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4 corrections, most recently by collywolly - Show corrections

The Brisbane Courier.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 24, 1901.

-*

THE LARItlKIN.

'Ulio subject of " Push LaiTlkiuism in Australia" is one winch is now causing consiaei'utblç discussion in the motlier country.' One isi> accustomed lo the extraed iu'a'ry travelleis' tales, a« told lu British magazines by wandering scribes wTio have seen this court ry far off, or vtlho have sannt a lew days at one of our ports, Ibut the article wh ch was recently published tiu Blaikwood's Magazine does not collie under this description. The writer-Mr. Ambrose Pratt-was an Australian journalist, and he professed to give for the lirst time to tlie world the facts connected with tlie organised limdkinlgin of Australian cities. The liautallive, which was de scrilbed by 'Mt. Henry Copeland as worthy of Do Rougemont at this best, was a startling one, and Australians wire 'baldly inclined to take the writer serüously. 'Mr. Pratt evaded the force ol' some of the iuovitalble criticism by saying that tlie iutorruation he 'had ac- quired while acting as the legal adviser of the " push" societies of Sydney could not bo published in Australia. He estimated that the members of such societies throughout Australia amounted ti) between '6000 and 10,000, the latter number proTWbly T>eing nenrrest to the (ruth: The chief object of these .societies, according to Mr. Pratt, is dancing and. píenles, and this amuse- ment is occasionally varied by booting some citizen to death, or clipping the ears of membens wlio ¡have violated " push" laws. Eacfti push, has its own elected ' king-generally a pawnbroker, publicau, or small (Storekeeper-to whom tribute 'must ibe paid by all his subjects. LaiT.ikiiiiSm tims also a morality of its owu. Drunkenness is absolutely for Tildden, and cliastity sternly enforced ; while the crime of nonpayment of gnmlbling .debtsr is punished by the clipping of the light ear. With re- gard to «'¡me, the Ibudd'lng blackguard- ism of Australia is described as though 'here tlhere wove all the éléments of a secret society like that of the Maila.

Without taking Hie writer of the article too -seiiously the existence and even the growth of larrikLnism in our cities may 'be admitted as 'constituting a serious social problem. It- has its counterpart 'in- tlie " Hooliganism" of tlie London streets, and in the organised ruffianism wJiich probaWy was as pre- valent in ancient Thdbes or Babylon, as in a modern city like New York. Tihe criminal, like tihc poor mau, is"always with us. It 'is to lie noted, liowever, that the, "push larrikin" of Australia is a type of a peculiar kind. A British contemporary naturally finds in him an example of the truth that the taiut of Ishmael descends to the third and fourth generation. That explanation is always at hand for Englishmen who want to account for Australian characteristics;   but it is too easy a one for the present case. Here in a young country where compulsory education prevails, and where almost universal prosperity re- moves many of tlie incentive's to crime, arc to 1)0 'found organised societies, whose very existence is a menace to law and order. On behalf of Mr. Pratt it is to be said that he has made a vigorous defence against his critics, who described the larrikin as a "drunken, dissolute coward," and in this he has received the support al Mr. Firth Scott, the novelist—who was fonnerly0n the   staff of the " Sydney Daily Telegraph." The latter after referring to murders committed by "push" societies says that   the "push larrie" does not drink, very often he does not smoke nor use tobacco in any other form, but as a master of profanity and a determined, merciless talker of vengeance he is with- out a rival. Perhaps the ordinary type may best be described as standing on the borderland (between respectable

society and the-criminal classes. The  

contradictions in his character arise   from the fact that he properly belongs

to neither, while his education gives him

a power for mischief greater than that possessed by isolated criminals.

It. is difficult to give a detailed analysis of the larmikiu. Ho is partly,the iCMilt of misdirected or neglected training, partly of natural envirouunent. and partly of that law of degeneracy ¡which tends to 'bring all tlhings back to their originad type. The criminal'' classes of the old world are rarely recruited from the ranks of respectarle society. Ho (belongs to ii class of his own. liven the gip^y of BnglWh lanes re tatas the sa'ine habits to-day a.s when his progenitor of old Avas depicted in the satirical line» of the rersian poet Veidousl, who declared that " no wash- ing could wliiten tlhe black Gitan." Tlie Australian " larrikin" not 'being a fixed type is capaole of moral ,aud .social reform, and examples of such 're- form are to 'be found lin the case of men occupying prominent positions to- day. The freedom of life in a country Of vast spaces, tihe genial air and abundant, sunshine, naturally tend to- wards a change of the national type, but lhere is always the dangar that the change may be in the direction of de- generacy rather tfliau improvement. There Is not, and cannot (be in Austra- lia, 'fhe same amount of indoor life which is to 'be found in the mother countries. The "bleak oliuia'le of Oeat Britain, with its boisterous winds, its winter's »sleet, snow and lrost, uiake families seek the shelter aniLhappiuess of tlie fireside clime so (beautifully de- scribed by Burns in his "Cotter's Satur- day Xight." illdrc in Australia every- thing invitas out of doors, and failing lack Of rational amusements for the young they naturally seek tile doubtlul pleasure of aimlessly walking about the tstrcets. Even with regard to the dally toil Australians aro not so closely liarnessed as British workeis to the drudgery of life. Tliis is au advantage, but it has its concomittant dangers. Exuberant vitality, characteristic of young Australians, must either find a useful outlet or safety wive, or it will work mischief 'by its repression. Tlie Australian troops have distinguish ed themselves in tlie 'battlefield. If

report-speaks correctly they have been equally prominent in malchig their presence felt in South, African towns, where they wore like boisterous school iboys (rather than disciplined soldiers or sedate citizens. In all this there is something admiraMc, and a strong, rude, healthy manhood is essential to the 'making of a nation. But tdiei'e are

highett' qualities which are also neees- : *ary."J No nation over yet was strong without i a sense of révérence. The' sports of tlie cricket and football field are good in themselves ; it is right that the (mental f acuities should toe developed to tlie highest degree ; but'both alike are worthless without that anora 1 and re- ligious training which gives àucentive and direction to all other powers. Then 'there is fhe sauctity and purity of the home life. The keystone of a nation is the ttioarthstouic.

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