I was away for most of last week and so picking up an Irish newspaper at the airport on Thursday morning was my first glimpse of Irish news in six days.
The recent tragic murder, stabbing and suicide story from Bray was one of the leading headlines. Another stabbing story from the West was featured along with several other reports of violent and nasty crimes on these shores, from child sex abuse allegedly carried out by other children to drug related incidents.
The vandals in Dáil Eireann also got a look in and, all in all, the first six pages were dominated with grim and depressing news that would certainly set you up for a pretty miserable day if you let it. Of course I needn’t have read any of it and thereby avoided the awfulness from polluting my relaxed, post holiday mind, but sadly I have to admit to reading through most of it as it was a three hour flight. Anyway, I like to know what is going on in the world around me. I think the fact that I had been starved of the media for a few days heightened my sensitivity and therefore the lack of good news was more noticeable. I should also add that I was reading a supposedly reputable broadsheet and not a red top.
Within the individual stories I noticed other questionable leanings. In the report on the Bray story it had emerged that the killer, Shane Clancy, had managed to buy a block of knives at a department store that was open 24 hours. The report went on to say that the shop refused to comment and you got a sense that there was a mild suggestion of some kind of responsibility on the shop’s part.
It only required a small leap to think, “If the shop hadn’t been selling knives in the middle of the night the incident wouldn’t have occurred.” Such an idea was neither explored nor discussed, but there was the mild implication of such; in other words a point of blame was being searched for.
It was the same in several other stories. Off licences and supermarkets were being fingered for underage drinking and the resulting woes because the price of alcohol was going down. New laws for gun licences have been drawn up because of the rise in gun crime. The blame game continues and you wonder where it will end. The general call is for more legislation; even more laws that will just restrict and penalise the law abiding and will be laughed at by those intent on doing harm. When will we face the fact that it’s our personal values that ultimately sustain a society and not more and more controlling laws? We shouldn’t need new laws about knives, as a knife isn’t necessarily good or bad, it is just a knife; what we do with it creates the problem.
Most people don’t break into houses, not because it is against the law but because it is morally wrong to steal. It is not the law against rape that stops men from assaulting women and surely we don’t assume it is the law that prevents us from murdering each other. It is personal values that guide us, not legislation. So where have those values gone and why do they seem so absent in today’s society? There was a time when one or two murders a year on this little island was quite shocking, it has now become a weekly occurrence and we just chalk it up to modern life. Is modern life responsible for breaking our individual moral compass?
Our modernity and political correctness have led to a warped way of looking at things. We are all appalled when a small child dies from neglect or abuse. The Baby P case in England is an example and has been echoed here. When you look at pictures of an innocent two-year-old, abused and eventually killed our hearts break and we instantly call for the authorities to do more; more social workers, more care. However what about the Baby Ps that survive? Not all little children who suffer abuse and neglect end up dead. The majority survive and some become the teenage thugs and bullies that terrorise. The Baby Ps of this world make us sad when they are two but mad when they are twelve. We are less than sympathetic when the abused grow up to be sociopaths and parent the next generation of Baby Ps. The other common myth is that badness always comes from disadvantaged areas. Again this is untrue, it’s not about where you come from but the values you were raised with. Traditionally we blame the youth for everything. If you read the papers regularly you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that all 13 to 22 year olds should be rounded up and sent off to live on an island until they become proper functioning members of society. This is another outrageous lie; it isn’t about age, it’s about values. When we lose our values we spiral into a sea of silly but seemingly necessary legislation. When we lose our values we look to an impotent government to police society and expect them to fix things, instead of looking to ourselves for the root of the ugliness and stamping it out.
The laws are becoming ridiculous. If you decide to do your supermarket shopping early in the morning you can’t buy alcohol until after 10am on a weekday or 12 noon on a Sunday. You might just want the whiskey for a cake or the wine for a sauce! They’ve also curtailed the night time purchasing of alcohol. It is fair to say that for the majority if alcohol was available for sale 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we would still behave responsibly. The legislation exists for the fools. You might have noticed your local convenience store rearranging their displays recently. This has to do with new EU rules. You can’t display wine prominently any more or near certain items such as cheese and crackers for example. That’s because you might go in for a block of cheese and a packet of crackers, spot the wine and destroy your life. Three cheers for the EU then!
Sadly, legislation will not create the society we desire. Our lawlessness is down to ourselves. To our detriment we have taken the focus off personal values and the benefit of teaching them to our children. Perhaps it’s time for a rethink and just like the new fashion interest in vintage clothing maybe we can resurrect a desire for plain old vintage values in the process; the simple things like love, kindness, respect, consideration and charity.