Saturday, 2 December 2006


The cold-blooded and pointless killing of the lawyer Tom ap Rhys Pryce, whose murderers were given life sentences this week, has forced many people far beyond the circle of those working with actual and potential delinquents to reflect on why there is apparently a growing cult of mindless ‘clockwork orange’ type violence in our society. Tom’s father wrote a moving and compassionate article in “The Times”, saying that he still cannot begin to understand the world of the killers. I’m sure this is true of the vast majority of the ‘comfortable classes’, but the effort has to be made if there is to be any hope of remedying the situation.

A recent research report from the Economic and Social Research Council concluded that street robbers and muggers often carry out their vicious attacks “for kicks.” This is scarcely news for those who remember the rash of ‘happy slapping’ episodes, one of which led to the death of a gay man sitting peaceably on an Embankment seat. Violence on television and in pop culture is routinely blamed. Parental neglect and educational failure are other tabloid targets, as is multicultural Political Correctness which deters social workers and the police from interfering in situations where their intervention might be branded as ‘racist’.

What needs emphasising far more in this discussion, IMHO, is the failure of socialisation – the inculcation into very young children of the awareness that they are not just isolated individuals but also members of society, with rights and also obligations to others. I am an individualist to the uttermost – I abhor the Nanny State and the creeping, nowadays more like cantering, interference by officialdom and self-appointed busybodies in other people’s affairs. I agree with Socrates in Plato’s Republic that justice is about people minding their own business. But part of what each individual needs to understand is that a duty of care and concern for others and their welfare is an important part of one’s own business.

Blair blathers on about ‘education, education, education’ – which he absurdly seems to believe will be well served by divisive ‘faith schools’ [who will ultimately decide what is taught in them, I wonder?]. Any education will be useless without the essential groundwork. There are, in my view, only two essential ideas that should be inculcated into every child. The first is what I call the “Shylock principle”, after the famous speech in the Merchant of Venice – that epic of inter-racial and inter-faith hatred – where he says :”Hath not a Jew eyes?.....If you prick us, do we not bleed?.....and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” In other words, whatever race, creed, or country someone else belongs to, they are as REAL as I am.

The second is the negative version of the Golden Rule – never do to anyone else what they would not want to have done to them [heeding Bernard Shaw’s warning that their tastes and yours might differ].

We live in an increasingly angry, frightened and divided society. This grim reality is not going to be magicked away by government spins and media soundbites. David Cameron adjures us to “hug a hoodie”, but I very much doubt whether he is actually going to personally befriend Tom ap Rhys Price’s murderers during and after their imprisonment, as the late Lord Longford did to the Moors murderess Myra Hyndley, and got heartily sneered and jeered at for his pains.

Nor must we take refuge in pious platitudes about ‘original sin’. Every human being is a complex mixture of good and bad impulses. But I am not one of those who believe that some are ‘irredeemably evil’, and can therefore be written off and mis-treated with a good conscience by the rest of us.

Tough love by all means. But it has to be firmly grounded in realism – and suitable action.


Merkin said...

Just a few diverse comments.
Do we blame Morecambe and Wise or Tango for the happy slapping?.
Do young folks learn that it is ok to do anything that they 'can get away with' from their elected leaders?
Will the curriculum be set by a bunch of Pastor Teds and Warren Jeffs type characters?
Will the Golden Rule render all fun obsolete?
Not so long ago I posted a comment on a medical blog I am a member of.
It was in reply to a very stupid lady who had answered a question from one of the other posters.
In reply to the question 'why should my 18 month old daughter be faced with life as a blind person' she had replied about trusting God and that her daughter's Original Sin had caused her condition.
Fuck me. Disgusting.

anticant said...

I certainly think that the selfishness, greed and hypocrisy of the 'haves' has a great deal to do with the resentful aggression of those at the bottom of the heap. What must they think - for that matter what do you and I think - of the disgustingly huge sums of money 'earned' by city business people, footballers, and pop stars some of whom are quite talentless. The whole social system is going increasingly haywire - another reason for disillusionment with the New Labour project after the false dawn of 1997.

anticant said...

The Golden Rule should be a lot of fun, if universally applied [the true meaning of 'anarchy' - self-regulation without compulsory government]. Morris dancing AND incest, if you fancy both!

Merkin said...

