players. The rules make the referee the single agent of authority with their decision being final, and prohibit any show of disagreement. Dissenting players can be penalized, even sent from the field. Referees are all powerful, and even if they make gross errors, they cannot be penalized. They cannot (1999) be sued for their failures, for if they could, they could not fulfill their function as sole arbiters of fact.
Even Referee's Authority
Nevertheless even referees are finding their authority is being undermined. The Australian umpires, Darrell Hair and Ross Emerson, who exercised their discretion and "no-balled" a Sri Lankan cricketer for his bowling action, were (January, 1999) both publicly penalized. While the penalties were not officially related to their on-field decisions, their example is clearly a threat to any umpire who ignores popular feeling.
The circumstances under which referees act are those required by all authority, whether it be judges, police, teachers, parents or whoever. Once the authority either loses the respect of its charges, or becomes neutered in its power, disorder must result. And this disorder can only be made worse by the explosion of tribunals and committees created by communal paranoia, exercising tyranny licensed by the myriad of statutes generated by communal delusion. (see also 'The Attack On Order' by Dr Mark Cooray)
Community Beyond Repair
A football game that has a referee without power and respect, quickly ends in chaos. A community is much more complicated than a game, its aims are much more subtle, its rules much more complex, its officials are much more numerous, and consequently the inevitable chaos is much more complete - beyond the power of any agency to rectify. It is clear that mutual respect for other citizens and the rules, is disappearing, and this is being accompanied by a decay in the power of agents charged with upholding order, as they become more vulnerable to prosecution. So we must sink into chaos.