Little to say for myself
Monday, December 22, 2003
RelaxThis Telegraph article by Dr. Theodore Dalrymple is darkly depressing, but, I think, misleadingly so.
the horrible fact is that Ian Huntley was in many respects a perfectly normal young British male - normal in the statistical sense, that is, and within a certain social stratum. Only his superior educational accomplishments (nine GCSEs) and his two murders set him apart.He goes on to explain his experience of dealing with the young adult population of Britain as if what he has found is peculiar both to this time and to this country (and, crucially to the Telegraph's readership, to "a certain social stratum"). As if we in Britain are gripped by a new, sinister threat to our civilisation. How appropriate to the paper's conservative and Conservative stance. Tell 'em what they want to hear.
The behaviour and attitudes he describes in young people are depicted as things to be deplored that need to be changed, lest we all become submerged in a mire created by modern living - or something like that.
I reckon he's right in his main assertion - that people recognise Huntley and Carr in the darkest recesses of themselves, and this is what fuels their abhorrence*. If there were no personal recognition of what Huntley did, the public reaction would just have been one of puzzlement. This is not where Dalrymple's argument loses power.
This is the thing: there is no reason to believe that what he describes is in any way a modern or a local phenomenon. The only factor that localises it in geography and in history is his personal experience. I can see no reason to limit this aspect of human nature to the here and now. But this view, saying that it is in fact a global phenomenon that has been - and will always be - a part of life, doesn't escalate the "problem" in the way you might suppose.
Dalrymple misses the crucial point: Huntley did what he did, and most people don't.
It's perfectly normal and acceptable to have murderous, violent and lustful thoughts. There's nothing wrong with them, and it's these which create the clearing for public outrage. What matters is what we choose to do about them. Huntley made his choice and quite rightly will never get another chance to make such a choice.
But the vast majority of us would not choose to do what he did. That is the crucial difference between Huntley and us, and is something which will never change. To assert that he is the product of a new decadence incites the fear that the incident reflects a worsening trend with a societal cause. When you realise it's just a constant running through the whole of humanity, it's possible to relax and enjoy the positives that life will also never run out of.
* and presumably it's also what fuels his abhorrence of the "pigsty" he describes - interesting, when you turn his logic back on himself.
posted by Plig | 11:07 |
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