Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I don't believe in evil ...

.. but that resistance gets tested anew, and more violently, every day.

My friend D would argue that these boys are like this because they have disadvantaged backgrounds / bad parenting / not fully responsible for their actions / failure of society to nurture them properly / etc etc.

And I am usually prepared to go a fair way with her on this (though we haven't discussed the Dianne Brimble case, and if we did it might shake the old friendship tree a little too hard for comfort) -- partly because this bit of evidence from the linked article so strongly supports her view: 'parents of the boys who produced the DVD laughed it off as "just a bit of fun".'

Subcultural, familial and peer-group ignorance and cruelty are behind a lot of unspeakable behaviour; look at the Brimble gang, or the Ocean Grove footy team officials who were so bewildered that anyone might think the team members' hurling of drunken anti-Semitic verbal and physical abuse from a bus at a pedestrian and his children might be regarded as a bad thing. Strikes me there are close similarities in all three cases -- and that the common element is a group of not-very-bright young males. Der.

But when it comes to pissing on a girl with a 'slight developmental delay', sexually abusing her, setting her on fire, and making a DVD of it -- nope. I don't give a rat's arse how they got like that. Sorry.

And there is, of course, no excuse for Channel Seven at all.


comicstriphero said...

Makes you feel really shitty at the world, doesn't it.

Well, speaking for myself there I guess.

Looking around for a reclusive, secretive feminist collective to take me in right about now.

Pavlov's Cat said...

I know exactly how you feel. I find it very hard to stay cheerful in the face of this kind of stuff.

elsewhere said...

Occasionally, there is blatant evil and '-paths' of one kind or another.

Not everything can be explained.

Jessica said...

Dont they come from Werribee/Geelong? Hardly areas of disadvantage in my opinion.

I got the impression they were just ordinary ratbag boys which i think makes their actions even WORSE.

I'd say mob mentality played a part in this, the boys egging each other on.

There's no excuse whatsoever for their behaviour. But i wouldnt be surprised if they were influenced by things like Jackass and even gonzo porn which seems all too easily accessible and popular amongst teenage boys.

Anyway, i'm disturbed by their actions and their brazenness. I hope they're punished to the full extent of the law and made to realise how their actions affect others.

The parents with their 'boys will be boys' type comments make me sick.

Ampersand Duck said...

I feel so much for that poor girl, and I hope (without much hope) that those DVDs go to ground or are destroyed.

Zoe said...

I thought of Jackass too, Jessica - and those "bum tormenting" US films and just general lack of respect for the humanity and dignity of people, particularly if they're poor/have a disability/etc.

I read today that they called her "the victim" throughout. I'm trying really hard to not wish the same kind of experience on them

Bernice said...

Frankly, Zoe, I've given trying really hard - where's Hothead Paisan when you need her?

Kate said...

This makes my blood boil.

And as the sister of a disabled person who was routinely humiliated and tormented by nasty sociopathc little shits at school -- I can't even find the words to describe how ANGRY I am.

And the parents!

One thing the cynic in me notes, especially as I saw that bloody 'Girls Like You' book by paul Sheehan everywhere on my recent travels, is that I await the MSM stories about how white male Australian culture is anti-women. What's that? Defeaning silence? Thought so.

meggie said...

I have ranted & fumed about this too!

I missed the bit about the parents, & what they said. They bloody deserve to be flogged alongside the boys.

I hope Karma is true, but I fear not.

As to the 'full weight of the law' - is that where they slap them with a wet bus ticket?

Karen F said...

PC wrote: "But when it comes to pissing on a girl with a 'slight developmental delay', sexually abusing her, setting her on fire, and making a DVD of it -- nope. I don't give a rat's arse how they got like that. Sorry."

The problem is, if we don't give a rat's about how they got like that - then more of them will be produced. I say this becasue I have worked for a long time with sex offenders - and I am a feminist - and I strongly believe we can't afford to simply label them "monsters" and move on. Abuse breeds abuse breeds abuse breeds abuse... Its not about excusing them, its about working to stop the cycle of abuse.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Karen, I think you might have missed the point I was trying to make -- maybe you didn't read the whole post? What you're saying was exactly part of my point -- I hear this argument all the time from my friend D (a lawyer), and as I say, I am prepared to go a long way with her on it. But there is finally a point where one draws the line and says okay, enough, sorry, time to believe in evil. I do hope you don't think I'm in any way happy about being driven to such a belief. It's politically offensive to me, for a start, and it has truly dreadful implications for the world situation at the moment, getting sucked into religious discourses like that.

