Dangerous Baggage

Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri

Law And Order – And Punishment

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Communities organising to defend themselves is understandable and even acceptable or commendable. Vigilantism, however, is categorically not. The idea of applying your own form of justice is approaching the same lack of respect for civilisation as looting your local shop or setting fire to buildings. It is counter-civilised.

So communities organising these defence groups should be careful to ensure that they are indeed acting in defence or as a deterrent. It would do each of us well to remind ourselves that we are all human and subject to the same fear, despair and rage as everyone else. In a defence group without proper training or controls you may be tempted to let your emotions get the better of you and forget what it means to be civilised, if for just a moment. At least if you accept that this could happen to you, you may then be able to guard against it.

If you are in one of these groups remember 2 further points. Firstly, this is your choice and you must take responsibility for it. You are putting yourself in the line of fire. If you do wake in the morning relatively unscathed you may well have broken numerous laws that govern the society you’re fighting for. Before you go out to defend your community you must know which laws you’re about to break and be prepared to be held accountable. To attempt to escape justice for yourself is to negate your reason for mounting your defence in the first place.

Secondly, you would do well to make attempts to assist and work alongside the police. Don’t just meet violence with violence. If you are going to defend yourself in the absence of police presence you may well be better off illegally detaining suspects until the police can arrest them. How about obtaining photographic or forensic evidence of who is attacking you and be prepared to testify in court possibly in the face of intimidation when the time comes.

Fighting smart and playing the long game is the wiser choice.

The Law

I think it is worth saying something as clearly as possible at this point. The following should not be exercised as punishment of anyone convicted of one of these offences

  • being shot
  • being tortured
  • having their house burned down
  • being deported back to their country of origin (except in accordance with UK law)
  • stopping benefits (except in accordance with UK law)
  • not treating injuries at a NHS hospital

Nor can any of the following tactics be condoned

  • calling in the army
  • issuing shoot to kill orders
  • shutting down parts of telecommunication networks

These things cannot be put into place because they are illegal. Two weeks ago they were illegal and they still are today. More importantly, the reason that they are illegal is that they have been considered at least uncivilised if not inhuman.

I understand the flawed and mundane argument of ‘well what about the human rights of the shop owners or the families of the bereaved, where’s their special treatment’. This is a futile if not banal argument; our society is supported and defended by its laws, to break them because you’re scared, upset or angry would be to do your country and community a grievous injustice.

To identify special cases in which we may flout our laws would be a grave mistake with terrible consequences. It seems appropriate at this point to recall a short dialog between Sir Thomas More and William Roper in A Man For All Seasons

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Be very careful with this point, it is very serious!

Looking for the inspiration of positive people and community spirit is a relatively simple task. Obviously the clean up groups and the emergency services spring to mind, but also the people on Facebook that are naming and shaming the looters, sacrificing friendships and risking intimidation and their safety. And the people that will testify in court in the coming months, are they not worthy of our praise in advance?

Finally, it is all too easy to overlook all those people still posting messages about their newborn babies on Facebook, still taking their children to the park, living out quiet, contented and civilised lives. Far from mundane this is inspirational for me. Shouldn’t this contentment be an aspiration?


Written by matthaughton

August 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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