By Stan Stewart
When Finn was fourteen, he loved two men - his dour train-driver Dad, and Bob Dylan. His Dad came from a long line of Welsh Baptists, and he wanted Finn to follow in his steps. Finn was pressured to attend the Baptist Church. His Dad’s hope was that he would eventually turn away from Dylan and love Jesus.
A new hot-shot preacher was coming to the church. His Dad never said anything, but Finn knew that his dad believed that the new preacher would fix Finn – bye-bye Dylan and welcome Jesus. Fourteen- year-old Finn would have none of this. His desperate solution was ‘burn down the church’. And he did.
A few days before the new preacher arrived, on a quiet afternoon, using his Dad’s Church Trustee key, he entered the church. He stuffed the cupboards under the sink with rags, poured on kerosene, lit them and exited. In three hours, he achieved his goal. He had burnt down the church.
Some years after this I bumped into Finn. We were both glad to see each other. I asked what he was doing. He said he was a train driver just like his dad and he loved it. I asked about his idol Bob Dylan. He said, “I saw him”. Unbelievably, when Dylan was in Melbourne for two concerts, Finn saw him at a traffic light. A very large black car pulled up, and there with the passenger window rolled down was Bob Dylan gasping for air. “He was pale, almost green,” Finn said. “He saw me staring and he called out, “Never touch the stuff kid. It’ll kill you.” The lights changed and Dylan was gone.
Vandalism has been there throughout my life. When I was going to night school, I was a regular user of Melbourne trains. Each time the government tried to upgrade them; teens would rip them up. Better designed carriages, railway police and finally cameras have put an end to this teen mayhem. I have been reading about the causes of vandalism and gleaned the following.
Most kids who destroy property or break things do this as a way of coping. Destroying property is a release. It makes them feel better, if only for a while. Another reason for vandalism is revenge. A teen is angry at someone (person or group) and tries to get back at that person or society by damaging property. These descriptions seemed to fit the fourteen-year-old Finn. In a household where no one spoke much, his action was his statement. This was his reply to the pressure his Dad was putting on him.
The most irresponsible and idiotic sporting displays I ever see are the hoop swinging displays by basketball stars. These multi-million-dollar, huge basket-ball stars do hoop swinging as a way of showing off – machismo. The hoops they swing on must be made of tungsten steel to withstand their weight.
Around the country there are many broken basketball hoops. Local lads try this hoop-swinging on hoops that are not carbon steel. Once the hoop is broken, the courts stand empty. The broken, bent hoops hang unloved and forlorn.
The Informer office is a few metres from Whitianga’s excellent child and teen skate park and basketball half-court. To me these outdoor facilities are the town’s crown jewel. From daylight to dusk on all holiday days and many other days, young people use these facilities - sometimes with supervision and more often it’s kids and teens just having fun. On the back deck of the office building, the doink, doink, doink of the basketball is to be heard from first light to dusk. To me it’s a happy sound.
Suddenly, without warning, the hoop with backboard is gone. The court is a silent, empty paved space. Destroying the hoop and its backboard took substantial effort.
Talk about surprises. As I am writing this, I hear of Hamas’s invasion of Israel. Somehow, for a moment, I feel like they are connected. How could that be? Our tiny fracas in a holiday town at the bottom of the earth and this huge conflict that has implications for the whole world.
What they have in common is hurt, anger at not being heard, a sense of loss, of being deprived of human dignity. The local flea bite and the global conflagration - only a person with weird thoughts like mine, could ever see any connection.
Many of us want to work for peace and understanding between young and old, between left and right. Maybe our contribution to world peace could be helping to get that basketball hoop up again? Far-fetched, but for my money, a step in the right direction.