December 20, 2003 | Peter

Crime, Punishment and Causation

Brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein often have a history of being physically abused as children. In such cases, the personal tragedy is translated into a social one. So the costs of ignoring this connection can be enormous.
We are regularly horrified by the crimes that people (all too often, let’s be frank, men) commit. The trial has just finished of a man in the US who murdered no less than 48 young women. Apparently, he wanted to rid the world of prostitutes. But these were just young women with families and friends who would miss them. This is horror and misery on a massive scale.
The response is often an understandable but ultimately misplaced outraged clamour for harsh punishment. But the real lesson of such tragedies is rarely learned, and that is to understand what could make such terrible things happen.
Heinous acts of any kind are a communication to us all. They tell us that something has gone wrong, badly wrong. We should take the time to fully investigate the underlying causes of such acts, and do something about them. The connection of child abuse with later violence, for instance, and the role poverty and lack of education play in creating socio-paths need to be fully understood. Only then can we minimise the likihood of them re-occurring.
Crimes of violence, whether committed against one person or many, are tragedies for us all, but to not learn from these events and thus not act to make sure they don’t happen again is a worse tragedy.
Saddam’s brutality is famous, and millions have suffered because of it. But once that old man dug out of hole near Tikrit was an innocent baby boy born to a poverty stricken young prostitute. A childhood of pain and fear made him a monster. The smart thing to do would be to eliminate the threat of more Saddams by eliminating the conditions that give rise to them.

Posted by Peter at 5:08 pm | Comments Off on Crime, Punishment and Causation |
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