Apologies that this entry is rather long and convuluted, it is a product of many writes and re-writes as I attempt to get back into a pattern of fluency again.

There seems to have been a lot of talk of late about serious crime and in particular the age-old debate about the death penalty and the possibility or not of reform of violent criminals. Following on from a very heated debate I participated in at The Very Idea, myTwin has also added fuel to what I would term the liberal authoritarian argument. By this I mean people who are not law and order conservatives but consider themselves on the whole to be liberally-minded but hold strong views when it comes to a certain level of crime, particularly involving emotive violence like that against children or women especially if involving a sexual over-/ undertone

I do have to raise a little question, perhaps in slightly Devil’s Advocate fashion, as to whether the furore would have quite the same intensity were the perpetrator a woman. After all whilst Myra Hindley is hated for her part in the brutal Moors Murders she is regarded as having been very much under the influence of Ian Brady, the male protagonist, and whilst this may be true it is certainly accepted with little scrutiny. I have heard a number of times the questioning of “how could a woman do such a thing, it isn’t natural” as if some how the man’s participation is expected. We will return to the other question that point raises shortly. It would be wrong to assume that crimes against children are all carried out by men, in fact in cases involving very young children it is more often women than men who are the perpetrators. This is perhaps because of the nature or reason for the committing such a crime. For a man to be able to assert power there has to be at least some element of conquest, and so it must come down to where a man sees himself in the pecking order.

Most of the men who carry out these crimes fit broadly similar profiles. It is not surprising to me that men emasculated metaphorically have in themselves a serious problem with regard to the way they view their role in society. One must remember that we still live, rightly or wrongly, in an acutely patriarchal society where behaviour deviating from the gender stereotypical norm is not generally well-tolerated in society at large. The expectations on women remain often that a more traditional role should be undertaken whilst leaving the man to be the bread-winner, the high-earner, the “head of the household” Likewise this places an expectation on men to be masculine, macho, the dominant ones, the effects of upbringing, circumstance and individual personalities ensure that there will always be a vast difference between some men’s ability or willingness to fulfill this role. For those who cannot but feel duty bound to do so the problem is clear and frustration however it vents itself will out.

Different people react in different ways to the stimuli that life throws at us, so whilst one child will burst into tears when hit in the playground, another will hit back and a third will run away, equally though there may be times where this behaviour will overlap and where the child usually prone to tears may decide to run away or to hit back whilst on a given day the child more prone to hit back may decide not to do so. The same is very much true in adulthood as you might expect. Hence we cannot assume that a certain person with a certain background will always react in a certain definable way. Likewise we cannot assume that their reaction will be rational or predictable, after all rationality is a subjective concept anyway. As individuals we would not even carry out the same actions ourselves given the same set of circumstances on the same day, perhaps the weather is different, or our breakfast was burnt or we found a pound coin in the street earlier etc.

Therefore it is a non-argument to say “well, I’m poor, or I’m black or I’m a disenfranchised product of an ambivalent society and I don’t…” Everybody has their breaking point and some reach it sooner than others. We may also reach it in certain ways without actually being fully aware of it. In this modern age there are many laws which we arbitrarily assign ourselves the right to break. Motoring offences, particularly speeding or the going through shall we say ‘late amber’ traffic lights, are practically the norm, we decide that this is either not a law that applies to us because our own personal logic deems it appropriate or because we are prepared to risk being caught and facing the consequences because the probability of being caught is low. Furthermore many people will avoid paying taxes wherever possible, you will find few people in a society who will work out everything they have earnt from personal ebay sales over a given financial year so as to declare it for tax.

Likewise it is not relevant to use the personal analogy that if somebody did something to your family you’d want to kill them etc. etc. This may very well be true however justice is not about providing satisfaction to the wronged individual in the form that they see fit. It is not about assuaging the anger or sadness of a victim, it cannot be because it cannot really provide any use in that context, you cannot unmake a crime. It is about providing an adequate system of legal governance that has in place a structure to deal with transgression to punish the perpetrator, if necessary to remove the perpetrator to protect society and where possible to provide the example to others so as to reinforce the acceptable moral code of conduct. Were anything to happen to my family I would expect to be very angry, perhaps even murderous, I would also expect society and the judicial system to ensure that I am not made a criminal as a result of my wrath and this it does by punishing those responsible.