I am with you all the way on this one.
My Golden Rule comment was only made as a result of a quick flash of cognition about differing tastes.
As you know, I spent a number of years abroad and was shocked by the situation back here - something I try to emphasise to the Swagman - 'you can't understand it till you actually see it'.
For me, 'Vicky Pollard' is Blairite Britain - 'prove it, show me the video, na na na na na etc'.
(Much the same way 'loadsadosh' was the true symbol of the spirit of Thatcherism.)
As for the bottom of the heap?.
20 years ago I was at a party in Rio for a foreign consul.
Went to a penthouse in a block which had armed guards as well as a cardboard city at the base.
12'o'clock saw a fireworks diplay off the roof. I said to my partner that if I were at the bottom of this heap, watching it, I would want to grab a machine gun off one of the security guards and shoot-up the whole place.
My partner said that the Brazilians made Spanish 'manana' seem positively hectic and so would never get the energy to revolt.
How long can WE continue in the same way?.

billstickers said...

Anticant: "We live in an increasingly angry, frightened and divided society. This grim reality is not going to be magicked away by government spins and media soundbites."

Right, but it can be magicked away by everyone deciding not to be angry, afraid and divisive. Each involves a personal choice and nothing to do with bad lads or governments.

To Merkin: Yes the respondent was stupid. How would she know if Original Sin had caused the condition? However, wasn't the person who asked the question equally as stupid?

Amd since I'm in fine "Master" voice, Grasshopper, get a flippin' 'aircut!

anticant said...

Well, billstickers, I agree with you for once. The question is, how do we convince others to stop being angry, afraid and divisive? I know you won't agree with this, but a lot of the prevalent fear and anger has been stirred up by the actions of religious believers of various stripes, especially since 9/11.

billstickers said...

You're right, I don't agree with that.

For me, it's like saying "That painting made me dislike it". Or, "You made me love you. I didn't want to do it...".

I can't wait around all day for the world to suit my temperament. When it did suit me, you'd probably find it unsuitable. And if we two could get in sync, someone else's nose would be out of joint. x 6 billion.

We can control the thoughts and feelings of one person - ourselves. We choose to respond to stimulus with anger and fear, and we choose to be divisive. We can choose to respond to both good and ill-treatment with love and forbearance. I've got the Book. I'm hoping to get started on the practical exercises one of these days. Nobody said it'd be easy.

anticant said...

About time.

billstickers said...

Why shouldn't Longford befriend Hyndley? Was she sentenced to life in prison AND the undying hatred of all?

Once their safely locked away, we should begin to love them - if we couldn't beforehand - for all our sakes.

If we could all love Hyndley there'd probably be less happy slappers out there.

Teach love not hate.

billstickers said...

Hey, I want that their "their" back!

anticant said...

You mean 'that there "their"'.

billstickers said...

No, that thare thayer over they're. Darn this lisp!

anticant said...

Too many people love to hate,egged on by the gutter press. I certainly didn't hate Hyndley - being bored to death by the humourless Longford was surely punishment enough - or Brady, or the Soham guy, or the Bulger kids: pathetic monsters all. I do bear Hyndley and Brady a grudge, though, for making Saddleworth Moor so infamous. A branch of my family have lived there for hundreds of years, and the Moors Murders miasma has infested the place like a lingering bad smell.

billstickers said...

No, not monsters, but flesh and blood human beings, like you and I. We should never try to turn human beings into something different in order to distance ourselves from their (and our potential - excepting Toby, of course)) behaviour.

Why can't we see our prisoners as erring people, just like ourselves. And isn't it true that those judgements are made long before most become prisoners.

anticant said...

I agree entirely. I meant 'monsters' in the Frankenstein sense - made such by their creators [i.e.parents; and I suppose you would say God].

billstickers said...

No, I wouldn't say "made monsters by God" as I wouldn't say made monsters by anyone. They never became monsters. All they did was give physical expression to what lurks in the heart of every person.

We should probably all be locked up as a preventative measure.

Basically, I saying that once punished, or in the course of being punished, or rehabilitated or restrained, or whatever, we should stop judging them for their crimes.

1. We have no right.

2. It serves no good purpose.

3. It is probably a causal factor in repeat offending.

4. It hardenes our own hearts and, perhaps, leads us to commit similar or other crimes.

The apostle Paul said:

"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things."

John Donne wrote:

"Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels as gold in a mine and be of no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction digs out and applies that gold to me, if by this consideration of another's dangers I take mine own into contemplation and so secure myself by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security."