Culture of fear
Karen Brooks, February 1, 2006, thecouriermail.news.com.au
So, it has finally come to this: Various sporting organisations banning parents and other adults from taking photos of children competing in games, frolicking on the beach or in pools and generally doing what we continue to lament the younger generations don't do enough of – being physically active.
The reason for these touted bans is sad and understandable. It's to deter pedophiles from taking covert photographs, misappropriating them and gaining whatever sick pleasures they, or others, might from them.
One can't help but wonder, are these proposed bans taking our concerns too far? Is this reductio ad absurdum in practice?
I fear it may well be.
Media reports explaining the discussions to forbid (or seek permission from officials and parents) photography in various public places cite the incident at South Bank last year, where someone was caught taking clandestine shots of innocent kids and placing them on the Internet.
Now, my recollection was that it was just one individual, yet newspapers and TV reports claim it was "men", turning the activities of one pathetic individual into the intentions of many.
And I think this slip is indicative of what is occurring in culture overall. One becomes a few, a few are transmuted into many until potentially society becomes a minefield of anxiety and trepidation.
After all, we don't stop flying because a few fundamentalists crash planes into towers; nor do we cease to ride on trains or buses in the wake of other bombings.
Building on our ever-increasing culture of fear, the unspeakable objectives of a few not only begin to define everyone else's, whether it be excited parents, delighted grandparents or just keen adults who support and gain healthy vicarious pleasures from watching children play.
By promoting apprehension, notions and even laws that would not normally be considered are not only given room to breathe but to multiply. Worse, they are legislated before eventually becoming normalised.
Now, having a lens in your hand and wishing to record your offspring's fleeting years of childhood and adolescence, the highs and lows, the uncoordination, the physical prowess, the goals, the excitement, the despair, victories and defeats are tarnished because pedophiles choose to remember them in their toxic way as well.
Believe it or not, we live in a society where the overwhelming majority of people possess normal sexual appetites and a healthy appreciation for children and childhood. But you wouldn't know that, would you?
Unable to photograph or film loved ones for fear of our having our purpose being misinterpreted, we're fast approaching a stage where we are going to have to rely on fading memories rather than the ubiquitous family photo album.
Or worse, we will be governed by a deficit model of living, too afraid to venture out of our homes for fear of what might happen to our loved ones or ourselves.
Anyone who has been through a trauma of any kind understands the importance of moving on, of not being a victim to what has occurred, whether it's a tragic accident, a death, a divorce or sexual abuse.
Because a few individuals photograph our children and abuse those images, the rest of us should not have to change our behaviour. Doing that makes us all victims of their sickness.
As a survivor of a pedophile's attentions myself, I know how important it is not to allow their actions to modify or alter my own.
If you allow that, then they have won – they have affected your life in every way, in each and every day. I don't want what happened to me to colour my life, to tarnish the beauty and joy of my present, future or my past.
Likewise, as a society, we cannot roll over and be victims to this mentality.
We cannot allow ourselves to be infected by the actions of a small number of pedophiles who, by nature, regardless of how we police and protect our kids, will still manage to get their perverted thrills.
Banning cameras and mobile phones with the capacity to capture images will achieve little except to act as a constant reminder of those we'd rather forget.
What we need to do is defy them by continuing to relish our children and the representations we collect and will later savour as we leaf through the memory book of their lives – a memory book unsullied by those who lurk in the shadows.
* Dr Karen Brooks is a senior lecturer in Popular Culture, University of the Sunshine Coast