Don't you also think that complete abdication of personal responsibiltity is something that must also be stopped?

From what I can make out from this comments thread, and frm a comment over at Armagnac's blog on this subject, I gravely fear that it's Jackass -- nothing more than a movie (unless you guys meant the TV show too) -- that may be behind it. (I just checked out Jackass and you know what it reminds me of? Bikie behaviour.) So perhaps you may be looking in the wrong place for an explanation. Besides, it doesn't sound to me as though these kids equate with your sex offenders (no shame, no sense of its being a wrong or bad thing, made a video with their faces and names on it) or have been 'abused' as such -- rather taught by lunatic parents that it is funny to prey on and torture the weak.

Jessica said...

I wonder if the girl or the girl's parents can sue?

It's actually quite amazing that it's been captured on film because it will make the case against them quite solid. Often times cases like these dont even get to court due to a lack of proof.

TimT said...

Got a couple of thoughts on this:

It's a cop-out to argue, as some folks would, I guess, that the boys bullied the girl 'because they were evil', just as I think it's a cop out to argue that terrorists commit terrorism 'because they are evil' - (I'm guessing that's the religious discourse you're alluding to.)

Still, I'd say that an alternative argument holds weight - that people can choose to do evil things. Ergo, these boys willingly took part in evil acts, terrorists willingly take part in evil acts, etc. It's certainly the position that I'd hold.

Going a bit further, I'm sure it's possible - if one was inclined to a 'fatalist' philosophy - to maintain that the boys didn't actually do this 'willingly', and that both they and the girl were victims of circumstance. Trouble with this is, maintaining this kind of dispassionate position neatly sidesteps the fact that most people find this kind of thing horrifying, and that horror of this sort of thing is accepted throughout most of society.
Also it ignores the fact that most people don't do this sort of thing, and that it's pretty rare, on the whole, which kind of suggests that either normal people have a mental resistance to this kind of thing, or it's not something that is socially 'normal'. Either way, it implies to me the existence of a kind of social morality. That in turn implies the existence of things that are 'good' and 'evil'.

Yes, I accept the existence of 'good' and 'evil'. Why not? It doesn't seem that controversial really.
I've strayed pretty far off the specific topic, and am probably rambling now, so, cheers! Have a good day.

Anonymous said...

TimT, there's a dirty big weight of western thought behind all these questions, in the history of philosophy, and theology, and political theory. I'm trying not to invoke it here because I think that would be boring for people who haven't read it and don't want to. Yes, 'evil' is a word out of religious (or if you like non-materialist) discourse, referring as it does to some power in the spiritual realm and therefore taking it as given that a spiritual realm exists. In secular/materialist discourse, you'd say 'immoral' or 'criminal'.

I'm on the side that says applying words like 'evil' to political relationships among countries, or to the judicial system, is shockingly dishonest and manipulative, confuses two or more different kinds of power (actually 'evil' is more what you'd call a force), and on a domestic level is a defiance of the separation-of-church-and-state, which I hold sacred (there you go, more religious discourse), but which is being made a nonsense of these days here and in the US in any case.

I wouldn't call those actual boys 'evil', but I'm afraid I think their behaviour is.

What's that rule of the blogosphere that says that the longer a comments thread is, the higher the probability becomes that someone will mention the Nazis ...?

tigtog said...

Google "Godwin's Law". It dates back to the early days of USENet newsgroups, and even maybe back before html and the www.

As to these boys, I'm at a loss, really, and I don't like being so.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Actually, that anonymous commenter was me. Blogspot has gone feral since Beta.

Thanks Tigtog, that was it.

TimT said...

You can apply the word and the concept 'evil' in a dishonest way, true - but then, most political language is dishonest. Phrases like 'appropriate' 'disproportionate' 'Insensitive' 'Known' and 'Unknown' are abused all the time. The word 'evil' I'd say is better than most, because it's so straightforward: it's meaning can't be manipulated like, say, 'disproportionate' or 'appropriate'. So a dishonest use of the word 'evil' would probably be more easily apparent.

I'd say in regard to the idea that church and state should be separated - sure, but who said that religion should have a monopoly on moral issues? Concepts of 'good' and 'evil' should extend much further than religion.

