Public Opinion- A Blueprint for Sociopathy?

A little while ago, well, in fact, quite a long time ago, we at the Pathways Group, for some reason, began discussing the "Jeremy Kyle Show". We, most of us, said how we detested that show. Kyle's obvious right-wing opinions, how he berates and, literally, shouts his guests into submission. And yet, one in our group, a student nurse, said, "well, I like it, because he always seems to say what you're thinking yourself." To which, of course, me and my leftist mate replied, "well, he doesn't say what I'm thinking!" However, I was somewhat taken aback by the possibility that anyone of intelligence could possibly share Kyle's belligerent attitude.
But, it seems, more and more, public opinion is becoming intolerant. I have written of this before in previous posts, but nothing made this more apparent than the reaction to the recent riots which erupted throughout England.
Of course people have launched out on various waves of speculation as to what actually caused the riots. Was it the fault of parents, as most who took part appeared to be young people? Was it a lack of discipline throughout society? And, what should we do about it? For many, throughout the rioting, so disgusted were they by the acts of wanton destruction, that they called for police to bring in water-cannons and to use "plastic bullets", both of which have been used in Ireland, but neither ever on mainland Britain. Even the police were reluctant to take such drastic measures, but the public cry for them was alarmingly evident.
Now, the government, always apparently keen on "listening" to the public, seems to be capitulating to demands to withdraw all benefits payments from those who took part in the rioting, and some councils are considering throwing out people who were involved from their council houses. This would, it seems, assuage the public demands for a swift, decisive and severe response.
However, to my mind, such drastic measures could only serve to make a bad problem worse. As the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider, and in a world where justice seems to be an outmoded concept, is it really any wonder that anger and resentment ferments amidst the lower echelons of our society? That is not to excuse such behaviour, and of course one's sympathy goes out to those whose property was destroyed and who even lost relatives amidst the mayhem. But, it still seems to me that both the public and government are having a "knee-jerk" response to all this, and some within the legal system have remarked that, out of this situation, some particularly "rough" justice may be being meted out.
But, to return to public opinion for a moment, one only has to go to the government's "e-petition" page to see how intolerant we seem to have become. By far the most popular petition at present is the one to withdraw benefits payments from those involved in the rioting. By far the most repeated petition (I think it appears in around five different guises on the site) is one to bring back capital punishment. There are also calls to get rid of all European human rights legislation. OK, so some of the petitions on the site are not to take such retrograde steps, and they are really quite varied. I, however, do find it worrying that the public hold such apparently barbarous beliefs. And, even in our local paper, one letter concerning the riots argued that how can we expect anything else than such behaviour from people when we can't even smack children in schools anymore? Some even called for a return to conscription.
It would seem, then, that the majority of us increasingly see the world as one constrained by political correctness, where discipline, values and morality have eroded to such a degree that people behave like "feral", mindless criminals. But, is that really all there is to it? Indeed, that is not the world I see. I see a place where the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" is getting bigger, where those in the lower-classes and even vulnerable people are increasingly demonised, where bankers, who we must remember brought about the economic collapse which the world faces, continue to award themselves obscene amounts of money and seem to have escaped any retribution for their actions, and where expensive wars are fought on particularly dubious grounds.
So, as the public cry out for increasingly cut-throat measures, should we really listen to them? Should we just throw people on the streets, withdraw their benefits, start hanging people, go back to smacking our children, and get rid of human rights legislation which prevents us from acting in such inhumane ways? Or is it that we should actually start listening to what our young and disaffected people are saying and afford them a little respect in the hope that it may be returned. If we don't do this, the public mentality will come over to some, me included, and as one "Observer" commentator suggested, as a virtual "blueprint for a sociopathic society".  


bazza said…
Hi David. I think some of the extreme demands that you saw in petitions to the government would not have been seen a month ago. It it a public knee-jerk reaction. People are scared and they are angry. They think they see society disintegrating before their eyes and they feel like victims.
Therefore they react strongly against the kind of well-argued position that you take here.
Although it is obvious to me that what you say is true about respect for younger people now would be the worst possible time to propose it,
Firstly the dust needs to settle so that a more reasoned public response can prevail; any good ideas put forward now would be shot down in flames instantly and a consensus could not be obtained.
While the wounds are still raw opinion-formers need to keep their powder dry until a later time.
(Sorry about all the mixed metaphors!)
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear bazza,
I guess what you say is correct. The dust does need to settle until some measured response can be thought out.
Having said that, I wouldn't let the government off so lightly. People are being sentenced for their actions now, and, while I say that I would never condone their behaviour, they still deserve a "fair" trial. And, according to the radio yeaterday, I heard that a memo had been sent from the home office to the judges passing sentence on those arrested. Reporters said that it urged judges to "throw out the rule-book" and come down with a heavy hand. To my mind, this borders on a criminal action by the government itself. Since when do they get to dictate the dispensing of the law. I always thought that the judiciary and the legislature were supposed to be independent entities. And, this is all very different to the way they treat white-collar crime, like tax evasion, and the treatment of the bankers could not have been more different.
So, while I know that people should be punished for their crimes, I also feel that this response shows where the government's loyalties lie, and whose interests they really serve.
Yours with Best Wishes,
P.S. I'm kind of liking your mixed metaphors, bazza!
klahanie said…
Dear David,
I understand where are coming from on this posting and concur with what you have thoughtfully written in what I consider, a well balanced article.
I've just done an article on a Malaysian website on my perspective of what's transpired in England and I alluded to my great concerns.
What I will add is and I've noted this before, I have seen groups of 'hoodies' minding their own business, only to be confronted and verbally abused by some so-called mature folks. I considered the actions of those older folks to be presumptuous, highly offensive and disrespectful. Never seen such situations mentioned in the media.
With very kind wishes, Gary
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thank you for giving some of your thoughts on what has recently happened in dear old blighty. I would be very interested to read your own article on the subject.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
dcrelief said…
Dear David,
I think Kyle is a well paid bully. The worse the show, the higher the rating and sponsorship profits. Follow the cash and you'll find the trash.
I was incredibly shocked to see the riots of England. When I first kicked the TV on I thought it was a soccer game riot; maybe Spain or Bolivia, who knows? What a shocker. But I'm inclined to think when people get tired of saying,"listen to me, please," they start acting out their needs. Like, "actions speak louder than words."

Governments, in my opinion, everywhere seem to be hyping problems to upset people and/or distract them from real issues.

I also find it 'overkill' to take away benefits for what must be a misdemeaner charge at best. When did protesting become a felony charge? That's like saying, "you ran a stop light so we're suspending your food stamps or food allotment." Governments themselves are committing tyranny against themselves.(?)
Great topic, David. One that deserves attention rather than all the 'reality shows'...
Sorry about some misspellings; my dictionaries are all packed for the move!
Good week to you,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
It is interesting to know what those overseas have made of the riots, so your comments are very welcome.
It was indeed shocking to see the riots taking place. Fortunately no such events took place in my own locality of Stoke-on-Trent.
As you say, though, the response to the rioting does seem like "overkill". In the latest development two young men have been given 4 years in prison for "inciting" a non-existent riot. Much has been made of this in the news and civil rights groups as well as some in the judiciary themseves have criticised over-zealous and inconsistent sentencing.
Anyway, Dixie, thanks once again for your thoughts, and happy moving!
With Very Best Wishes,

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