Tree-hugging, bleeding heart liberal goody-goodies vs the world (Catch-up Posting)
Following on from the other week's rant about parasitical scumbags, I thought I'd add my two-pence worth on the current events in the news (well maybe not current: I started writing this during the spate of shootings, stabbings and beatings to the point of death that was plaguing the country - or at least the media - last month, but as that coincided with my poster preparation for IBAGS, it was left half-finished until now. This has kinda buggered up the chronological order, but never mind.)
Independently, three or four people have been killed (and more since I started writing this post) by local thugs after the victim had been brave enough to say something to them. The one that inspired this posting was a guy who had hired a digger and the local chavs started smashing it in while pissed. He came out to say something to them and they killed him. Whether they meant to kill him or not I don't know, but they beat him up so badly that he got dead-ed.
Another pointless waste of life was a bloke who got a chocolate bar wrapper thrown into his sisters car window while they were sat in it. He got out and said something or other and got knocked down and his head smashed in. He died. After this, a kid got shot in inner city London and the perpetrators were black, but don't forget the recent spate of shootings and stabbings of black kids recently. It's not because they're black, its because they're poor and feel powerless. The same is true for any of these kids-turned-murderers: It's because they're poorly educated. It's because they're given fuck all else to do except stand on a street corner and cause trouble (although I admit, it's a big leap from being bored to killing someone). It's because they feel isolated and the only way they can feel a part of something is joining a criminal gang. It's these kinds of reasons and it's our fault. I saw this former detective bloke on the BBC the other day (who definitely didn't come across as a liberal) who said that these kids have "no stake in society" and it made sense.
Anecdote time: When I first came to Sheffield, I was walking down the main street on a busy Saturday morning and I saw a group of black kids push over a Korean looking bloke, who was in his forties. This made me angry. Grrrrr. However, unlike the incredible hulk, I don't go green and have super-strength when I'm angry, alas, I retain my stick-insect like physique and intimidate precisely no one. I shouted "Oi!" or something equally as eloquent and they turned on me.
Now here's what would happen in the movies. Our hero would shout "Oi" in much the same way, to which they'd reply "Ged oudda ma way. Dis is between me and da Korean* ". The hero would say "To get to him you'll have to go through me", then a guy who looks like a builder who was standing in the crowd and overheard would say "And me" (Probably in a New York accent for some reason). This would be followed by a series of "And me!"s, Sparticus style, until finally an old lady would wave her umbrella and say "And me, deary" or something. The chav-thugs would run off, possibly with the ring-leader (who might well be wearing an eye-patch?) shouting over his shoulder, "I'll get you next time, stranger, next time!"
As you can expect, that didn't happen. Instead the Korean bloke subtley took the opportunity to bugger off and in this busy street no one stood by me. I was left defending the principal alone. The ringleader chav fired off a high speed torrent of what I can only assume was abuse, because I couldn't actually understand a word he was saying. I think I got the idea because the last bit I got and it was "D'you wanna make something of it?!"** Now, to be honest, I really wasn't expecting any of that at all. I wasn't even expecting the movie plotline thing. I actually thought they'd snap out of mob mentality and individually acknowledge that things had got out of hand and they'd realise that what they'd done was wrong and go away sheepishly. 'Cos that's what I could imagine I'd do if ever in that situation. On reflection, I'm not sure where I'd get that idea from. Maybe I'm more middle-class than I like to admit?
I may be a white English guy with no concept of reality outside of cheesey Hollywood action movies, but still I couldn't believe that after all the crap that black people have been through in this country and others like America and South Africa, that this little bastard was actually inflicting the same racist shit on other people that so many people in this country have fought so hard to (at least try to) prevent it from happening to him. Was he trying to give ammunition to the Klu Klux Klan and the Daily Mail readers (the two groups may not be mutually exclusive, although my mum is an avid reader and I can't really imagine her in a robe with a pointy hat) by contributing further to the stereotype? To be honest with you, I doubt he even thought about it, and that is simply down to a lack of education.
Here's an example of a similar situation, but that doesn't involve race: I used to work in a bar in Manchester, and the bar in question was quite close to the Manchester's gay village, Canal Street*** and so a disproportionate number of the staff and a few of the regulars were gay, allowing me to hear some... interesting stories (although, this isn't one of those stories). In this particular case, one of them told me about how a straight couple went into a gay bar (where the guy telling me happened to work) and had a bit of a snog in the corner where they were sat. Of the very few people in the bar at that time of day, one of them called the manager over and told him that he thought it was disgusting that they were allowed to do that in this bar, but he wasn't allowed to do it in other bars and demanded that they be thrown out. The manager apparently didn't want to lose the custom of the regular and so went over to them and apologied for having to do it, but told them that they were upsetting the other customers and asked them to stop. Bearing in mind that this story was told to me by someone who was there and that they weren't doing anything over the top, they just kissed, they left the bar in protest and who could blame them? Now clearly the root of the problem was the original way in which the idiot who complained was treated, but the moment that he applied the same treatement to others was the same moment that he lost any right to claim the moral high ground and act as if he was the victim. This just goes to show that biogtry and ignorance only further spreads biogtry and ignorance.