Jessica said...

Curiosity got the better of me and i went on myspace (ahh myspace) to read the boys who were involved profiles. Amazing that most havent been deleted or taken down and still exist (apparently the cops were only just alerted to them.)

There is comment after comment left by friends on the profiles in dumb txt spk throwing their support behind them. According to comments the boys dont feel they have done anything wrong, arent ashamed in the slightest and they all seem to be treating it like a joke.

Here's an example, you can see for yourself: http://www.myspace.com/boofaloveslivvy

Sorry. But i have no sympathy for them. Evil or deeply unintelligent? I dont know, but it seems almost reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. :/

Two things apart from the actual act really disturb me. 1. How normal and ordinary these boys seem, especially in pictures (they could be my brothers) 2. The English and grammar skills of their peers.

Anna said...

I agree. I feel no pity for them whatsoever. They're menaces and so are their parents. The parents should be put on trial too for creating really shitty, abusive assholes.

I do think we are products of society and to me they don't necessarily need to be disadvantaged to turn out like this but quite the opposite: Privileged spoilt white kids with an assumption of entitlement.

Mikhela said...

So given that most commentatators feel no sympathy for them, what would an ideal justice system do? Retributive justice, intensive rehabilitation, mediation & reconciliation, or throw away the key? I'm curious - what would a good society DO with people like this (apart from not produce them at all)?

I suspect that people who are capable of things like this will never realise the impact of their actions on others - although I imagine they are smart enough to look contrite.

Jessica said...

A good society would keep them well away from the public so they cant do this sort of thing again. It's not only the sexual assault, but they're known in the area they're from to be nuisances - everything from vandalism, assault to indecent exposure in the classroom.

They probably wont figure out that what they did was wrong for a very, very long time. Not when they're receiving this amount of adoration/support from their peers. They dont care what the 'haters' say. :/

(Sorry i'm posting so much about this, but this whole thing has made me so angry and disgusted.)

Anonymous said...

I hope not to trivialise things, but Jessica's second-last comment (combined with Mikhela's) just made me realise anew what it is that I really dislike about A Clockwork Orange. It's not Alex's crimes but the maudlin hysterical attitude to the authorities' attempt to resocialise him, as if that's some kind of equivalently evil attack on human dignity. "Retributive justice, intensive rehabilitation, mediation & reconciliation" is what Mikhela said, and I would add that Werribee probably needs a massive influx of social workers and some deep and intensive public programs aimed at re-constructing the things that have disintegrated in the whole community.

Karen F said...

I'm not talking about "pity" or "excuses" or "sympathy" for perpetrators like these boys. My point is completely utilitarian. If, as a society, we want to reduce inhuman abuse we have to take an interest in its root causes.

I think the label "evil" is a cop out best loved by politicians seeking election.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Laura, yes, agreed. That's one reason why I get so uneasy sometimes about the libertarian ethos. Good old free will, the treacherous rock on which so many Philosophy 1 students have foundered, including moi.

Karen F, I'm not sure whether it's worth trying to make the point again, but I'll have a go: Yes to a utilitarian approach. Yes to rehabilitation. Yes to root causes. Yes about the politicians. Yes to most of the rest of what you say. The whole point of the post was about having reached my limit with those things, and by extension, to my own great unhappiness, feeling as though I have finally been cornered into admitting there's some invisible swarming very bad force that we don't understand and that just, you know, gets into people. The issue is, like most things, ideological: does one admit a non-materialist dimension into one's thinking about social issues or not?

It's not a matter of 'cop out' (which is in itself a cop-out -- a cop-out of the debate about discourses of the secular and the sacred). I thought I'd already addressed that, at banging-on length, in my 25/10 comment.

If you don't agree, that's fine, but your comments give me the impression that you haven't actually read either the post or the comments thread properly.

Karen F said...

PC, I have read what you wrote and, with the greatest respect, I am DISAGREEING with you. Isn't that one of the ways one can comment on a post?

I also think you, initially, caricatured the materialist view on this issue by positioning it as an excuse for inhumane acts - rather than as a starting point for addressing them.

You can throw up your hands and gaze heavenwards if you feel you must (whatever gets you through the night...) but such an attitude doesn't help the victims (and future victims) of violence and abuse. It is just a fairy story that gives you, personally, some temporary relief... and wins votes for those who advocate the death penalty.

