1st June 2005
of those hated do-gooders
Whenever the latest
media-inspired hysteria over street crime erupts, you can be sure that
the do-gooders will be facing the blame shortly afterwards.
is someone who is slack when it comes to law and order. Someone who will
explain away bad behaviour by reference to the culprits background.
Someone who will want to give the lawbreaker a second chance.
The opposite to the do-gooder is the hang em and
flog em brigade. Their answer is to penalise the wrong-doer;
to jail them or kneecap them or whatever hurts, and that will solve the
The two camps tend to hate each other more than they hate the criminals.
I tend to side with the do-gooders. I dont believe in evil (or good)
and I think that humans are equally disposed to both depending on the
circumstances. The circumstance that matters most is social stability.
Norms are set by the community. Where the community is weak and under
pressure, anti-social behaviour is likely to be greater. John Lonergan,
the Governor of Mountjoy Jail, has pointed out that 80% of the inmates
there hail from five or six areas of Dublin. This is hardly a co-incidence.
The other area of social weakness in our society is the faultline between
generations, which tends to cleave off young people into a sort of independent
republic where the influence of older people collapses. In this sense
a lot of pop culture is downright sectarian, reducing anyone outside the
focus of the youth culture, ie older people, as somehow inferior.
The youth culture that is sold through the media is as conservative and
rigid in its demands of young people as any culture that has preceded
it. Youth norms in fashion, body shape, music taste, language, etc; far
from being liberating actually wrap young people up in norms that someone
else (usually a media CEO) has made up for them.
That in itself doesnt explain anti-social behaviour but it adds
to the weakness of community when the community is under pressure from
other quarters. It removes young people from community influence.
Then add in the fact that the social mixture in our communities is determined
by how much you can afford to pay for a house, if at all, and you are
left with a potent mixture of alienation down near the bottom of the pile.
This is a situation that policing on its own will not fix. I pity the
gardai in this regard - we are handing them problems which they have no
chance of solving.
What is required here is the Zero Tolerance solution. This doesnt
mean the deployment of the Army Rangers. It means estate management, the
immediate removal of graffiti, clean streets, gardai on foot, no bonfires,
no burnt out wrecks, eviction of anti-social families and so on.
It also means money - serious money. Maybe the presence of a football
club, swimming pool, resource centre, snooker club, post office, pub,
cinema, theatre, school, church, skateboard park, playground and youth
clubs (for starters) wont solve the anti-social behaviour problem.
But it would bloody well help.
We need that sort of do-gooding.