Importing indignation

11/06/2020

The murder of George Floyd was heinous and the protests in his home state and home country are understandable.

But do those protesting understand what Theodore Dalrymple calls those pesky statistics?:

To the citizens of most Western countries, the numbers of people killed by the American police are rather surprising, to say the least, but so are the numbers of police killed.

Roughly speaking, a policeman in the United States is about fifty times more likely to be killed than to kill, and this is without taking into consideration that the majority of the killings by the police are at least prima facie justified by self-defense or the interruption or prevention of a serious crime. Let us exclude only half of those killings on these grounds (probably a gross underestimate): This means that a policeman is 100 times more likely to be killed than to kill.

Let us also suppose that the police are killed by black and white in the same proportion as blacks and whites commit homicide in general (again, a generous, that is to say a conservative, assumption). This means that a policeman is about fifteen times more likely to be killed by a black man than to kill a black man, and again this is not to take into account the fact that many of the police killings would be at least prima facie justified.

A black man is about thirty times more likely to be killed by another black man than to be killed by a policeman (and some of the police are themselves black, of course). A white man is only fifteen times more likely to be killed by someone of any race than to be killed by a policeman. Are the police biased against whites? . . 

None of this alters the individual responsibility of the policeman who must surely have caused the death of George Floyd. (Would the latter have died anyway, even if not under arrest and treated in the way he was treated?) Nor does it alter the responsibility of the accessories before the fact. But it does cast a strange light on the rioters, and even on the peaceful demonstrators, most of whom seem to have expressed little concern, much less moral outrage, at the much more frequent murder of blacks by other blacks, or at the comparatively high rate of the murder of policemen. (The general homicide rate in the U.S. is about five per 100,000, that of policemen fifteen per 100,000.).

Now, it might be argued that an unjustified killing by an agent of the state is far worse than any other kind of killing, so raw statistics do not apply. I can see that this argument has a certain force. On the other hand, the killing of an agent of law and order also has a special seriousness, for it undermines law and order itself. And egalitarians who uphold the sanctity of (or at least the inalienable right to) human life are ill-placed to claim that one killing is worse than another. . . 

Black lives matter, all lives matter.

So why no marches for the persecution of Christians ‘at near genocide levels’?

Why no protests against all sorts of atrocities in many different countries?

Is there something about the USA that makes this crime much, much worse than many others committed in many other countries?

And why are we importing indignation anyway? Don’t we have more than enough to be protesting about here?

How about the death of one year-old Sofia Taueki-Jackson a couple of weeks ago?

Or the four year old Flaxmere boy who has been discharged from hospital where he was being treated for permanent and severe brain damage?

Perhaps it’s too soon to be indignant about the unexplained death of a young child in Palmerston North. It might have been the result of illness or accident.

Or it might have been yet another to add to the sorry toll of babies and children maltreated and killed far closer to home than Minneapolis.

Anna Leask wrote of the 61 little names on New Zealand’s roll of dishonour:

A child is killed every five weeks, putting us high on list of world’s worst offenders.

Sixty-one. It’s the number of children who have died as a result of non-accidental injuries in New Zealand in the last 10 years.

Their names are scars on a shameful landscape of child abuse – Chris and Cru Kahui who would have turned 10 today, Nia Glassie, JJ Ruhe-Lawrence, Jyniah Te Awa.

Thirty-one of those young ones were violently assaulted. They were kicked, punched, thrown, stomped or bashed to the point of death.

New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD countries and on average a child is killed here every five weeks. . . 

That was written four years ago. How many more little names have been added to that roll of dishonour since then?

The Child Matters website says:

Between 1 January 2019 and 30 November 2019, 11 children and young people have died as a result of homicide in New Zealand.

The Homicide Report

Released 13 May 2019

  • Every 8th homicide victim in New Zealand from 2004 to 31 March 2019 was a child
  • More than two thirds of the victims were aged 2 or under
  • Of the cases where the killer’s relationship to the victim was known, 27% were mothers, 24% were fathers, and 17% were de facto partners.

