Friday, 6 November 2009

Another response

The point I'm making, jakboot, is that the victims have, and need, a voice.

The victims are some of those people who you might say have greatness thrust upon them - simply because they have experienced the reality that the majority fear.

Denying a victim's involvement in the judicial process means hurting them further. What very few people seem to grasp about what the very nature of crime is is that it's a struggle for power. The criminal uses his or her power over the victim to take what the hell he or she wants, and the victim is disempowered in the process.

But the system - government, judiciary,.etc - only takes power: from the offender and the victim, by first of all by taking the liberty from the offender, then demanding the victim as a witness, and subsequently by not involving them in the punishment.

If the judicial system actually worked, who could complain? But the fact of the matter is that it doesn't. The government are figureheads that fulfill the illusion that there's some kind of justice and order in society. But the truth is far from that. Corruption happens throughout the entire system, from the very top all the way down. How else do you think crime is the way it is today?

And that corruption breeds contempt for the authority that behaves irresponsibly. You end up with resentment, and a breakdown in law and order, which is what we see today.

Why should anyone care about the law when it doesn't care about them? I mean, seriously? Only a fool would obey the law when it clearly doesn't serve everyone equally. Are you going to try to convince me that it does?

I'll briefly share my own experience. My girlfriend was raped a few years back. Total stranger did it. Pretty nasty. She was terrified, traumatized, lost all sense of control over her life. Depressed, angry, bitter...everything you'd expect from someone who felt that her body was there to be taken by someone for his own use when he felt like it.

What did the judge do? He told the offender he was "clearly an intelligent man" but what he'd done was wrong (in so many words) but "as she hadn't suffered unduly" he would sentence him to 4 years imprisonment.

He did about 18 months, was released, then raped a 16 year old at knifepoint.

An unusual case? Particularly lenient, or out of touch judge? Certainly not. I've heard similar things, often.

At the time of the attack, I seriously considered murdering the guy. Why? Well, when you look a bit deeper into the reasons it goes beyond what you think are reasons of simple revenge. The reason you want to kill people like that is so that the problem is no longer there. You want to be certain that it's gone away.

I wrote to my MP, not about the case in particular, but that I was aware he would, like so many offenders, get a short sentence, no treatment inside, and likely reoffend once released. Sex offenders are some of the most likely recidivists. I told me MP that.

And what was his response? He couldn't comment on it because it was "sub judice" - dismissing entirely the fact that I wasn't commented on my girlfriend's case in particular, but the sentencing of rapists in general.

Did that enhance my faith in "the system"? You tell me.

When I confronted Jack Straw when he was shadow home secretary about sentencing, and the effectiveness of victim involvement that had been proven in Scandinavian prisons and experimental prisons like Grendon, was he responsive, or did he stare back at me with the dead eyes of someone who simply wasn't connected to reality?

Do you need me to tell you?

So when the authorities that are supposed to be there to reassure you that the problem has gone away become even more of a problem themselves, it kinda makes you think a bit differently.

In all truth, those who walk the corridors of power know the way the system really works, just as much as those who have no power at all. If I or my girlfriend had been important enough, or had people in the right places, then he'd have gone away for a significant time. But I didn't, and he didn't, at least until he'd had his way with the poor 16 year old.

But the people who run the country: the established, been-to-the-right-schools, know-the-right-people but who are totally out of touch with the way things really are? They sit and dictate the lives of the ordinary ones like me, and probably you.

At the end of the day, a little fear running around in society is a great way to control it. Every government knows that. You make the citizens feel ill at ease, you let things get a bit out of hand, and you let everyone know who's boss.

If you're happy with that, then that's your prerogative. Just don't come complaining to me when you see things differently.

Guardian comment is free

"MORAL PANIC IN THE DOCK" (click for article)

My reply:

How very, very wrong you are, David Wilson.

First of all, before we start, let's look at the time and expense that's put into the imprisonment of an offender, compared to the time and expense that's put into helping a victim (or survivor, if we're going to be a little more proactive).

There's cost of court, legal team, judge, jury, police; then after conviction there's the expense of locking him or her up, prison staff, food, education, and everything else that goes into keeping the offender off the streets for however long his sentence is. Then there's probation, resettlement, half way houses, and all the other support the offender gets, post prison. He'll likely get some pretty good counselling during all the spare time he has to think about what he's done.

All the people that work around this offender are professionals. Some are very highly paid.

And what does the victim get? Well, there's the initial support and care from the police, but most of what the victim gets is voluntary: victim support is funded by the government, but minimally. Most of the staff are non professional people who simply care. Admirable, yes, but adequate? Certainly not.

It's well proven that victim/offender confrontation is hugely beneficial for both parties. Does that happen in the UK? Very, very rarely. And why should it be effective? Well, it's effective for a number of reasons: firstly, it gives the victim the chance to say what he or she needs to say to the person that had committed the crime against them. You might not be able to grasp this, Mr, Wilson, but that in itself is empowering for any victim.

Secondly, it enables to offender to see that his or her victim is a person, and not some object that's a source of funds or sex or whatever he or she has taken with no concern to the wronged party. Surprisingly, many offenders feel shame when confronted with what they've actually done, and the healing that can come about can certainly work both ways.

Now let's go back to that matter of empowerment for a moment, shall we? Why do you think that should matter? I mean, if the authorities, which we know to be the finest arbitrators of fairness and justice - incorruptible bastions of truth and honour that they are - are putting these nasty people in prison and punishing them, then why should any victim worry? Is that what you're saying?

Well, Mr. Wilson. The fact of the matter is that victims have lost their sense of power already, and what they want is to get it back. Why should they trust a legal, judicial and penal system that is ineffective, unjust, and corrupt as it is? Why should they trust a system that has little real regard for those that have suffered crime, but that functions merely to pander to the fears, mostly, of those who have yet to experience its horrors?

