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Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays


It is of course not only city Maoris who come before courts but it is in the city that the Maori is exposed to the greatest pressure to abandon his traditional securities; and consciously or unconsciously every Maori is engaged in a personal debate whether to assert or abandon some particular attitude or habit, whether to adopt or reject some new one. A similar situation may evoke from him a response differing according to whether it is in a Maori or a European or a mixed context. The new values and criteria that are most impressed on him are those for which European society tries to provide its own safeguards—those of the films, the comics and the teenage idols. Juvenile delinquency is not a peculiarly Maori problem; yet if a youth dresses like a bodgie or a girl sweeps up her hair and wears leopard-skin matadors, they are fundamentally different from their pakeha counterparts. They respond more spontaneously to friendliness; they respect old people; they are capable of enjoying them page 114 selves with no more artificial stimulation than a guitar. There is merit in Mr Hunn's proposal for segregated Borstals: Maori inmates would be more amenable to encouragement from welfare officers and clergymen if they were free from the sneers of pakeha inmates. From two sources I am told that racial friction is high in a maximum-security establishment like Invercargill where there are 35% Maoris; it probably reflects the different pressures and psychological tensions that motivated the two groups of prisoners in their crimes. The Presbyterian Maori Synod suggests short terms in strict-discipline reformatories, but this may be theological harshness. I would suggest that for Maori prisoners group counselling would be profitable.

When all is said on crime, it is sobering to remind oneself, not of the 5% who offend (1.5% pakeha) but the 95% who don't.