Elephants In The Room

My old vicar used to turn up at primary school and tell us stories about Wilberforce the Elephant.  A few years on I opened the batting with him for our local cricket team.  I was agnostic even then, but knew the world would be a better place with more people like him and his engaging wife in it.  I still remember some of those stories, though they weren’t as exciting as the ones of my elder Brother, Hugh.   Wilberforce did things like going on holiday.  He and his mate, a rat, would be about to board a glossy, well-painted boat (a bit like Cheryl Cole?) only to find the rats deserting it.  Ratty would have a quick chat with them and discover this ship was hideous underneath and that they should use the much safer one on which the money had been used for real maintenance rather than covered up in glossy paint.

I’m agnostic a bit like David Hume.  Proof or disproof of god is a rationalist fantasy.  You can get yourself into an internal state to accept it, but that’s about all.  It matters little as long as you are discovering how to relate decently to yourself and others.  I prefer another route.

The elephant in the room of our society is the collapse of decent behaviour.  I doubt any origin of decency in allegedly primitive and guileless society.  The murder rates in them all turn out to be higher than ours.  Look back in our own history and you will find we have become less ‘savage’ through a rule of law and civilising techniques.  You will find the underclass is not new and many commented on it in the past.  Yet we know something is wrong as surely as if Wilberforce was treading (inadvertently – he was a nice chap) on our toes.  Crime is a problem and none of us believe it is being reduced.  Indeed, we don’t believe ‘statistics’, a Greek term meaning ‘numbers of the state’.  I can find papers showing the Greeks didn’t believe them and a 1910 paper that describes the Orwellian times we live in.

We need a definition of this ‘Elephant’.  This could be pieced together from academic work, but this begs the question of why we should have to.  Why do they not present it to us in pictoral form so our debates are informed?

One vague elephant in my reasoning is why it costs so much to deal with the utterly unworthy?  People trapped in the environs of antisocial criminals find they can get little respite.  The real solution would be to move the trouble-makers away, but this is not done.  Even if you are lucky enough to see them get a 2 year sentence, they are back in 8 months.  Their behaviour in gaol good enough to get early release.  Within moments,they are back at it, making one wonder what is was about gaol that made them temporarily ‘reform’ only to collapse instantly back home. An elephant surely treads on our toes about this.  The bastards don’t change – their behaviour just adapts to the disciplinary context.

Some donkey was released early from prison and has today killed the bloke living with his ex-girlfriend and put her and a cop in hospital in critical conditions.  He said he would do something like this, yet seemingly survived gaol and was able to convince people he was fit for release.  We used to use the term ‘learning transfer’ to describe something like this in management development, partly to explain why our teaching didn’t work.  People came on courses but never seemed to change back at work, acting as they always had.  Psychopaths have been shown to be three times better at convincing parole boards to release them.  It’s not just prison that fails to change behaviour; education away from the context of its use is a known disaster too.  Not many of us are much good at being educated.

We repeatedly pop up solutions to cure our violent and nuisance people, yet most are non-starters before we start.  There is no money for them.  We need to find some money, or come up with solutions we can afford.  Otherwise we are just posturing, which is what the politicians do.  Cops have their own solutions, which are solutions for them – basically writing stuff off as antisocial or neighbour disputes.  HMIC has stated this is no good.  Social workers don’t even get on scale.  Housing ALMOs also have their own solutions and these work for them.  Nothing works for victims, or as important, potential victims living in fear.

We can ‘change’ these bastards by banging them up.  The context of being banged up changes them.  They can’t go anywhere and can be swamped by numbers if they make trouble.  We know paedophiles can rarely be changed, but what do we know of the other recidivists?

I’d suggest this.  We need to replicate the gaol context for them in society if we are to release them into it.  To pretend we can change them internally is a lie.

21 thoughts on “Elephants In The Room

  1. I an a three-time loser in this respect and at last might be winning!. Ever do ‘symbolic interactionism’? This has your druggie cured by years of prison, only to lapse as soon as he gets out, back in his old haunts. We did some stuff at uni where students got stoned on tobacco only with others ramping up being stoned. The idea is the external context is very influential. Like bullies just lurve to bully in a locked room contain 6 big men armed with sticks?

  2. Yes, people have to want to change the way they think and act. That’s not easy as people become set in their ways and beliefs. If you tell someone that they are a no good weak and pathetic loser often enough, and they will begin to believe that’s true.

