Title: Little boys in black shirts... again Credit: Craig Young Comment Wednesday 1st September 2004 - 12:00pm1093996800 Article: 390 Rights
When Destiny Church unleashed its "Enough is Enough" contingent, many observers were shocked to see the presence of very young children in the march. It had disturbing historical precedents. On Flipside last week, TVNZ's youth news programme distinguished between teenagers and children who participated in political activity. At thirteen or so, teenagers are usually able to foresee the consequences of their own actions in normal adolecent development, so they can start to make decisions for themselves and they may not neccessarily be related to parental political values or religious beliefs. Amusingly, these aren't usually in favour of social conservatism. The Christian Heritage Party and SPUC do have youth branches at the moment, but it took the latter twenty years or so to develop. And they're staffed by the same people! Of the other Christian Right pressure groups, members and activists are usually in their seventies and eighties, with a tiny handful of leadership under fifty, like CHP's Ewen McQueen and Tamaki himself. The Maxim Institute attracts some young interns, but I suspect they're the product of fundamentalist schools. The New Zealand Census 2002 reflects this as well. Most religious and faith categories show a similar pattern of child religious adherence until the events of adolescence foster critical adolescent thinking and identity. Flipside interviewed one child psychologist who strongly opposed the involvement of young male children during the Enough is Enough march. She argued that because adolescent strategic reasoning about long-term consequences may lead to positive reflective outcomes and critical thinking, Destiny Church was doing harm to their development by causing child emotional turmoil without ready resolution. Of course, there are some inevitable parallels that one can draw about the events of the twenties, thirties and forties in Weimar and Nazi Germany. According to Wikipedia though, they aren't exactly similar - the Hitler Youth only started to admit ten to fourteen year old males in 1928, and opened up involvement for fourteen to eighteen year old girls in 1929, before all other youth organisations were banned in 1936. After that point, there are some troubling comparisons that can be made. After Hitler seized power, the Hitler Youth acquired an emphasis on physical prowess and military training, rather than an academic and scientific focus. Like certain other contemporary youth organisations, these indoctrinated children and youth wore black shirts. It would be misleading to apply these parallels too far. I doubt whether Tamaki mandates compulsory youth involvement in Destiny Youth, as Hitler did after the Second World War began (1939), or whether he's conducting weapons training or compulsory military training for anyone over ten (1940). In the closing stages of that conflict, the Hitler Youth were operating anti-aircraft guns and died battling for the remnants of the regime as the curtain fell. Unfortunately, some things don't change all that much. According to Canada's Bethune Institute, North American white supremacists have their own "parenting" organisations, as well as white supremacist colouring books and children's games. Brrrr. To be sure, this brief summary of the Hitler Youth indicates that contemporary historical parallels are not absolute ones. However, they are sufficient enough to be troubling. What happens if a fired-up young child participant in such events takes out their indoctrination through resort to violence against lesbian, gay or transgendered people? I am not saying that this will be an inevitable result of Enough is Enough, but I wonder at the effect of such intensive indoctrination on vulnerable young minds. Small children should not be drafted into political activity, whatever the cause, whether left or right. Parents might want to explain reasons for their own political involvement, but small children themselves should not participate in such activities until they develop critical reasoning abilities. Craig Young - 1st September 2004    
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