When you find yourself in a face to face conversation with a shadow home secretary whose sole purpose in attending your victim support scheme is to appear to care, and the reply from your local MP that your letter regarding the fact that rapists commonly receive absurdly short sentences whereas rape victims and their families and loved ones are changed for life can't be commented on because he finds it much easier to not actually bother to read the letter in the first place, you do tend to lose faith in the people who are paid, and therefore responsible for, the security of our nation.

People choose to take the law into their own hands for the simple reason that the law doesn't do its job properly. And, perhaps, people become offenders because the system we have now, right from the head of government, church, and legal system all the way down the line is corrupt, stupid and uncaring.

Involving victims in the process of sentencing and rehabilitating offenders is essential - for their own rehabilitation as well as that of the offenders.

And besides, they could hardly fuck things up any worse than the people that are entrusted with our so-called society right now.

Government is only interested in one thing: the disempowerment of the individual. And it's that disempowerment that's been one of the key reasons society has been breaking down of late.

Every citizen is only a victim-in-waiting, and victims are a special club that really understand what the shit is about in this world.

You need to find some respect for the victims, Mr. Wilson. And let me tell you this: each of them deserves a lot more say in what goes on in their world - more so, perhaps, than anyone else.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Guadian comment 24 Oct 09, 3:03am

Ministers warn of poll boost for BNP after Question Time

My comment 24 Oct 09, 3:03am

Well I think the boost was to be expected, considering the farce we saw.

Why was it all about the BNP? Question time is supposed to reflect a number of topics, not just what one person represents! Why didn't we hear what Griffin had to say about things other than race and immigration? Would he have had anything to say about the postal strike, or something more benign, yet expected of a "real" politician?

And why did David Dimbleby ask Griffin to explain his statement about his father being in the RAF, and Straw's dad being imprisoned as a conscientious objector?

It may not have had any relevance to Mr. Dimbleby, but frankly it did strike something of a chord with me - and I think a lot of people.

Griffin is a toad. If he's a holocaust denier, then he's as much of a toad as the Iranian "leader", and I don't think he should be given the time of day.

But the thing is, we live in a democratic society, and he's been getting votes because of his views, and frankly I don't think all of them are wrong - just 99% of them.

I'm one of those people who is bothered by unfettered immigration into a tiny, already overpopulated island. Britain isn't America. It isn't Australia. It's just a tiny little island a fifth of the size of Texas, that has four million more people than it had just a very short time ago.

Nick Griffin is right on the mark certainly about one thing, and that's immigration, and it's something the main parties simply cannot ignore.

It's abhorrent that this odious toad discriminates against people on the grounds of the colour of their skin. It's abhorrent that he should desire some ridiculous "repatriation" of "non whites", when they were born in Britain. This is disgusting, vile talk.

But many people see the advancement of Islam, and the loss of British cultural identity - way beyond the changes occurring in the 1930s - and these are the people who are attracted to him and his party.

The main parties have neglected the "indigenous" population - meaning those who have roots in Britain for generations. There's no shame in saying that. Many people don't think that immigrants deserve the same rights as those who have been in the country for generations, any more than new members of a club should.

Frankly, I wouldn't expect to feel anything less than a second class citizen in an adopted country. And I think it galls many people that newcomers go "to the front of the queue".

People may disagree with these views. But I, and they, are entitled to them. And no amount of shouting down and shaming will change that. If what Nick Griffin has to say appeals to voters, it's really our duty to say something better, and not simply to shout him down.

Guardian comment 28 Oct 09, 12:51am

This inversion of power is teaching our children that aggression can pay

My comment 28 Oct 09, 12:51am

Responsibility without authority is always a dead end.

People are bound to hate me for this, but the reason some kids need a very firm hand is because they're very scared.

The way you deal with an unruly dog is you show it who's boss: you dominate it, and make sure it knows its place. The dog respects and understands something more powerful than itself and it feels safe.

The same applies with kids. They need to feel safe, and the way they feel safe is by feeling that there is someone stronger than themselves

Guardian comment 01 Nov 09, 9:02pm

The new fast ways of keeping in touch are driving us further apart

My comment 01 Nov 09, 9:02pm (about 2 hours ago)

I don't think you should underestimate the way the internet is helping people communicate.

Sure, things are different nowadays, but different doesn't necessarily mean bad. Traditionally, people have been aware of some of the side effects of face to face contact: like it or not, we are animals as well as humans, and being in the physical proximity of someone else means one has to take the potential consequences of that fact into account. Being in the immediate physical reach of someone means having to account for their physical actions, which might not be agreeable. Communicating with someone remotely - out of their physical reach - can mean more direct and honest talk, without fear of physical harm.

This might sound absurd to some, but the truth is that we do operate from more than just an intellectual level: we do have unconscious motives, fears, beliefs and agendas that can cloud what we say to people, and why. Deep down in our reptilian brains, our reason is clouded by all kinds of fears and irrationality.

If writing anonymously on the internet like this has taught me anything, it's taught me the value of not having to wear a mask when I say what I think is the truth. Fact of the matter is, some people don't like to hear the truth - whether it's your truth or some "absolute" truth - and to feel safe enough to speak it really is invaluable.

I'm sure that as people explore the possibilities of communication via the internet, we'll experience depths - as well as shallows - of communication that we would never have without it.

Besides, we do have Skype and other video based internet platforms. It's quite easy to hold a face to face conversation with someone thousands of miles away nowadays, and many people do. And I have to say, it again has enormous benefits. It, again, is a very different mode of communication.

Given time, I think the internet will help us explore who and what we are as thinking, feeling human beings more than any time in history.