    Changing bad behaviour has to start in childhood, obviously! Someone in their 40’s and 50’s will be pretty much set in their ways, because they don’t know anything different. But surely, if someone goes through a very tough time of adversity, that can act as a catalyst for self change? Just my humble, non-academic opinion!

  3. I noticed you getting the Gadget ‘naive liberal’ treatment in his blog the other day Mrs.Magoo. Felt like mounting the white charger in your defence.JuliaM was getting it yesterday. There is nothing non-academic in your views – you often read like one.
    Once you deal with some of our most dire human specimens and are used to their ‘morality’ it’s very easy to ascribe rotten motives to anything they do, and see people who ascribe a more normal aspect to them as naive. The problem with cops and social workers is they start to do this to people who are telling the truth, which is, er, naive, and, er, pretty rotten.
    Whilst I rather have Hog at my side in a shooting match (actually, for survival reasons we’d probably split up) Mrs. Magoo, there’s no reason to suppose you’d act any differently with the same training and experience as us. What’s good about Hog is he doesn’t extend attitudes needed in such survival to where they are not appropriate. What we need to remember in liberal mode is this is inappropriate in some circumstances too. Panza and Daide both come to realise this in the novel. Panza conflates with Panzer to start with and turns to Sancho (Panza) in Don Quixote by the end. If you read this magnificent novel (Cervantes) you discover the only person who really knows what is going on is the horse. Hog will have to forgive me, but this character may be based on him!

  4. Thanks for your thoughts of a “white charger” in my defence! I shall hold that image in my mind 😉

    Yes, I noticed Gadget had concluded that I am an idealist, which I suppose I am sometimes, whilst being a realist too. I also noticed that IG removed his comment from his post about Samantha…… “next time she should listen to social services and go into a refuge.” A little harsh of him I thought, considering the circumstances….which he must have also realised.
    I couldn’t reply to IG because he had closed the comments on the post. But Sam telling her ex that her new fella was a copper, was probably a bluff that she thought would protect her from her bully ex boyfriend. Pity it backfired so tragically for her and others, but clearly she must have felt that the bluff would keep her safe.

    I can recall using a similar bluff on bullies as a kid….”My uncle is a policeman and if you don’t stop it then you’re going to be in trouble, and so will your dad”!
    It worked every time and they always backed off, but that was a long time ago and it was kids, not adults.
    He really was a copper and in those days kids [and adults] were scared of the police.

    I tend to rely on my instincts and gut feelings a great deal, but I suppose that at times I have been naive and too trusting, in that I always hope that people are good.
    Pretty dumb of me, because quite clearly not everyone is!
    I understand that cops, and probably social workers too, get to deal with the worst of human nature day in day out and they often become conditioned to expect lies and nonsense from everyone they come in contact with.

    I have been baffled on many occasions by the attitude of some towards myself, when I have tried to get help with serious matters. They perhaps do not deal with straight talking honest people too often! They appeared to misunderstand and misinterpret whatever I said, and turned it into the opposite. Utterly bizarre!

    Very upsetting too, when professionals insult one with lies and fob offs, and then slag off the injured party in their records!

  5. …….The comment Gadget removed from his post about Moat, has now appeared as a new post, saying much the same thing. She should have taken up the suggestion of going into a women’s refuge…so it’s all her own fault, apparently, and that of her newly slaughtered boyfriend for falling in love with Samantha….who is described as one of the criminal underclass, for some reason.
    A classic case of blame the victim if ever I heard one, and standard system practice when there have been serious failings. But I don’t think I will bother making any further comment about it on IG’s blog.

    Although I have been tempted to question what on earth the importance of a female CC’s hair style has got to do with the serious matter of a killer gunman on the loose. I have seen quite a few male coppers who looked more ugly than Sue Sim!

    The comments made by JuliaM recently, reveal a completely different tone and attitude to the comments made on police blogs by the “JuliaM” of a few years ago.
    S/he must have had a personality transplant/transformation….or something similar!!!

  6. I read ambush predator from time to time and like Julia’s wit. In the 80’s we were still being encouraged to teach ‘industrial democracy’ – almost as in that 50’s film ‘The Way Forward’. In fact, the battle for democracy was being lost to bureaucracy, nasty foreign policy (the US Empire)and vapid entertainment. Orwell was right.