Pavlov's Cat said...

'It is just a fairy story that gives you, personally, some temporary relief... and wins votes for those who advocate the death penalty.'

So you say. And I, with the greatest respect, am DISAGREEING with you. Which I would not, last week before I heard about this Werribee business, have done. I also suggest you have another look at the title of the post.

On the death penalty, my position has not changed.

And if you think being forced to re-think the idea of evil gives me or anyone else any kind of relief, temporary or otherwise, then you are completely out of your mind.

Karen F said...

PC wrote: "Which I would not, last week before I heard about this Werribee business"

Do you really mean to say that you have NEVER heard of a more evil act than this? I simply can't believe that. Ever read of the holocaust? Rwanda? Kosovo? These and other appalling events never gave you cause to ponder the evil that dwells in the heart of humankind?

Pavlov's Cat said...

How do you think I got so close to the edge in the first place?

'... the evil that dwells in the heart of humankind ...'

Well, yes. There you go.

Karen F said...

Oh PC. I was being facetious.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh KF. So was I.

Do you make a habit of wandering onto total strangers' blogs and persisting in trying to convert them to the correct line, or are you writing a book?

elsewhere said...

Coming back to this comment thread, it's really interesting to me how we (ok, some of us) end up resorting to what I suspect are metaphors of unexplainable, excessive forces and situations such as 'evil'. I tried to reconfigure the notion 'evil' and all I could come up with were clumsy things like 'an excess of thanatos or death forces' or of 'ego-centric, non-other-oriented impulses.' Or some kind of 'supplement' to the balance of forces in the universe. Something wanky like that.

I would have had more faith in the social worker type line that these kind of excesses are spawned by disadvantaged backgrounds, etc, when I was younger. Crime is definitely spawned and exacerbated by disadvantage, but this doesn't explain middle-class crime, a lot of which happens 'behind closed doors' as it were, and is less publically visible.

You're also faced with the problem of why some individuals from the same backgrounds, same families, etc, tip over the edge and commit crimes, and others don't. Same also with looking at why some individuals develop mental illnesses under pressure and others in the same situation don't -- is it chemistry, different psychological breaking points, a lack of adequate resources or support, or just an unhappy convergence of circumstances?

I think this is what Helen Garner was trying to tease out in Joe Cinque's Consolation, tho I'm rather divided as to how successfully she achieved this or whether it was the best case to pick.

And yes to restorative justice -- it's been great with disadvantaged Aboriginal families and communities. No harm in trying...

Karen F said...

Actually, I have only just discovered blogs - and I enjoy yours very much. Perhaps I have unknowingly made a newcomer's error in disagreeing with your analysis of the implications of the Werribee events. I just couldn't let your statement: "I don't give a rat's arse how they got like that" go uncommented upon. I found it so surprising coming from someone who seemed otherwise quite sophisticated.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Fair enough. Blogging is itself a subculture hedged about with weird unspoken conventions.

So yes, that line was (and was intended to be) hyperbolic, a kind of 'last straw' remark, which is why I prefaced it so carefully. It wasn't intended to be provocative and it also wasn't intended to be evangelical; I'm not interested in converting people. I wouldn't (and didn't) call it an analysis, more just a personal statement, so 'disagreeing' is kind of beside the point.

As for sophistication: for me, sophistication resides very largely in a capacity for independent thought. I spent nearly 20 years as an academic intermittently bucking a party line I thought was sometimes very silly, and it has left me with rather finely-calibrated views on intellectual integrity.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Also, El, on your point --

'I would have had more faith in the social worker type line that these kind of excesses are spawned by disadvantaged backgrounds, etc, when I was younger.'

Yes, exactly, so did I. And I'm whatever it is, twelve or thirteen years older than you. I was refraining from saying 'You wait till you're my age, girlie' in a shaky old-lady voice to Karen F (and for all I know, she is), but it is an absolutely legitimate point.

On restorative justice, yes -- my friend D, the lawyer mentioned in the post who with Karen F has held firmly to the (exclusively) materialist view, has like you seen some of this in action and says it works. But I now think the Werribee boys, like the Dianne Brimble 'persons of interest', are beyond its reach.

Mikhela said...

You're only twelve or thirteen years older than El (And therefore me?)
By the way you go on, I thought you were old.