The golden eye of justice sees, and requites the unjust man
It is barely a week ago when London and other UK cities were gripped in a headlock of rampage, riots and wanton destruction. At the height of the destruction, a 68 year old man was allegedly killed by a 16 year old for attempting to put out a fire, three members of one close knit family were mowed to death by an errant maniac and a woman had to jump from three floors to escape a fire that was started by the yobs. Many people rightly or wrongly see a riot as the language of the unheard. The more there are riots, the more repressive action will take place, and the more we face the danger of a right–wing takeover and eventually a fascist society. The anger and clamour for swift justice that followed these riots was deafening. Then came the psychologists, the philosophers, the psycho-analysts and the apologists to provide a balance sheet of what’s, whys, and how’s of the unrest.
David Starkey, a renowned British historian even had the audacity to sum up the cause of the riot among others, that “whites have become black”. The BBC received 700 complaints and a demand for his apology for “unacceptable comments” generated 3,600 signatures. The Labour Leader, Ed Milliband described his comments as “disgusting and outrageous”. According to Starkey, “what has happened is that the substantial section of the chavs that you wrote about has become black. The whites have become black. A particular sort of violence, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion”. In his bid to diagnose, dissect, analyse and psycho-analyse the causes of the riots, David Starkey has not only insulted the black race, but like the other culprits equally incited racial hatred and tension.
The fact that he acknowledged Enoch Powell’s “ Rivers of Blood” speech like a gospel and as a point of reference is a stark (no pun intended) indication of his persuasion on racial issues. And for such remarks, whether true or false, to come at a time when the embers of the riots were dying out is not only ill judged but rather unfortunate. David Starkey is a well known historian but it seems that he might have been stuck in the past for too long; hence a historian. Just saw a picture of Enoch Powell and with a moustache like that, he reminds me of a guy who used to live in Germany some years ago.
The clamour for justice was so loud that some were calling for the restoration of boot camps, national service and even the death penalty; all aimed at the twin effect of deterrence and justice. But you could bet your bottom dollar that it would not be long before the apologists ride into town. A massive 81% reckon the punishments are either “about right” or too SOFT, a YouGov survey for the Sun Newspaper revealed recently.
The lengths of sentences meted out to these thugs have been seen by the apologist brigade, which include MPs and justice campaigners as unjustified. QC, John Cooper subscribes to this notion, and calls some of the sentencing “over the top”. One headline even had a man pictured under the heading “Riot sentences too severe.” Max Hill QC, Vice Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said that it was not the job of judges “to deliver a political message on behalf of the government” when passing sentence but part of their role was to identify “serious aggravating features that elevate the crime beyond the ordinary”. For starters, it was serious and it was shopping with aggravation. In addition, the crime of the looters was beyond the ordinary. There is no doubt that some of those sentenced were either swept up by the moment or had a moment of madness; for relatively a minor involvement. Unfortunately, it is a question of intent and action. Tough luck.
This might sound like the battle is now between power and justice. But justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just. Interestingly, all those giving character witness statements to the press about the culprits have a common theme; “she/he is a good person and has never been in trouble before”. Those interviewed on television seem to portray an atmosphere of entitlement; as if to say that they are entitled to a £140.00 Nike or RBK trainers. Sadly, there was no one drumming their role of responsibility to society; rather it was like society owed them some debt of entitlement or gratitude.
Liberal Democrat Peer and Howard League for Penal Reform President Lord Carlile said some decisions were questionable. Expecting the world to treat you “fairly” because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian. This sounds like the man who murdered both his parents but pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was now an orphan. The foundation of justice is good faith and in the interest of deterrence and justice, you would assume that whatever punishment is given to these people is served on a plate of good faith. Those of us who feel that the sentences are unjust should remember that justice is the means by which established injustices are sanctioned.
To sin is human business but to justify sins is a devilish business. Since the law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public, the place of injustice could be a hallowed place. No wonder justice is the crowning glory of virtues. My uncle always told me that justice is the firm and continuous desire to render everyone that which is due. For these apologists to start questioning the length of prison terms dished out to these culprits, under the guise of human rights is wreaked with hypocrisy. The issue of civil rights can be too much for the establishment, I know.
It is all well and good to preach human rights of the living. But what about the human rights of the departed, who cruelly lost their lives for doing the right thing. Think of the 68 year old man whose only crime was to attempt to put out a fire, or the three lads who did nothing wrong than trying to protect their family business. As George Washington said, “the administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government”. No wonder the Prime Minister, David Cameron did not give a toot about the so called human rights in this case. If any human right is to be defended her, it is that of the deceased that should take precedence; for they do not even have that luxury to see it done on their behalf today. Justice is truth in action, and there is a learning process here; something you can incite, just like a riot.
As for the apologists brigade that is saying that the sentences are disproportionate, they should try and sit beside the father who lost his son in Birmingham and tell him that the sentences for his son’s killers is too harsh; or try telling the widow or grandchildren of the 68 year old man. David Starkey may have written a lot of history books, but this chapter of his career ending remarks could make a good epitaph. I am not sure that he will be making a quick return to the small screen soon. Racism is man’s gravest threat to man- the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason. The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery. The riots started after a black man was shot dead. Thankfully, the riots did not descend into a racial carnival.
But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom for mankind. Celebrity Big Brother is back; the recycling centre for “has been” or “wanna be” celebrities. They will go on to write a book, get another TV reality show, endorse some supermarket product and join the red carpet vanguard when it’s all over. Not to be outdone, Fabregas spends six trophy less years at Arsenal. It took him just 48 hours and 9 minutes to bag his first trophy; and trigger a recreational riot at the same time between the Real Madrid and Barcelona. The “A” level results are out with record number of passes. Who said that these kids are good for nothing?
Abdulai Mansaray, UK
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