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There is nothing ‘traditional’ about it

Well, slap me on the arse and call me Betty!! You spend half a century deliberately fostering and ruthlessly enforcing a culture of civil passivity in the face of crime and malevolence and guess what happens?

[Note: link to UK Times article may not work for readers outside of UK]

NEIGHBOURS have been urged to band together to fight back against yobs making life a misery for many communities in Britain.

Louise Casey, head of the Government’s antisocial behaviour unit, said yesterday that she feared people were becoming too tolerant and afraid to intervene because of traditional British reserve.

Let me take a wild leap into the dark here. Could this ‘tolerance’ and ‘reserve’ have anything to do with the fact that private citizens are forbidden to possess so much as a toothpick and even raising their eyebrows in defence of their homes, families or communities will result in their being dragged off to prison by the very people that are supposed to be protecting them?

“Leave it to the professionals” said the professionals. And so everyone did. And look at where it has got them.

Critics will seize on her call as an admission of government failure to stem a rising tide of social disorder. But Ms Casey said that the answer to the yobs was not more legislation, but greater community spirit and co-operation.

Meaning what, Ms Casy, meaning what? The swapping of tales of woe? Bouts of collective cowering? Group hugs? Yes, I am sure that will turn the tide.

23 comments to There is nothing ‘traditional’ about it

  • Joseph

    Everytime a member of the public tries to intervene in a crime (surely a duty in society), the police mindlessly spout ‘don’t be a hero’. Are the police unaware that by discouraging people from being active in their own security they are producing a weaker society?

    We expect everything to be done by ‘someone else’.

  • Fabio

    The “don’t be a hero” line is also prevalent in Brazilian media. If you’re being robbed, their advice is to be polite and do everything the robber tells you to do and give anything he asks, even if you’re not sure he has a weapon, after all you don’t want him to give him a “reason” to kill you. And they wonder why crime rates are rising…

  • The_Wobbly_Guy

    I find it strange to read all this… well, passiveness, because in my country, citizens who help to stop crime even receive a special award for courage and/or willingness to help others.

    And while we don’t have guns, it hardly matters because no sane criminal here would ever dare to possess a firearm, leaving everybody with knives and daggers. The penalty for illegal possession of firearms is quite permanent. ^_^

    Why is it different elsewhere? Why is common sense being neglected?


  • We could have had more of that traditional British reserve in 1776 🙂

  • Julian Morrison

    Traditional British reserve is saying “excuse me old chap, you wouldn’t mind surrendering would you?” to the burglar, while pointing a twelve-bore at him.

  • She says:Not to challenge behaviour is a very British thing and we have at times felt sorry for the minority of perpetrators. We think the way to deal with them is feeling sorry for them and providing more and more services to them in the hope that maybe their bad behaviour becomes checked.Erm, nope. That is most definitely not the case. Certainly, in times gone by, a clip round the ear was a common challenge to bad behaviour and that was by no means the limit of the publics repertoire. Fear, not sympathy, is the issue these days. Fear of the perp and his/her mates and fear of state punishment should one deal with issues in a more appropriate manner.

    I agree with Julian; British reserve historically has nothing to do with doing nothing and everything to do with not whooping and hollering after the something has been done.

  • Dear Betty
    Hope your arse isn’t too sore.
    How refreshing to hear the government advocating the formation of armed vigilante groups (that is what she said isn’t it?). What the hell are we doing paying for an antisocial behaviour unit anyway? Surely the money should be targeted at the rehabilitation of offenders, in case they decide to sue for having had their rights to be antisocial infringed.

  • Shawn

    The Police here in New Zealand have just issued a warning not to intervene if they see a robbery taking place. So state enforced passivity seems to be spreading through the Anglosphere like a virus.

    New Zealand is a great country, and I have come to love much about the people here, but Kiwis have turned worship of the state into a religion. The sad thing is that there is a real Jacksonian spirit lurking beneath the surface, especially amongst rural people, but decades of propaganda by socialists claiming to represent Kiwi “values” have done a lot of damage. About the only time it comes out is on the Rugby field, as, ahem, the Brits recently discovered 😉

  • Shawn

    Sorry, the first sentence of my last post should have read:

    “The Police here in New Zealand have just issued a warning to civilians not to intervene if they see”

    This is what happens when you try to mix beer and typing.

  • zmollusc

    Is the problem with the rising tide of social disorder the fear that said tide may be rising high enough to affect people that matter?
    When one can get a pretty good standard of living by faking M.E. (free house and car,cash and no need to pretend to seek work) and doing a bit of burglary, shoplifting and mugging on the side, whom do you steal from? The stupid idiots daft enough to work for a minimum wage living probably have a smaller TV and an older car than you anyway.
    Perhaps there will be a change in the firearm/self defence laws to allow armed security patrols by private companies while still preventing ordinary people protecting themselves.

  • llamas

    What goes around, comes around.

    I recall that a UK Chief Constable, in the 60’s, famously suggested that people ‘have a go’ at street thugs. This made for some classic cartoons by Giles in the Daily Express, and is the source of the ‘Have-a-go granny nobbles yob with walking stick’ headlines that you still see in the UK papers today.

    I’m no fan of vigilantism, but there’s no denying that ‘street justice’ is often far more effective than the organized kind.

    And I don’t think that British reserve has anything to do with it. The reason that the Brits don’t take more direct action against criminals, I think, is fear – fear of retaliation, because the criminal will go unpunished and undeterred, and fear that they will be second-guessed and hounded by an overzealous and moral-equivalence-ridden criminal justice system.