When it comes to putting someone to death to my mind every sinew of my being cries foul. There is neither chance of redemption for the perpetrator nor retribution for the victim(s). The risk of killing an innocent cannot be ruled out nor can it be redressed if it is proven to have taken place. You cannot in a judicial system allow a situation to exist where by the very nature of the law a crime can only go unpunished and this is exactly what a case state murder of an innocent person would be. We must also acknowledge that guilt and absolute crime are rather subjective terms and can shift in different societies and era. We have no problem condemning the Nazis for their use of the death penalty, which was part of their system, because we see that system as unacceptable and those that died as having been innocent. It may well be that in the future our system may be seen as being a strain of the same barbarism. (There are some of us, ahead of our time if you like, who see are current system already as being a strain of the same barbarism!) Add to this the fact that it would be an unwise person to ever assert that a judicial system in any country would ever always prosecute or execute the guilty. The real purpose of the death penalty is to remove the problem from view, it does not act as a deterrent, it does not help the victim of the crime it merely serves to make certain people feel better that society’s failure is brushed under the carpet. If you think that’s acceptable then fine but let’s not try to make of it something that it isn’t.

If one is to assume that the individual is always solely to blame for his/her actions then there can be no mitigating circumstances for any crime, but we do not believe this which is why there are in all judicial systems varying gradients of severity of crime generally down to the level of pre-meditation. This level of pre-meditation of course assumes a mind in healthy order, and yet we would not under general circumstances be so blasé as to believe this to be the case of everyone in society. The proportion of the population who will experience depression alone is far higher than you would think, the US National Institute for Mental Health estimates that in a given year some 9.5% of Americans will experience some form of depressive disorder. They define depressive disorder as:

“A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things.”

The key point here is the affecting of the way one thinks about things. This is not a surprise, any form of mental imbalance can have such an effect whether temporary or permanent. It is difficult for us to state with any certainty just how much of an imbalance this may cause because each individual and each trigger is different. However if we take the statistic that 1 in 10 is likely to have a problem at some point in a year it’s probably a fair bet to say that 1 in 100 of those may have a serious problem. That is only 1 in 1000 people overall, it’s hardly a tiny minority, by that reckoning in any given city of 1 million people there would be 1000 having serious mental health problems. What are we actually doing about this problem, not as much as we need to be. If 1 in 1000 had a serious infectious disease that involved spots or death for a minority of sufferers you can bet your arse we’d be demanding something were done about it.

I have always found it odd that Americans particularly can stand up to defend the rights of an unborn child and yet they are happy do nothing for those already born. Do these people believe that a child is spotless and untainted, a tabula rasa? If so then by that argument people doing bad things are doing so because of their nurture and they cannot be held solely responsible for that. If not then should abortions be allowed for criminal families, or blacks, or the poor, or illegal aliens? Would people advocate that? Some certainly would and whilst some of them go around burning crosses and wearing German WWII insignia, it is only a century ago that many such views were rather more mainstream across the Western World.

“The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the feeble-minded and insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate… I feel that the source from which the stream of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed.”

This sounds as if it could be lifted from a modern argument against immigration, however it is taken from a 1910 British Home Office memorandum to the then Prime Minister Herbert Asquith from a Home Office minister, one Winston Spencer Churchill.

If you truly believe that you are immune from being in a situation where you would commit serious crime then you are deluding yourself. Your threshold may be greater than some but everyone has their limit, whether it be within the framework of what we currently consider mitigating circumstances is another matter. The voices told me to do it is not generally considered thus and yet it is like as not very real to the person experiencing the voices.

Do the violent and the mentally unbalanced need to be incarcerated to protect society from them, very probably, but it is equally valid to assert that they need to be locked away to protect them from society after all it is society that has damaged them to such an extent in the first place.

Song Of The Day – The Cribs – Mirror Kissers

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