Thursday, 4 April 2013

Guns, goths and the welfare state


It is always depressing when an individual case is used to justify changes to laws, rules or policies. We know from bitter experience that those extreme cases are never a good basis for change even when our instant reaction is "something must be done".

So the presumption in the Daily Mail that the killing of six children in the deliberate burning of a house is somehow the consequence of "the welfare state" suffers from precisely this problem. It is a matter of undeniable fact that most people who benefit from the welfare state do not set fire to their children so as to protect all or part of that benefice.

So on this basis I'm prepared to accept the argument that blaming welfare for Mick Philpott is like blaming the NHS for Harold Shipman - rather overstating the point. Which isn't to say we should debate whether a family as dangerously dysfunctional as Philpott's isn't made more possible by welfare but to say that welfare didn't make Philpott a callous sociopath.

But those who share this view might like to consider a little consistency. Next time there is a murder involving guns perhaps such folk might like to consider that perhaps it's the person rather than the gun who is responsible for the murder. And that without the motive of the murderer that gun would lie there benign and unused.

And perhaps those people might also care to stop trying to parcel up 'hate' into convenient little categories - the latest being Greater Manchester Police's nonsensical categorisation of "sub-cultures" as subject to the thing called "hate crime". Are goths and emos more subject to attack than supporters of one or other football team? Or tramps? Or, indeed, any number of 'groups' that are targeted for their difference by the sad and inadequate. Again we let one tragic case guide policy-making - it won't benefit the putative victims one jot to know, as the boot slams into their head, that this crime will be categorised differently.

By looking for simple answers - for the single culprit for a terrible crime - we fall into to the trap of seeking something other than human failing. For sure other factors are there too, but most often it's not guns or goths or the welfare state. It's an evil man.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those who claim Phillpott is a one off "just like the one Harold Shipman cannot be used to condemn all doctors" conveniently forget that, since Shipman, many new steps have been implemented in the NHS to help avoid another Shipman case - in other words, ALL doctors have been subject to the consequences of the 'one-off' Shipman.
So why not with the so-called one-off Phillpott ?