I am appalled when I see a tiny baby with its head uncovered, exposed to a hot sun, while the young parents are going about their business. What happened to the doctors, parents and others who traditionally guided youth to adult lives? Or, aren’t young parents willing to learn?

In this south/southeast corner of Australia, with its temperate (Mediterranean) climate, few adults cover their heads, even in summer. Strangely, even in Malaysia and Singapore, I did not see the colourful waxed-paper Japanese parasols of the pre-war era. More recently, perhaps because public transport is so readily available, I have not seen the cloth umbrellas of my mother’s generation.

The hats seen on men’s heads in Australia in the immediate post-war period have been replaced with American-style caps. Sounding American is also quite fashionable, with news readers and reporters uttering ‘nairies’ (like ordinairy) and ‘tauries’ (like territaury), and young girls copying the accents of the women in American ‘sitcoms’ on tv.

At the behavioural level, one hears, or reads about, some strange developments, indicating that traditional guidance to teenagers and youths have been attenuated – stretched thin, that is. Families which do not eat together (for whatever reason) cannot be guided in that casual manner of an earlier-era family ritual (read Francis Fukuyama). When children are left all day in childcare, would they receive that guidance about societal values and behaviour, the responsibility of parents?

It seems that teachers are now required to stand-in for parents who are too busy. Teachers are already doing an excellent job bridging cultural differences in an immigrant-receiving nation. Do they now have to guide their pupils on all aspects of their lives?

A serious current societal problem is that innocent people are being seriously injured or killed by what is known as a ‘coward’s punch.’ A certain kind of male chooses to become intoxicated, and apparently goes about looking for someone to injure. Strangely, the suggestions to counter such behaviour include: penalising all drinkers of alcohol by raising prices; limiting supply late at night (ignoring the tourist); and everyone saying piously that something needs to be done, without reaching agreement. Should not severe legislated penalties apply? How many votes would that cost?

Why am I not impressed with the ‘guidance’ by our elected rulers? How many youngsters have to die while ‘consultations’ (a fashionable local political pastime) take place?


Protecting a child from a bully

Growing up in a colonial territory with a wide mixture of people from all over South and South-East Asia posed no risk of paedophilia or other acts of criminality; only of being bullied. A bully, by nature, respects no boundaries. Twice I fought back, puny as I was, and was then left alone.

When I was a teenager, I noticed (most unhappily) that my 4-year sister would occasionally be pushed onto the ground by the 4-year old boy next door, even after playing together amicably. As the third boy in the family, a little rough play might have been part of his lifestyle. So, I decided to teach her how to counter-attack. When he moves forward with both arms stretched to push you (I told my sister), move right foot back, clench fist at right shoulder and, when he comes closer, step forward with right foot, straighten right arm fiercely to hit him on his nose with fist. We practised that for days, because she was (and is) a gentle person.

Then, one day, it happened. The boy was knocked down. When he complained, crying, to his mother, she slapped him for lying! (Our parents were free with slapping and hitting. I was hit with a stick by my father when I was 17 because I was seen to be tardy in returning home after delivering a message to my uncle up the street.) That nice little girl would not hit anyone, said the mother. (Our homes were so close, that there was little privacy outside the walls.)

Years later, my daughter, at 3 to 4 years of age, had an identical problem. After playing in the sandbox I had built on our open front verandah, the little boy next door (of the same age), the youngest of 3 sons, would hit my daughter (a very quiet child) for reasons unknown. His lifestyle might have also included a little rough play. So, I trained her to counter-attack, in the way I had trained my little sister. This boy too was chastised by his mother for lying. My daughter was never attacked again.

Strangely, this was one of the mothers who had withdrawn from the morning coffee invitation by my wife after the priest in the VW had visited his mini-flock in our street. I admit that I did have a never-to-be-fulfilled thought of punching him on his nose!

Shortly, I built a large sandpit in my backyard. Up to 7 children (only one was mine) could be seen playing together amicably, protected by the side gate being shut, with my wife keeping an eye on the children. The children were obviously not aware of priestly injunctions!