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.