Those Poor Darling Burglars

Playing No Part In Their Own Lives

Theodore Dalrymple on choice, crime and the importance of punishment:  

One of the explanations of ill behaviour, if you like, is a kind of mechanical one. People have certain experiences and they react to them in a certain self-destructive way, as if their behaviour was that of a billiard ball being impacted by another billiard ball… [But] agency is extremely important. You don’t deny that things are more difficult for some people than for others, but if you deny the agency of people, then you begin to treat them as objects rather than as subjects.

There’s been a very strong current in British intellectual circles that criminality is akin to an illness, and therefore it’s wrong to treat it as something that people have any control over. And of course this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In England, the leniency of our criminal justice system - precisely, I think, because of our tendency to sociologise everything, to say that people are not agents… this actually promotes criminality… It’s as if criminals didn’t have thought processes like us, [as if] they’re completely different from people like us. But they’re not different from people like us, on the whole…  

It’s very curious how people say that prison doesn’t work because a high proportion of prisoners when they come out commit offences again, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anywhere in a British publication that this might indicate that actually they should be in prison for longer. Another very obvious consideration, which is completely beyond the British intellectual class, is that the number of victims of crime is very much greater than the number of perpetrators. So each perpetrator actually creates large numbers of victims, and therefore it’s not kind to people who live in areas where there’s a lot of criminality not to deal properly with the criminals. We deal with criminality as if it is a benefit received by the poor, instead of what it is, one of the great hardships of being poor.

Mr Dalrymple’s views are somewhat at odds with those found in the pages of the Guardian, where readers are told with great certainty that burglary is “really quite inconsequential,” unworthy of punishment, and that anger at being burgled and the subsequent sense of violation are somehow trivial, plebeian and unsophisticated. Such that expectations of lawfulness and justice - and not being preyed upon, repeatedly, with impunity - are airily dismissed as “idiotic attitudes.”

Elsewhere (290)

Dave Huber reports from the bleeding edge of intersectional scholarship:

Rutgers University’s Brittney Cooper… an associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies… says that the very concept of time itself is racially biased. In an interview with NPR last week, Cooper said that the way we “position ourselves in relationship to time comes out of histories of European and Western thought”; in other words, “white people own time.”

According to our feminist educator, time “doesn’t feel linear” for black people – all of them, presumably - because, she says, they live with “the residue of past historical trauma.” You see, for “African-American folks,” the present “feels like the past” – specifically, “narratives of race that are rooted in violence and a lack of freedom” – i.e., slavery – “can become our reality again at any moment.”

Somewhat related

And John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi ponder leftist theories of crime

Criminologists’ lack of direct contact with subjects, situations, and neighbourhoods—their propensity to abstraction—invites misunderstandings about the reality of crime… The gulf between numbers on a spreadsheet and the harsh realities of the world sometimes fosters a romanticised view of criminals as victims, making it easier for criminologists to overlook the damage that lawbreakers cause—and to advocate for more lenient policies and treatment. Evidence of the liberal tilt in criminology is widespread. Surveys show a 30:1 ratio of liberals to conservatives within the field, a spread comparable with that in other social sciences.

At which point, readers may recall a Guardian interview with lawyer and activist Clive Stafford Smith, who airily dismissed burglary as “really quite inconsequential,” thereby implying that the wellbeing of burglars is more important than the wellbeing of their numerous, often very poor, victims. Especially if the burglar is a “young black person.” According to Mr Stafford Smith and Guardian columnist Decca Aitkenhead - for whom, such things are largely theoretical and not a routine fact of life - anger at being burgled and the subsequent sense of violation are somehow trivial, plebeian and unsophisticated. And so, these enlightened creatures pretend to feel sympathy for career criminals who may prey on their neighbours for years, while disdaining the victims’ expectations of lawfulness, and justice, as “idiotic attitudes.”

Update, via the comments:

Continue reading "Elsewhere (290)" »

Burglars Have Feelings Too

Thanks to Dan at Monday Books, I discovered that Theodore Dalrymple now has a regular column called The Hilarious Pessimist. One to bookmark, I think. 

Here’s a taste:

The arrest of a couple in Melton Mowbray for shooting at four burglars, wounding two of them slightly, drew the following comment from Pam Posnett, councillor for Melton North: “I feel sorry for the residents who were put in this position, I also have sympathy for the people who broke in, in so far as how the situation was handled…” Was Pam Posnett thinking of her electoral chances when she said this, calculating that there were at least as many criminals in Melton North as ordinary householders, and that therefore it was advisable for her not to come too firmly down on the side of householders against burglars? Even more alarming, however, was the manner in which she expressed herself… Nothing corrupts (or bores) so completely as the passive voice, and Pam Posnett speaks of people being put in situations, and of situations that were handled, as if no one were doing either the putting or the handling. Thus there is nothing to choose, morally, between the putters and the handlers, for all is a matter of fate, not action.

Incidentally, a new collection of essays by the good doctor appeared in my mailbox earlier this week. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, so I can’t tell you that it’s good. Just that I expect it will be.