In light of the deeply disturbing spate of vandalism that has occured at the Albury Pioneer cemetery this week, it’s worth spending a moment to reflect on the broader implications of the issue.
Albury is certainly no stranger to vandalism attacks, with the spray painting of nazi insignia and other graffiti on the war memorial still in recent memory.
That incident prompted local retailers to tighten security around the sale of aerosol based spray paints, a community minded gesture, but arguably of questionable effect in preventing vandalism given that this most recent attack utilised no spray paint whatsoever.
Of course all the obvious factors have been trotted out, the fact that the incident occured in school holidays, that the cemetery lacks security, and the “no respect for their elders” cliche (despite the fact that no-one has been aprehended over the incident).
To me though, it seems that (as is arguably most crime) vandalism of community property is symptomatic of a greater societal ill.
Of course the Stattler and Waldorf-esque conservative commentators are already crowing for “solutions” like tougher penalties, greater security, more emphasis on family values (whatever that might be) has already begun, such myopic, knee-jerk reactionary band aids are clearly doomed to failure.
Case in point, certain community gardens in China have had problems with decorative stands of bamboo as part of their display being vandalised by people carving their names or whatever in the trunks, legislation was passed meaning that carving in said bamboo is now punishable by some two weeks imprisonment, has it reduced the icidence? yes, has it eliminated it? not by a long shot.
Such misguided and heavy-handed authoritarian discipline falls a long way short of actually remedying the problem.
Clearly vandalism on community monuments is a deplorable action, indefensible even, nonetheless, I would suggest one fact is abundantly, inescapably clear. That the individuals responsible for these attacks feel some deep sense of disconnection, even resentment with the community, or at least certain sections of it.
At the risk of stating the patently obvious, people who feel part of the community, don’t feel the need to go on rampages of destruction like this. The people responsible for these actions, are the disenfrachised, the disposessed. People our society have wiped our hands of. While we continue to allow things like poverty, substance abuse, child abuse, familial dysfunction and the like to exist within our community, we WILL experience vandalism and other social problems as a result.
Putting walls and fences up around things that look like they might be vandalised, banning paint, markers and other items that can be used to cause damage, locking away offenders for the term of their natural lives or even re-introducing clamping in the stocks and public floggings is hardly treating the cause, it’s a clear case of slamming the door shut after the horse has well and truly bolted.
As a community we invest a lot of time, effort and energy into recognising things like remembering the war dead and reminiscing about bygone eras, (such as the full colour glossy brochure which arived in my mailbox, chock full of “ANZAC day events” courtesy of populist devotee Greg Aplin, never one to let a cheap publicity oportunity go by unexploited).
Perhaps an ounce of prevention payed in acknowledging and aiding the plight of those in our community who are doing it tough might make for a pound of cure in terms of preventing vandalism and other social problems.