We don’t need to import indignation, there’s far too much here that ought to be raising anger and sorrow.

So why have the protests in the wake of Floyd’s death spread here?

Is it because it’s far easier to borrow another country’s ire than address the problems in our own?

Or is the murder just an excuse for protests that are really about thinly veiled anti-Americanism?


Not if but how

10/12/2008

One of the many sorry aspects of the torture of Nia Glassie was that neighbours knew it was happening but didn’t interfere.

In the wake of that, we’re quite rightly being told that what happens in other people’s homes is sometimes our business.

But if we hesitate to act against something we know to be wrong in someone else’s home,  how much harder is it to act when the crimes are happening in other people’s countries?

When do the atrocities being inflicted on Zimbabwe and its people by Robert Mugabe become our business?

zimbabwe1

Macdoctor writes of the slow and horrible genocide which is happening there.

Inquiring Mind posts on the Zimbabwean nightmare; quotes the Archibishop of York  John Sentamu who says Mugabe must answer for his crimes against humanity; and asks how long this disgrace can endure.

The ODT says other African leaders have been accused of soft-pedalling on Mugabwe but sees a change:

Leading the charge is Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has urged the African Union to call an emergency meeting to authorise armed intervention.

“If no troops are available then the AU must allow the UN to send its forces into Zimbabwe with immediate effect,” he said, “to take control over the country and ensure urgent humanitarian assistance to the people dying of cholera.”

Whether or not and under what circumstances the UN, or the AU for that matter, can claim a mandate to invade Zimbabwe – and liberate it from itself – is ill-defined and problematic.

The complexities of the situation are further heightened by the promises of aid for Zimbabwe’s diseased and suffering, aid which is the only plausible response from a world faced with a humanitarian disaster on a scale unimaginable in this formerly wealthy African nation.

The terrible irony is that such aid probably serves only to prolong the terrible dictator’s increasingly tenuous grip on power.

Almost everyone agrees that Robert Mugabe must go.

The big question is how to make him.

And not just how to make him, but how to do it in a way which minimises further loss of life and speeds the return to political stability and the improvements to the  health of the Zimbawean people and their economy.


Mother love lapsed

19/11/2008

I couldn’t read the court reports on the trial of the people accused of the abuse which led to Nia Glassie’s death.

The little bits I got from inadvertently listening to radio or watching TV news programmes told me far more than I wanted to know of the gruesome details of what this wee girl went through in her short life.

Then I noticed this headline last weekMother turned blind eye to daughter’s abuse court hears

So I read the story and when I got to this bit: “What would I do? Nothing, just sit there.”  I cried.

I couldn’t understand how mother love could lapse so badly, then Then I thought about the day I got to the end of my tether with my daughter.

I can’t remember what she’d been doing and why I felt so angry about it, but I’ve never forgotten my response. I picked her up carefully, put her in her cot at one end of the house, walked out a door at the other end and screamed so loudly that one of our men who was cutting trees with a chain saw hundreds of metres away heard me.

Then I took a deep breath, went back inside, picked up the toddler, gave her a cuddle and we got on with our day.

What’s the difference between me and those who were found guilty of murder or manslaughter of Nia? Why did I have enough self control to put my daughter’s safety first and why were these people capable of such evil behaviour?

Part of the answer could be in our backgrounds. I was brought up by parents who loved each other, my brothers and me. My mother was the most selfless person I’ve ever known and she taught us all the importance of caring for others. I married a man who had a similar upbringing and commitment to our children and me. We have the love and support of wider family and friends and caring relationships are normal for us.

But our normal isn’t normal for everyone, that’s why some people are desensitised to human suffering, that’s why chidlren like Nia are abused and die and that people who know about it in the house and the neighbourhood do nothing.

Parental love should be inherent because protection of our young is a basic instinct for people and animals. But drug and alcohol abuse mixed with intergenerational dysfunction contribute to a short circuit in that primal emotion.

Each time one of these dreadful cases becomes public, we say never again. But it will keep happening until putting the needs of vulnerable people first is normal for everyone.


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