    I watched Sim in some dreadful PR exercise that went on for ever on TV last night. I don’t care what people look like and think, for instance, we should reserve newsreading for disabled people, but couldn’t help laughing. I’d get over it if I was working with her.
    Sexual morality is never what it seems (remember cops ‘spit-roasting’ some drunken woman etc.). Prostitution was all over Victorian London – Paxman’s book ‘The English’ is full of titbits. Hard for cops not to stereotype given what they see. Note Annie and Danny prostitute their kinds. They are based on former neighbours, and kids in the druggie scene often offer sex for food, drugs and ‘safety’. Gadget is entirely wrong on the refuge place – the problem is that we let the Moats of this world loose and then start blaming whole communities for doing nothing about them. It’s a disgrace, but cops are only bit-players in the wider problem. Slagging off the victims is a disgrace and it’s part of getting people killed and forcing many to live in fear. IG admits he’s scared of not being able to pay his mortgage and this is the common bureaucrat cry. There is academic work on this, but it’s very hard to get the penny to drop. My adult classes all go through a phase worrying I expect them to tell the truth back at work before they realise it’s about therapy and in complete confidence.
    We all ‘accuse’ others of naiveté Mrs. Magoo. We just rarely know how to relish it, or how uninformed our own views are.

  7. Yes, Orwell was right about the oppression of the people by the state and its employees – what a nightmare. The dangers will still be there if the Tories fail to stop the national NHS database project of people’s personal information. This worries me a great deal because ofthe abuses of power that would take place.

    I’m sorry to say that I had to laugh, when I heard the news that when Moat was spotted in the area of the town, there was a mad rush to get there by what sounds like hundreds of police officers, for ONE man! One cop car crashed into another, so I can guess that they were well stressed and on an adrenalin overload. Which isn’t that funny. However Moat did appear to make the police look a bit foolish, because he was right under their noses.

    What I saw of Sue Sim, especially the first TV interview, was that she didn’t look used to being “an actress” in front of the TV cameras. And although she was calm and didn’t show any signs of being nervous about being on TV, I got the sense that she was not especially comfortable with the experience. It’s not easy to be in the spotlight and everyone expecting perfection from one, and being the subject of cruel snipes and comments about how one looks.

    But I do wonder if it was nerves or an impish sense of humour that made her laugh on camera, [yesterday] when her colleague read out a card sent to the police by a child who described Moat as a “nutter”? The male cop sat next to her looked embarrassed and not at all happy.
    No easy thing either, to keep some sort of control on the 24 hour rolling news situation, because they want their story and all the details.

    RE: prostitution…..isn’t that the oldest profession?
    I do think that there are double standards and a lot of hypocrisy about prostitutes, or sex workers, which is a less stigmatised term for them. Men throughout history have gone to them for sex, to obtain some comfort which they could not perhaps get from a wife or a girlfriend, or a boyfriend for that matter! Some of those men have been Lords, MP’s, Knights of the Realm, Judges, Barristers, Lawyers and Policemen. Some men have used children for their own selfish desires, forcing them to perform sex acts and then degraded those children by calling them prostitutes, sluts, tarts, whores and a “Jezabel”. That sort of abuse is the most disgusting kind because it was/is done by the so called “respectable” men of society, whom ordinary people were and often are too scared to speak out against, usually. For me, the abuse of children and women, especially by professional men, is that sort of “serious imperfection” which needs to be exposed along with the perpetrators of it…..rather than the public speaking skills, make up and hair style of a female top cop.

    If people are “uninformed” about serious matters perhaps that’s because the government prefer to keep it that way to avoid scandal, embarrassment, disgrace and a “loss of public confidence” in the already corrupted rotten system.

    And no, I really don’t recall hearing about cops “spit roasting” some drunken woman etc….that sounds vile, cruel and thoroughly evil. When did that happen?

    I don’t often accuse others of being naive, but I do tend to point out if they are being ignorant and/or arrogant, selfish and/or deceptive, especially if that sort of behaviour is either dangerous or hurting myself and others. Usually after tact and diplomacy have failed and as a last resort! However, nobody can know all there is to know about everything and everyone in the world.

  8. The ‘spit-roasting’ involved two officers who picked up the woman, drunk outside a club whilst on-duty. It was in 2005. It Googles from ‘police spit-roasted victim’- and the officers were cleared of rape. They bragged of the matter in Guildford police station. Sad stuff.

    Police slang includes ‘stuck up an old dripper’ which means ‘out to lunch’ though refers to an old prostitute who has lost control of her vaginal emissions. I will spare you worse.

