Monday, November 12, 2007

Lone justice

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Plainclothes British police patrolling their beat.

It's been a while since I posted anything in the "Britain self-destructs" category — too easy. No sport in it. But this article, while about an incident that probably drew little attention, seems so symbolic of the state of the contemporary U.K. that it's worth pondering. From the online BBC News:
A pensioner fought off robbers with her walking stick after seeing them attack a 12-year-old girl.

Police are trying to trace the woman, believed to be in her 70s, who came to the girl's aid in a subway in Stretford, Greater Manchester.

The girl was robbed by three youths who stole money from her blazer pocket. The pensioner comforted the girl and even replaced her stolen money. Police say the girl's family want to thank the "brave" pensioner in person.

Robberies like this happen by the hundreds every day in Britain; the only thing that makes this newsworthy is the intervention to protect a young girl from feral youths. Not by the police, but by a 70-something woman, who no doubt can remember when her country, whatever its faults, was a place where you could walk outdoors practically anywhere without worrying about getting mugged.

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Nowadays, every city in the U.K. is like New York in the '70s. Crime as wallpaper. Unless you manage to get yourself murdered, preferably while being black or an immigrant, don't expect any joy from the police. Burglaries in particular are so routine that if you are victimized, you can jump up and down on a pogo stick in front of the cop shop while singing "Jerusalem" without persuading The Bill to bother about your case.

What's going on here? Well, to take proximate causes first, the police leave crime prevention to septuagenarian ladies because something like 90 percent of their time is spent on desk work. Never mind citizens getting bashed, first things first: get those forms done properly. No bobby is safe from the long arm of the bureaucracy.

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However much individual police constables and detectives want to do the job they imagined they were signing up for, they are up against a system that thwarts them. PC David Copperfield (a pseudonym, presumably) wrote a book, Wasting Police Time, describing his first-hand experience. The blurb says:
PC DAVID COPPERFIELD is an ordinary bobby quietly waging war on crime...when he’s not drowning in a sea of paperwork, government initiatives and bogus targets. 'WASTING POLICE TIME' is his hilarious but shocking picture of life in a modern British town, where teenage yobs terrorise the elderly, drunken couples brawl in front of their children and drug-addicted burglars and muggers roam free. PC Copperfield reveals how crime is spiralling while millions of pounds in tax is frittered away, and reveals a force which, crushed under mad bureaucracy, is left desperately fiddling the figures.
And that's before you add the ultimate fear factor: racial relations. In 2000, following a report that accused the U.K. police of "institutional racism," the Race Relations Act was amended to include all public authorities.
The new act for example covers the Police and makes it unlawful for any police officer to discriminate on racial grounds in carrying out functions including stop and searches, arresting and detaining suspects. Chief Officers of Police will be liable for all acts of discrimination under their command, unless they can prove that all reasonable steps have been taken to prevent discrimination.
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While the intent of this legislation is defensible, it clearly puts the burden of proof on the police to show that they are not "discriminating," a term so general that it can mean practically anything. And chief officers, knowing that their careers could take the hangman's drop for any instance of supposed discrimination, and that there is no way to tell what a court might consider "reasonable steps," will naturally try to make themselves legally bulletproof. So the word goes out, sotto voce, that ethnic minorities and immigrants are by definition victims and the only villains are indigenous Brits, unless you catch a victimperson in the act with 14 witnesses and CCTV footage.

Those are the immediate causes of the U.K.'s plunge into apocalyptic criminality and the defense at the sharp end being left to civilians (who have to be careful not to use "unnecessary force" against robbers or burglars, lest they be sued for violating the criminals' civil rights).

I think these are symptoms of a deeper malady, though, the culmination of trends that go a long way back. After their gallant stand against the Blitz and their contribution to the allied victory in World War II, the British people promptly voted out Winston Churchill and voted in a Labour Party with the express aim of socializing the country. Thus began the nationalization of industries and the welfare state. It was 20 years before Britain started backing off from nationalization, and the welfare state has never relaxed its grip.

The Left's ideas were put into practice in the U.K. and remain the working ideology. The state sets the rules for everything right down to details of everyday life. If there is a problem, it's the state's to fix. About the only thing that has changed in 60 years is that the Thatcher government's "reforms" turned corporations loose to pursue profit pretty much as they saw fit. Today, hemmed in between the corporations and the government — opposites in theory, partners in practice — individual preferences and initiative count for almost naught.

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When people find themselves in a situation where they have little influence on their country's policies or their living conditions and are assured that the state will "take care" of them come what may, regardless of what they do or don't do, it's disturbing but not surprising that so many of them simply abandon responsibility for their society or even themselves. The result is what Britain has sunk to: kids running wild, career criminals preying on what remains of the middle class, politicians out of touch with their supposed constituents, street-level policing shackled by bureaucracy and political correctness.

Maybe the lady who rescued the young girl from the yobs is smart not to step forward and allow herself to be identified and acknowledged for her bravery. After all, the yobs are still out there, and might come calling on her while 90 percent of the bobbies are diligently serving and protecting — themselves from the politicians.

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Dr.D said...

I think you have it worked out just about right, Rick. This elderly lady knows that it could be very dangerous to her, possibly even exposing her to a suit if one of the hoodlums was injured when she drove them off, so she is just going to lay low. She has her reward. She knows that she did the right thing and that is its own reward. It is a pity that more people do not do likewise, both in Great(?) Britain and in the US.

David said...

I'm frequently reminded, these days, of a passage from Walter Miller's great novel A Canticle for Leibowitz:

"To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law -- a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security."