  • NickL

    As sad as it may be, I think that Ms Casey is not calling for more action by the public in the serious assault cases, more for an intervention when a few local kids are daubing graffiti on a park bench or a few young adults are drinking and vomiting on the pavement.

    I know we’ve seen it all before (Whatever happened to Tony Martin anyway?) but look what happens if you do try to protect yourself when in fear for your or a significant other’s life:

    A BUILDER went on trial for murder yesterday for stabbing his lover’s estranged husband as he tried to break into his home and threatened to kill him.

    [The Crown Prosecutor] added: “The Crown say that the defendant’s actions went far beyond what was reasonable in self- defence. Even though Mr Banks had a knife, he wasn’t threatening anybody with it.”

    He said that the defendant knew that the police were coming and could have stalled for time or used the clock.

    Even though the guy climbing through the window had a knife, he wasn’t threatening anyone with it! It’s okay, the police are coming!

    I’m still shocked (although I shouldn’t be).

  • GCooper

    NickL beat me to it with the story about the builder currently on trial for stabbing an intruder.

    I suppose some sort of vestigial sense of fair play compels me to say that reading the story in detail did make me wonder if it was quite as cut and dried as it seemed (apparently, said builder was shacked-up with the dead man’s wife.)

    Then again, the skewered one was also out of his skull on cocaine and cannabis, according to the news report so, altogether, a pretty typical British ‘domestic’ in Tony’s ‘modern’ (for which read decadent) Britain.

    It is pretty clear that ‘New’ Labour is in a flat spin over law and order. As the party which, out of office, used its professional abilities as lawyers, teachers, academics, journalists and pressure group agitators, to destroy the core of a law-abiding society, it now finds itself in government, reaping the very whirlwind it spent the 1970s so assiduously sowing.

    Herein lies the delectable irony of Bliar’s petulant little rage against 1960’s liberal ideas the other week.

    It was his fellow travellers who hollowed-out the very core of the society which is now collapsing around his ears!

    And no, they won’t let us have our guns back. They wouldn’t dare.

  • Julian Morrison

    llamas: another major reason for that fear, is that nice people are at a disadvantage in the legal system. They don’t run from the police, aren’t surly enough to hold up under interrogation, have careers to destroy and property to lose. Even an incompetent cop can catch a self-defending householder. He probably phoned for the police himself.

  • toolkien

    Here in the US we had an abject lesson in passivity about 3 years ago. The party line was to sit tight and let them do what they want and you’ll likely live to see another day. But after the planes hit the buildings, folks on the fourth plane took matters into their own hands. Since 9/11, there has been a distinct shift in the paradigm. Perhaps fear of terrorists is used as a prop to goad the masses, but the notion is still held that if an incident is evolving, being passive is NOT the way to go.

    The frustrating thing, though, is that the full lesson hasn’t been learned. What was actually occurring is that the State was taking credit for providing safety that wasn’t really its doing. There is only so much a State can do, usually after the fact (at least in a free/freer society). So when planes weren’t crashing into buildings, the State could puff up its chest and pat us on the head assuring us all ways well, but when the fee-fee hit the fan blades it all “well, you really ARE the first line of defense after all, so go out and shop and if you see something going down, don’t be passive this time”. So we allowed ourselves to fall asleep to the lullaby of Statist who convinced us they were the originators and propagators of peace and prosperity and the wellspring of all things Good. This 9/11 report is a pile too in that the State chastises itself over its ‘failures’ but they have to so as much or else they are revealed as the man of straw it really is.

  • llamas

    Julian Morrison – quite right.

    It is good (as another poster remarks upon) that things not be taken at face value. If someone is lying there bleeding or dead, somebody did something wrong and it’s often by no means clear which is which. Just because the person not bleeding or dead appears to be the innocent party – doesn’t mean they are. The watchword, when I was an amateur copper, was ‘believe only half of what you see, and none of what you hear’.

    That being said, it does seem, in the news coverage which I read, that the criminal justice system in the UK pursues people who (it would seem) generally deserve the benefit of the doubt with a zeal and an efficiency which is misplaced. I suspect that this is a result of the lack of prompt and effective accountability for either the police or the CPS, combined with an increasingly formulaic, by-the-book and ‘non-judgemental’ approach to law-enforcement.

    GCooper – can you link to Tony Blair’s ‘petulant little rage’, please? I must have missed it.



  • Susan

    I’m amazed that no one here is blogging about THIS “when pigs fly” momentous occasion:

    Samizdata named one of the top political blogs by the BBC

  • Julian Morrison

    Susan : it doesn’t surprise me. Their bias shows as where they focus their attention, to whom they give credence. They don’t conceal or invent facts.

  • Susan

    Julian: do we really get 8,000 readers per day? Damn!

  • GCooper

    Llamas asks:

    “GCooper – can you link to Tony Blair’s ‘petulant little rage’, please? I must have missed it.”

    This seems as good a starting point as any, though there is a lot of interesting context that would make it worth exploring in greater depth.

    BBC News Online

  • ernest young

    Julian: do we really get 8,000 readers per day? Damn!

    Now that’s a nice touch – that feeling of ‘belonging’ engendered among the commentariat!…. (‘we’) 🙂

    Like when folk talk of ‘my pub’, or whatever, sounds cosy doesn’t it?

  • James

    Well done to Samizdata for achieving this mention on the Beeb website. Glad to see our votes counted for something!

  • Susan

    Cheer up Brits. Although your police force may not be up to snuff in deterring burglars, rapists and murderers, you can rest assured that they are on top of things when it comes to rooting out the truly dangerous criminals, like this fellow:

    Christian Pastor in Norwich Being Investigated by Police for Calling Islam “Evil”