Friday, January 22, 2010

Are The Cracks Getting Bigger?

David Cameron thinks that the Edlington case is a sympton of 'our broken society'. I realize politicians have to spout profound-sounding vacuities on cue without frightening the horses- a difficult skill- but you would have thought he would have been better prepared to talk about a case which is currently the subject of much emotive coverage in the press. He probably meant what he said, which is pretty depressing.

Terrible as this case is, it cannot be called a symptom of anything, other than of the diseased minds of the boys who carried out the attack. We do not even know their background, as they haven't been identified, so we can't say if anything about their families or their upbringing has influenced their actions. (It is, of course, a fair bet that it has. You don't do something like that unless you have come to think of it as somehow normal or you simply don't care what happens to you; either way suggests a thoroughly miserable home life.)

But why does he think British society is 'broken?' In fact, what does he imagine British society is? Does he think it is a single homogeneous mass, responding as one to identical stimuli? Does he imagine that the entire country becomes hysterical when someone gets kicked off Big Brother or Manchester United lose or whoever is Chancellor at the moment makes a negative comment about the economy? Does he think that because unemployment has risen nobody has a job, or money, or is capable of looking after their family and being happy while they do it? Does he believe, above all, that the entire country is hanging on his every word, their lives and emotions governed by his lightest nuance?

People like Cameron, politicians, journalists and liberal arts types in general can never understand that the great majority of people do not take them seriously, do not care what they have to say even if they should happen to hear it, and have opionions and feelings based on experiences and ideas quite unrelated to Cameron and his kind.

British society is made up of many, many units, with connections within and between them, of a thousand different characteristics, the vast majority of which are not broken at all, they work perfectly well. The Edlington case is not in any way part of a trend, and is not an example of anything other than itself. There is nothing Cameron and his kind can do to change it or to prevent some child of the future from experimenting with the suffering of someone younger.*

I wonder what pointless, repressive law will result from Cameron's failure to recognise that sometimes thing shappen because people are bad and there is nothing he can do about it.

*Child murderers seem to act in pairs. That seems to be the only thing they have in common. Maybe Cameron can start by forbidding friendship.


Vincent said...

You raise some important topics. Actually Radio 4 has given enough detail about the attackers' families to say that there was plenty of brokenness in their upbringing. I think you would be able to find the information from the BBC site, but I have heard a criminologist and a former principal of a secure "home" for such children talk about it.

Cameron's idea of the "broken society" is his chosen soundbite to remind people gently what British Conservatism is based on: nostalgia for a better past, whilst Labour is based on hopes for a better future.

When Cameron speaks of the broken society he means to imply that it can be fixed. I think you have confused him with Gordon Brown when you suggest he may initiate some new repressive law.

I agree with you that sometimes things just happen and that it cannot be blamed on anyone in particular. Yes, you can say that "people are bad" as if nothing can be done about that either. But in fact children who do these things always come from terrible backgrounds and can sometimes be helped to grow up and live a decent caring life thereafter. (source BBC again)

I agree with you that the case in question is one of those very rare things that happens from time to time. However the details of the family's conduct might have sparked Cameron's heartfelt Jeremiad: the children given cannabis, allowed to watch violent films and pornography from videotapes left around the house. Other aspects, such as being frequent witnesses of their father's drunken violence, could have happened in any age - probably more in the past than now.

It's true that not every child who has such a background becomes bad; but this doesn't diminish the possibility of redemption.

Do you have a vote in the forthcoming General Election? We have to choose Cameron's party or the Broken party with the Broken leader.

Cameron will, I hope, be a proper Conservative PM - primus inter pares - guided by traditional conservative principles, in which parental responsibility will be upheld and encouraged not undermined by the state. And in other ways I look to the new government to relinquish responsibility back to professionals - teachers, NHS staff and police - wherever possible. It will take time because initiatives to do the right thing for its own sake have been sapped by form-filling, target-driven motivations.

And if Cameron's government fails to achieve it all, I hope it will have tried, and it won't change my view that it's what we need.

CIngram said...

I should have dug a little deeper into the children's background. I assumed from the anonymity order that nothing was known, but clearer a great deal has come out and it is as I expected. Children who have something to lose and some concept of their own future simply do not behave like that.

It was the phrase 'broken society' that caught my attention, since, despite the total failure of rather too many elements of that society, the idea that society as a whole is broken, or is somehow more damaged than at some point in the past, is surely false, and therefore not a good premise to build policy on. That's why I was concerned about repressive laws, which are not typically Conservative. Your putting it in the context of Conservative nostalgia suddenly makes it all clear. It is just rhetoric. I too, hope that Cameron will be a genuine Conservative Prime Minister and will reduce the state and understand and respect personal freedom, although I wonder if British politics has not been irredeemibly poisoned by the last too PM's. We shall have to wait and see. There is certainly no one else who can be expected to do it.

Reading about the discovery of the attack, how the victims were found and treated, and the immediate aftermath, I get the impression that Edlington is very far from being a broken society; it seems to function well, people knowing and helping each other.

Although it may be possible to identify and try to alter the family environments which are always present in such cases, it is much harder to know what to do. Here in Spain there has been for some years great concern about the number of men who murder their wives/girlfriends. Each case is dealt with in great detail by the media and the politicians and laws are passed and nothing changes, because the real purpose of the law seems to be to get the rest of us to recognise that domestic violence is a bad thing, which I think we already knew. But the people at whom the message should be directed aren't listening, and anyway it's the wrong message. Men who kill their wives don't do it because they don't know it's wrong, but in spite of knowing it.

It isn't the same case, of course, but it shows what happens when you try to solve the wrong problem.

Yes, I do have a vote (if I remember to do the paperwork) and I shall not be voting for Brown/Mandelson/Milliband. They have done quite enough damage.