    You are right about the demeaning nature of references to prostitution. I can take terms like ‘luv’ (both sexes in Sheffield)but the ones you point to are clearly objectionable. Women use prostitutes too – gladiators were an example and we shouldn’t forget the rent boys or Bachi Baza “dancers” in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some of whom are killed in disputes between users. Sexual morality is never what it is made out to be. I used to visit a sexual assault forensic examination centre and can only say it was disgusting to discover what happens. Brothels are beyond belief the world over. Idiots, of course, assume I know from using them! My partner, bless her, took some time to understand what the boxes of tissues on every table in ‘jungle bars’ were for, blushing red when it dawned. The demeaning even gets to the level of the women’s toilets not being cleaned whilst the men’s are maintained spotless.
    Sue Sim looked gawky, but really we need to get over rubbish like that. The job could easily be done by, say, someone in a wheelchair or blind.
    Our attitudes are crass.

    I’ve been inside the mind of groups of people like Moat, male and female – barking paranoid narcissists frankly. Yet I see the same stuff in most organisations that need to change. Nasty, hostile, lying and grimly convinced of their competence whilst failing almost entirely. Tact and diplomacy, sadly, are used to cover it all up.

  9. Your blog really is a bit of an eye opener on the darker side of life and human behaviour, which to be honest I normally prefer to not think about. So thank you for sparing me from worse than what you have already discussed here. I couldn’t do your job, not in a million years.

    I suppose it’s true that tact and diplomacy are used to cover up an awful lot of unpalatable truths many do not want to acknowledge, or deal with. But just coming out with stuff and being blunt, which I know I can be, more so than tactful, often causes a bit of a shock. Sometimes people become offended and that can cause trouble, which was never the motive in the first place. Life can be a bit of a puzzle sometimes, trying to work out how best to deal with problems and find good solutions to them.

  10. “I read ambush predator from time to time and like Julia’s wit.”

    Cheers! 😉

    Glad to see your blog is now open, too. Will add it to the sidebar.

    To answer Mrs Magoo’s question, about my posts on police not being so favourable lately, well, in common with a lot of bloggers, I mostly report what’s in the news or what’s being reported by other bloggers.

    If that’s cops behaving badly, well, do the math, as the Yanks say…

    Am I anti-police? No, far from it. But I SHOULD be (with my political leanings) one of the most enthusiastic defenders of the police.

    That I’m not, isn’t entirely and solely the fault of the politicians/top brass/media.

  11. I wonder what political leanings are anymore. I was ‘old labour’ as a cop and young man. The intellectual bit of me is marxist, but only in the sense of examining the conditions of existence for ideas and practice. Practically, we may only be able to joke about such stuff – communism was worse than fascism as it promised good and produced evil, whereas fascism promised evil and produced just that.
    Cops are sadly a fine example of the current and heavily embedded idiocy of treating the critic as the enemy. Hardwick at the IPCC has extended this to lunacy, done this in public and is still not sacked, yet some poor sod who uses the word coconut commits a speech crime despite genuine apology.

  12. I know what you mean about seeing what goes on in someones face ACO, especially when they have been misled into thinking the worst “cowdung” about someone.

    You pointed out that because of your insight into prostitution and brothels, due to your academic research, certain idiots assumed that was because you frequented them! Upon that basis, my own small insight into the lives of prostitutes, the same idiots just might assume that’s because I am one, or have been…… Is this the Orwellian warning about the agencies of the state putting two and two together and coming up with five? Probably!

    People have to put up with many things they do not really want to do, just to survive. And/Or for a higher purpose…”the greater good”….blah de blah….

    • We have to be careful though Mrs.Magoo that we don’t start thinking we can easily tell whether the truth is being told on behavioural cues. Nearly all of us are very bad at that.

  13. I don’t know who it was who said it, but someone once pointed out that if everyone told the truth all the time about everything, then civilization as we know it would collapse! [Now there’s a thought for the wish granting fairy, if we want to transform the old rotten system!]

    I understand what you are saying ACO. Like you telling me that you prefer “Neil”, which isn’t your name! 😉

    And it does look like JuliaM is back to her old self on the Moat comments!

  14. Neil means champion in Irish – you can call me Champ if you like!
    It is possible that DNA encode culture somehow and we may be passing it down through the generations in this way. I’ve only seen work in finches. The power of lies may be more terrifying than we know. Truth would probably collapse many of our root ideas.

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