"I am reading a fascinating book about social control among the First Nations in Canada, 'Returning to the teachings: exploring Aboriginal justice', by Rupert Ross (Penguin, 1996) . There are so many things I should like to quote, not least about they way in which they dealt with sexual abuse, but I will pick out one. Ross comments that he was puzzled to find in Aboriginal teachings little reference to the fact-finding process. He suggests that part of the reason is that punishment was not a major goal, so fewer offenders would deny responsibility for their actions. Also, traditional teaching encouraged people to acknowledge their wrongdoing and ask for assistance if they wished to maintain their welcome in the group. But at the heart of it all, he concludes, is the focus on relationships. Acts are not as important as the relationships that spawn them. 'If the parties have been guided through an effective peacemaking process, it might be totally unnecesssary to come to a conclusion about who did exactly what to whom!' (his emphasis).
When children have a dispute, their parents often realize that it is 'both impossible and unnecessary' to trace the angry acts back to the first little insult that started it. Instead, the issue becomes one of discharging the anger, and helping each child to remember that they are all important to each other. Life cannot continue like this without becoming increasingly worse, the antagonism affects a lot of other people around them, and the essential thing is to agree on a new way to deal with each other in the future.
This is by no means only relevant to children; it is remarkably similar to what I have learnt from my training and experiences as a mediator in disputes between neighbours.
What do you think of that?"