What do we do when someone is beyond the pale? What do we do with someone who has committed monstrous crimes? What do we do when someone has information that will save lives and refuses to detail the information?
This is something I struggle with, having worked with serious offenders, serial offenders who have no remorse, having worked with survivors of sexual abuse and having worked with people who could have saved lives but chose not to, I do struggle with this, and most of the time, I am against the death penalty, but if I’m in a bad mood and thinking of the lasting damage that has been inflicted on the lives of clients or people I know well such as friends who have survived genocides, I do move to thinking the electric chair – a horrific death – is the best way forward and the only answer.
I am human. I am not perfect. Although my emotions are very much limited by a condition of the brain, I still do have feelings, but as Ben Shapiro says, facts don’t care about your feelings.
There are some things that are wrong. They are simply wrong. They go against human nature, they go against civil thought and they go against any notion of personal liberty and freedom from tyranny.
People around the world envy the West for our laws and our less corrupt governments that interfere less with people’s lives. People around the world envy our criminal justice system, the fact we outlawed torture and state murder. This is one of the reasons so many people want to come to the West – we have created a better society. Through centuries of wars, hardship, studying, learning, listening, we have created a better society. The wokenistas say “Do better”. We have to do better than Egypt or Iran or North Korea, and we have to be better.
Battlestar Gallactica’s second and third series pose serious questions. When the Cylon was tortured and raped multiple times and another Cylon was about to be raped, it was said, “You can’t rape a machine.” As in it was open season on any Cylon female. Again, I look at the people we think are different from us, who we think don’t feel and experience life the way we do. People from some African nations go through the most appalling tragedies and seem to cope fine. Do they experience life in the way a Westerner does? From what I know from friends, they do, but in some cultures such as Rwandan, people are not allowed to show any sort of sadness at all in public, therefore their ability to experience life as Westerners does seems in question, unless you know that your friend has left the room so that they can cry.
The English version of the sci fi drama Humans showed a female robot being used by a group of teenage boys at a party and a lead female character walks out, disgusted. Whether we view other people the same as us or not – and I hope we hold all lives dear – it is about us. It is about our intentions, it is about our heart, it is about our morality and it is the kind of person we want to be. If we harm another person, it damages us. It lessens us. If we act in self-defence, that is another thing, but to deliberately harm another person without care because they are different to us, that says how inhuman we are.
Night time in prisons are not easy places to be because the male and the female inmates cry about what they have done. I was working with a group of men, and one was an alcoholic who went to the pub every morning and came home every night. Then the road rage murder committed by Kenneth Noye, a former gangster, hit the news, and the older alcoholic man came into my office, crying. His mind was flooded with all the things he was trying to block out with alcohol, all the terrible things he had done to others when he had been involved in the East End gangland world. Every day, he came to my office and sat at the side of my desk. He spent most of the day, every day, crying. I kept him in tea and biscuits and offered support when he needed it, and I got him into a care home that would treat him decently.
What people have done does hit them, and I do think “good”. We do all have to deal with our decisions, and the more severe the harm we have caused, the worse the personal outcome is for the offender.
I wondered for a long time why the guards at Guantanamo Bay put gas masks on the detainees. I realised why. It was so that when the detainees were in emotional or physical pain because they had been tortured or beaten or held for over a year, four years, without a trial, the gas mask hides the detainee’s face and muffles their voice. It is easier to inflict pain on someone if you can’t see their face or hear their voice.
Battlestar also raises the question of whether or not a person accused of treason, collaborating with an occupying enemy and ordering mass murder of civilians should receive a fair trial. I lived in Belgium at the start of the commemorations of the two world wars. I went to museums to see how Belgian people lived under occupation. Coming from the UK, which was never occupied in the Second World War, I have to say that even being in a museum and reading about the ways in which people in Belgium had to live under occupation was different. There was a really nasty feeling, an atmosphere of uncertainty even in the museum.
No one knows how they are going to react in a situation until they are in that situation. In Battlestar, Gaius Baltar was elected President and settled the remainder of the human population on a planet, away from the spaceships they had been in, and then the Cylons found them and occupied the planet. Baltar gave in and collaborated with the Cylons, although he was more of a hostage than collaborator, with a gun held to his head so that he would sign death warrants.
As Beast/Hank Mccoy in the second X-Men film asked, “Is it cowardice to want to protect oneself from persecution?”
At first, the new President, Laura Roslin, doesn’t want Baltar to have a trial, but decided it must go ahead for morality’s sake. At the trial, it was shown that everyone hated Baltar for personal reasons as well as for his alleged collaboration during the occupation. It is said at his trial that everyone else has been forgiven. People have been forgiven for being part of the civilian police, people have been forgiven for harsh military decisions to abandon the people on the planet, people have been forgiven for murder, for sending suicide bombers to murder Cylons and collaborators, for shooting down a vessel with over 1000 civilian passengers, so why was Baltar the only person who was not forgiven, and the only person on trial?
All the shame of what everyone had done in the continuing war, in the occupation, all the anger, all the pain was being placed on one man. The scapegoat. The term “scapegoat” comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of a goat having all the pain and guilt of a year’s sin placed on it, and the goat is sent out of the town to the wilderness to die. The painting by Holman Hunt illustrates this, and Christians believe that Jesus became the scapegoat for the sin of the whole world for all time when He died on the cross. The scapegoat – all guilt, sin and wrong doing placed on one person so that everyone else can be seen as blameless.
Today in society and on social media, we see trial by the mob and mob justice. We see protests causing teachers to lose their job and even have to go into hiding with their whole family. We see sexual harassment and even a bad date tried and judged on social media by people who don’t know all the facts, who weren’t there when the incident took place and have no evidence. Lives are ruined.
I do believe in the law. I do believe our laws in the UK need to be upheld more than they are by the police, by the courts and by the prisons. The UK could be a truly great place if we aspire to uphold the values that set us apart from so many other nations, and that does mean setting our feelings to one side and letting the facts speak, no matter how difficult that may be to us.