So it's not a race thing. Surely everyone wants the same thing, don't they? The best for themselves and their kids; freedom from oppression; clean drinking water; food on the table; bit of spare cash to buy holidays and other luxuries; stuff like that. I know that there are psychopaths in the world (not all of them violent) who really don't care about other people, but I'm fairly certain that they're in the minority. Statistically speaking, the Korean-attack kid wasn't a psycho, so he probably only did it because he didn't think about the big picture, he was just thinking about making himself appear more powerful in front of his mates, and he chose to inflict suffering on another human being simply because it was a quick and easy way of getting this. There's an age-old saying that I'm sure pre-dates the bible (although this doesn't stop it from making outlandish claims to be the source of all morals) and it is the basis of altruism: treat others as you wish to be treated. In other words, if you want to live in a society that is tolerant of you, then you have to be tolerant of others, and also be prepared to remain tolerant, even when others around you aren't. I reckon that he just didn't think, or didn't want to think, about how this would make the other guy feel.
Yes, I know how it sounds. It makes me come across as as a "bleeding heart liberal" and all that, but bollocks to that, it's true. It's a poverty thing. I may be liberal, but the liberal way isn't to excuse them and let them get away with it next time. In my opinion, the liberal view isn't about giving them a holiday to make them feel loved (or whatever that crap was about in the news a few years ago). It's actually about trying to deal with the cause of this mentality, rather than treating the symptoms. The right wing view seems to be "lock 'em up forever" but this approach is unsustainable. Besides, our prisons are full at the minute.
That leads me nicely on to ask an open question about the point of the criminal justice system. Simply put: What is the point of 'justice'? This is not as silly a question as you might first think because most people to whom I ask this question respond as if to say it is to punish the people who have done wrong. But it's not. It is to deter them from doing it again and to set an example to others that if you do wrong, this could happen to you too.
It sometimes works, but usually doesn't. Maybe it would work better if our police force was 100% effective, but that doesn't sound entirely plausible (although it does sound a bit scary for some reason), besides if people are desperate and no one will help them, then they will need to commit crime to feed their family, for example, or buy a new Addidas tracksuit. If you don't deal with the root causes of the crime, then how are you going to stop new people turning into criminals, and if you don't deal with the root causes of the crime, how are you going to stop the criminal who was locked up from reoffending?
I previously implied that these people are parasites preying upon society, and that provides a nice analogy now as you can view crime to be like a disease. The original method of treating this disease was to kill or exile the criminals. I recall a statistic or two about how the death penalty in Texas is a no more effective deterrent than in other countries where they're locked up (I can't provide a reference for this, but you're all capable of using Google yourselves, so go find one). Anyway, people have got this nasty habit of being wrong quite a bit and death seems so.... irreversible. We don't like the death penalty, so what about exile? Previously we could send 'em off to the colonies, but there isn't any unclaimed land to do this any more. Further investment in moon bases may be required.
When I was in college I wrote a story about how all of the clever, nice people who naturally have the best genetics were collected and put onto a space-ship and taken to another planet to start again (kind of like 'Left Behind' but without all that god-bothering nonsense). A friend of mine, Dave Bullock (who is now I believe the UK's only living conservative voting, pagan policeman) pointed out that this approach was reminiscent of nazi eugenics. I protested saying that nobody was being gassed these people would come because they wanted to and I was trying to help people and.... etc etc etc.
Now would be a good time to remind the readers that I don't think that that's the answer any more. Partly because I know a lot more about people, a little more about physics, a fair bit more about evolution and genetics, and partly because I've read about the Golgafrincham.
If scumbags are hard-wired that way and can't help it, and let's say that they are for a second, I still no longer believe that even if you just took the best bits of society - say my mates and a few leading intellectuals, athletes and the makers of Lost - then this won't eliminate the bad bits. Even if it did, what else would we be losing? And what about biodiversity? If scumbags are genetically preprogrammed to be scumbags, that might be because being a parasite was a useful trait to have before we organised ourselves into a society (maybe it still is?). Evolution left them in for a reason and we shouldn't monkey around with that until we understand what that reason was. Maybe they're here in case society collapses and we need hardy individuals to reseed it?
But that's all bollocks anyway. I think people are a product of their environment and their opportunities as much as their genetics. I see it like this: You're born with all these potential tools for dealing with the world which come with your genetics, but you only pick the best tools for the job. In my case, I was born into a happy life with a nice home and loving parents and the best tools were altruism and other posh words for being nice like that. In your typical scumbag's case, they might've been born into a shit life with no family except an alcoholic mum with a tendency to use a broom handle to make her point and the only people who offer anything are the local gang of dealers and carjackers. Now which tools would you pick if you had to live like that? How far does altruism get you when your best mates having the living shit kicked out of him by some older kids and only you can help him. No one else will, because you know that the rest of society doesn't give a damn? If this is the case, then they'd have no stake in their society: why should they? What's society ever done for them?
So there's your answer. We need to give a damn. If we all we're given the best opportunities, we'd all grow up to be good and there'd be no need to be scumbags. If they still go bad, then you can lock 'em up.
But it's too late, when our ancestors began society, they didn't know what we are just beginning to realise now. How could they? Now we have these people shooting, stabbing and beating each other and good folks like you and I. So what can we do? We try to apply justice. So what is the point of justice? If it's a punishment, that's like trying to cure the disease (with fairly ineffective medicine), but isn't the general consensus that prevention is better than cure?
The point is, if we want to fix society, we have to treat the cause. We have to make a world where crime is more difficult than not committing crime. We have to help people who are at risk of falling into this trap and that, I guess, is what liberalism is all about.
* - Or replace 'Korean' with appropriate ethnic slur.
** - As you can expect, nothing was made of it in the end. Couldda bin worse...
*** - The funniest piece of vandalism I've ever seen is when they knocked off the 'C' and the 'S' of the street name sign, changing 'Canal Street' to the vastly more appropriate 'anal treet'. Of course, they'd been doing it for years and everyone in Manchester's bored of the joke now and their spelling is appalling, but I still think its genius.