Election Year

Election Year

Well, shit. It looks like the theme for the election might have been chosen already: youth. God, I hope not. Check these tag clouds: {Helen, John}, taken from their latest speeches.

Ephebiphobia is a fucking shame. It's collective, wilful ignorance of what's actually happening, of the facts. And it comes from the same scaremongers who tell us we're in the middle of a crime wave, that we need to "get tough on crime", and that today's youth ("the me generation", "the iGeneration", "generation Y") are lazy miscreants who want it all.

(Almost certainly wrongfully) attributed to Peter the Hermit, 13th century:

The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.

John Key, 2008:

This wasted potential is there for us all to see: teenage parents with no plans for their or their children’s future; illiterate and innumerate school leavers; youth gangs prowling our neighbourhoods and sporadically dishing out beatings. [...] More than 13,000 teenagers are collecting a welfare cheque and many others are filling their days with nothing but Playstation and TV soaps. Violent youth crime is at an all-time high. Robbery is up. Grievous assaults are up. Aggravated robbery is up. Young criminals are graduating from petty crime to more serious crime; unexploded time-bombs on a fast-track to Paremoremo.

Sounds serious, doesn't it. But here's a look at the supposed crime-wave, using Statistics New Zealand data:

Youth apprehension as a percentage of total apprehensions

Obviously, Kiwi teenagers are too busy filling their days with Playstation and TV soaps to get out onto the streets and raise the youth crime rates.



An "unexploded time-bomb[...] on a fast-track to Paremoremo" sounds like an apt description of a certain high school classmate of mine after a beef & cheese roll or two.
Notes: for that graph, a youth is anyone 14 to 21. The tiny uptick in the 'violence' statistics is because violence crimes have risen. Only, they haven't really; almost all of the rise is due to rise in reporting of crimes in the "intimidation and threats" subcategory.

Plus, when you look at what Key is actually saying in the "X is up" bit, he's wilfully ignoring the fact that (although younger age groups make up a decreasing proportion of the population) there are more youth around each year (because of population increases). So, what he's saying, while true, is technically a lie; it's intended to deceive you, and make you think he said something he didn't.
Final postscript. The graph is about apprehension. Not offences. The reason for that is the police don't know how old an offender is until they catch him or her.

So, actually, nobody knows about the "youth crime rate". They only know about the youth apprehension rate. And who knows - maybe youth are really good at not getting caught :-)
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