Following the case of Paul Clarke, I have been doing a lot of thought about our justice system. We live in an era when retribution has been taken completely out of the hands of the every day citizen and placed squarely in the remit of the state. This has been a gradual shift that has taken place slowly over hundreds of years as the police’s ability to enforce law has become more and more effective. But is this right? Is it reasonable to give such responsibility to the state? And what effect is it having upon us as a society?
First of all, is there even a problem? Some might argue that there is no problem with our justice system. They would cite that crime is far lower in our generation than any previous one. Blame for the belief that crime is ‘out of control’ would be placed squarely at the feet of the tabloid press, who have an interest in scaremongering as such a tactic sells papers. These arguments may be true, but regulation of the numbers of crimes committed is not the issue; the issue is whether, in our current society, justice is being served. Well, is it?
Those who take part in our legal system strive to free themselves from basic ignorance; that is the immediate and understandable ‘eye for an eye’ philosophy. ‘He murdered someone so should be put to death’ or ‘he raped someone so should have his dick cut off’, that sort of thing. So instead of this old-testament approach, punishment is dispensed dispassionately, with cool-headed calculation. These intellectuals are interested in what is better for society, rather than simply locking people up.
For example, a man bumps into a child on a station. As he bends down to apologise, the father punches the man in the face. The man falls, hits his head and dies. Should that father go to jail for life? The cool-headed intellectual says no. What would be the point? they ask. He did not intend to kill, merely to hurt. And the drawbacks for a long prison sentence are major: boy deprived of father, immense cost to the state and prison tends to make criminals rather than break them. The choice for the intellectual is clear: society would be best served by sending the man to jail for a few years, but certainly not as long as a murderer.
But these people have merely been trapped by another form of ignorance – ‘intellectual ignorance’. So concerned with the mantel of ‘objective thinking’ and so busy thinking about society as if it were a game to be manipulated, that they have forgotten about justice and the right of the individual. The man who died had friends and relatives who need to feel like justice has been served, regardless of what would make national statistics look better in the long run. Three, five or ten years for killing a man is not enough for those who have lost someone. It may be true that leniency and rehabilitation lead to a healthier society, but to think that takes precedence over a person’s need for justice is falling into an even greater folly – forgetting that inside everyone’s head is a conscious being. We are not machines. We are not bees, all part of the same hive. Inside each and every one of us is a mind to whom their experiences are everything. When you deny a person justice is breaks them. It is a punishment that cannot be bared.
So when these judges fail to punish criminals sufficiently what they are really doing is punishing the victims and fuelling what I call the ‘Daddy state’.
It has been claimed that we live in a nanny state, where the government has great control over our lives and snoops into our affairs. I think it is the other way around. We live in a ‘Daddy state’, where we think that the state is the solution to all of our problems. Kids aren’t doing well in school – we go running to the state. People are getting too fat – what can the government do to stop it? A crime is committed- it’s up to society to punish those responsible. We have decided that the state should be a father figure, someone to run to over the slightest problem. The state is our ‘Daddy’, and not a nice one either, but a ‘don’t tell your mother about our little secret’ type, and for this we only have ourselves to blame.
And what’s terrible about this situation is that the ‘Daddy state’ no longer looks out for us, but punishes us by treating justice as a way of tinkering with statistics and end results. Over hundreds of years we have allowed ourselves to lose all responsibility for our own justice and give it over to the state, but now we find the state was never interested in justice in the first place, merely about keeping the peace.
The effect of such corruption (of the human psyche) is that we have become as children, afraid to sort out our own affairs. Right and wrong no longer have any relevance when we always have to wait on Daddy’s word, and if Daddy’s word makes no sense to us as people, something has to change. What will it be? Will we go mad, or will we finally grow up?