...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 2874: Throwing the Baby Out With the Bathwater


I think I have to say I'm appalled about Baby P; apparently it's now COMPULSORY.

So yes, I'm appalled. And, obviously, I'm appalled by the people who did it.

But I'm ALSO appalled by the people who are BAYING for BLOOD. "Put them to the torture!" seems to be the common consensus.

No, no, a thousand times no.

COMPASSION is what is supposed to separate human beans from animals. And on that ground, Baby P's mother and her partner and their lodger have FAILED. But that is NO REASON for US to fail the same test.

Torturing people is WRONG even when they themselves are torturers.

Killing people is WRONG even when they themselves are killers.

So why do people say otherwise? Sometimes I have to think that you people are not MONKEYS at all, but some kind of no-horned species of BERSERK RHINOCEROS: angrily charging in with no second thoughts, or even first thoughts.

I have asked Daddy to try to EXPLAIN, and he calls it a very HUMAN reaction:

Nobody demands horrible nasty punishments from a position of TOWERING MORAL RECTITUDE; we call for horrible nasty punishments because of our SHAME, because these people remind us of all of our own little failings, all the little times we look away or fail to help, they remind us how LITTLE a gap compassion makes betweens human beans and animals and then we try to say "Noooooooooooo, we're not like that! These cannot be people like US; they must be MONSTERS! And there's only ONE way to deal with MONSTERS!"

(You'll be UNSURPRISED to learn that this means FRANKENSTEIN and not BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.)

People may talk about "letting the punishment fit the crime" or "an eye for an eye", but what they mean is that they feel that EVIL deserves EVIL.

But how can it EVER be FAIR to do EVIL?

Perhaps I am being a SIMPLE elephant, but it seems that nothing can undo the harm that has been done; all we can do is try to do NO MORE harm.

People who do horrid things should go to prison (which I have heard is a very horrid place) and we should try to help them to become better. And maybe, to make sure THEY do no more harm, we can never, ever let them out again, but that does not mean that we should not try to help them.

There is also the UNDIGNIFIED spectacle of a search for a SCAPEGOAT. Great are the cries of: "who is to blame for this tragedy?!"

Well, we KNOW who is to blame; they are the people going to PRISON.

Has anyone asked: "How many children have the Social Services SAVED? "

But could THIS poor toddler have been saved, if someone in "authority" had acted? Possibly, yes. The signs were there (but missed); the warnings were given (but unheard); action was called for (but no one took it).

That is a terrible, horrible failing. But it is fair to pick SOMEONE to blame for all this?

The world is TOO BIG and TOO COMPLICATED for each of us, individually, to look after everyone else individually. So we dump the responsibility on someone else. We give people an IMPOSSIBLE job to do, UNDERFUND them, and THEN blame them when – surprise, surprise – something horrible happens.

Doesn't that make it ALL of our faults?

I have listened to a LOT of points of view on this, but the one that to ME seemed to be KEY was, believe it or not, on Mr Jonathan Dimbledonkey's radio show, "Nanny Answers", from a person who TRAINS social workers. This person said that in the last ten years the guidance has changed from "Paramount Importance of Protection of the Child" to "Best to Keep the Family Together".

The additional assertion was that this was CHEAPER for the Government, but that might just have been the contributor's allegation and may NOT have been their motivation.

Think of the calculation: the harm that is done to the (many more) children just by being taken into care, sometimes (maybe rarely) needlessly versus the harm that is done to the (very, very tiny number of) children not taken into care who end up DEAD. Who can POSSIBLY do the maths to work it out?

What sort of a SYSTEM would it take to make sure that no child was ever, ever killed by an abusive parent or guardian? Accepting that you can never account for accident or madness, surely deliberate ongoing malice like this could be spotted and stopped? But how far would the system have to lean towards ALWAYS taking children into care? How INTRUSIVE would we need to make the powers of the social services? Should there be TESTING of parents, or indeed testing before people are ALLOWED to be parents?

We want – and quite rightly too – freedom to have our children and to raise our children; we don't want the Big Nanny State intervening in our lives to tell us how they should be run. But how can Big Nanny State tell the difference between US (nice people) and THEM (monsters)?

It can't. So we compromise. Sometimes the State CAN intervene, sometimes it CAN'T. And we'll have a COMMITTEE to decide which is which. And sometimes committees cannot bring themselves to take action, which usually means that we err on the side of benevolent non-intervention and everyone is generally happy,

And occasionally it means we fail to act when desperately needed.

Doesn't THAT make it ALL of our faults?

And yet, the Government DOES treat the social provision (social workers, unemployment benefits, preventative health care, basic relationship education and so on and so on) in this country VERY BADLY. They try to get it all on the cheap, all the while happy to splash out on "big ticket" items like Olympic Games, or I.D.iot cards or Middle Eastern Wars… For that, we get dedicated people who try their hardest, (as well as some mediocre people who muddle on through). And once in a while, we get a massive cock-up.

But we get the sort of Government that we vote for (and to be fair it wouldn't make much difference whether it was Conservatory or the Labour).

So doesn't THAT make it ALL our fault too?

For more on this, read:

Auntie Alix

Darrell G

Or Mr Costigan


lizw said...

Best post I've seen on the whole sorry mess. And yes, I think rhinoceros is about right. You might like to ask your Daddies about Mr Ionesco's famous play some day. It could make a good bedtime story for a fluffy elephant :-)

Will said...

Aside from anything else, even if we did have the death penalty for murder (abomination that it would be), no-one's been convicted of murder in this case.