We are very slow on the uptake as a society in the UK. This is hardly surprising, as our education system is failing and is not about producing informed citizens. Like most of our institutions, it has been taken over by an elite few who pay themselves very well and mouth what politicians want to hear. Teaching integrity is now long replaced by audits that suit the fatal nexus of of high-paid managers and politicians. This is true across our public sector, banking, charities and the private sector. We have millennial faith in these ‘great and good’, who fiddle expenses, set each other’s pay, and can’t be motivated without bonuses most won’t earn in a lifetime or a lottery win.
Stanley Cohen wrote about the many religiously held idiocies that form basic assumptions in decarcerating society in ‘The punitive city: notes on the dispersal of social control’ (Contemporary Crises: 1979, 3(4): 341-63) more than 30 years ago. Many countries closed down prisons, asylums and reformatories. Just as traditional community had collapsed, we became addicted to using it to do all the disciplinary work. The assumptions involved are frankly pathetic and expose our most vulnerable to the mad, criminal and bullying. Our public debate has moved nowhere since Cohen, and most remain trapped in ignorance. The term ‘community’ has lost all meaning as other than ‘not locking up’ or ‘isolating’ offenders and those seriously off-the-rails. None can define it.
Frankly ‘we’ don’t care and would rather be distracted into vital stories about a woman with breast implants breaking up with her one time lover. We vote on ‘the economy’ with no clue as to what that might be. The current cuts in the UK public sector were well known before our election, but all parties remained quiet on them for fear of asking turkeys to vote for Xmas.
A look back in history (is this possible in a society that thinks 1066 was just a blip in result of our long-term national pastime of war with the French and may still believe Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 53 BC?) shows the emergence of our legal system from blood money payments (bots and wers), through public hangings, torture, the lash, incarceration and quite terrifying discipline. The problem of criminality is not new and has always been linked (Robin Hood,the odious flower tributes to Moat) to rebellion, as our State was not democratic and remains not in many ways. We tell history in heroics and reap the whirlwind of this. ‘We’ do not even understand how what democracy and freedoms we have were established, or by whom.
I can cite many academic papers and books and don’t feel they are entirely irrelevant; but they are no good until be can become more knowledgeable. Most of what ‘we’ think of as intelligent debate has already been done. The metaphor I propose is that of an environmentally irresponsible corporation,killing indigenous peoples in order not to incur costs in production. Our legal system is doing this and our economic system is doing this in terms of blighting the lives of those it can safely ignore to save costs. We have no intention of locking Moats away, let alone acting at preventative levels to stop their wider blight of lives.
Tyranny uses all kinds of discipline and it is usually very obvious. Show trials, maybe incarcerating 10% of the population overnight, torture, abductions, ‘disappearing’ and returns to Year Zero – what is it we fear our so-called and partly real democracies might be doing instead? The Soviets used to claim it was hidden deep in our advertising, fetish for detective novels, Orwell in News and Doublespeak. I can say for sure, that if the terror of the scrote descends next door, the State will do little to help and make matters worse by pretending to do something to the public at large, sure your problem will not raise interest until you are dead. Inspector Gadget has been maintaining recently that police both knew what an animal Moat was, and that the prison warnings about him were so routine it was reasonable to do nothing. The threat of scrote next door and authorities incapable of doing anything to remove them is, of course, highly disciplinary on the rest of us. We work in order to try to ensure it can’t happen to us and to buy houses where our children won’t play with theirs.
Lots of dross is spoken on not taking offenders away from their families, yet these are often criminal or deeply troubled families. The kind who floral trophy litter for Moat. I used to see kids escaping the criminal phase and settling down. This has become far more difficult, and I suspect much of the reason is we now have to apply for jobs rather than walk into them and out of them.