Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nursery Crimes

Geraldine Rama was struck off the childcare register for biting a baby boy in her care. Rama, from Hammersmith in West London, began looking after ten-month-old Michael Omisore in 2003 after meeting his parents Abiodun and Yvonne through their local church.

The couple first suspected she was mistreating their son when Mrs Omisore spotted a red mark on Michael while bathing him. Tests showed he had been bitten with "considerable force" and that both his legs were broken.

Unfortunately for the couple, social workers assumed they had hurt their son and Michael was put on the "at risk" register for three months. The Omisores' ordeal only ended when a judge gave Rama a six-month suspended prison sentence after she admitted assault.


The Guardian reports :

Children ordered to remain silent for long periods also generated gave rise to complaint, as did childminders using racially-abusive language and displaying aggressive behaviour towards children. In one case, a member of staff attempted to take a child home, without the parent's consent.

And the Times finds a possible new group to blame for child shootings :

Inspectors also found that some staff were effectively letting children run wild by failing to control their behaviour, enforce rules or teach them right from wrong.




The Mad Mahdi thread generated some useful input from a poster named questionnaire, who seems to be either an academic sociologist or a criminologist. He's one of the authors of this book, and he's full of facts and theories, much of it apparently derived from face-to-face interviews with bad boys. Like some others, he's pretty spot-on when it comes to dissecting the symptoms, perhaps less so with the diagnosis and cures. He has a pretty high opinion of himself, too. Perhaps we'll be reading him in the Guardian rather than the comments one day.

Take it away, question !

"law and order, family, religion, nation ... These were the only methods of containing western culture within reasonable bounds."

Rubbish, apart from family as an effective socialisation mechanism.

Read Norbert Elias's 'The Civilizing Process', or Jon Fletcher's 'Violence and Civilization', which is based on Elias's work.

There are three main conditions on which the European civilizing process rested:

1) the maintenance of long chains of interdependencies in society and economy

2) the monopolisation of violence by a legitimate state

3) the maintenance of behavioural codes (best transmitted by families and communities)

If you think for a moment about which forces have eroded those three main conditions, you will realise how stupid the right-wing argument actually is.


Followed by

Did you catch my recent post outlining the incontrovertible evidence that stable social democracies have much lower murder rates, combined with lower imprisonment rates, than free-market neo-liberal societies?

Here's a little excerpt for you:

"In some of the roughest areas of Britain (see Prof. Danny Dorling's article 'Prime Suspect', part of a larger report here: http://www.crimeandsociety.org.uk/press/17Oct05.html ) the murder rate is 6 times higher than the national average of about 1.5....Some of the USA's roughest areas are still returning murder rates of over 20 per 100,000, down from the mind-boggling rate of over 40 per 100,000 in the early 1990s, but achieved only by putting about 2,200,000 in jail (a rise from 200,000 in 1970), a rate of almost 700 per 100,000 or about 0.7% of the population, and 7,000,000 on correctional supervision - in total about 3% of the population (working from memory here, figures a couple of years out of date, but they haven't changed that much)...Moving over to Western Europe, the very roughest areas still return murder rates of less than 4 per 100,000, with national averages of between 0.9 and 1.5 per 100,000 - with the strange exception of Finland at over 2.5, which needs an explanation. This is achieved alongside relatively tiny imprisonment rates, on average about 100 per 100,000, seven times lower than the US rate...Murder and imprisonment rates for Eastern Europe are higher; they shot up in the abrupt transition to a free-market economy, which wrecked many formerly stable (if relatively poor and repressed!) local socio-economic systems...Despite the recent spate of shooting, the British murder rate still remains lower than the US rate; 1.5 compared to 5.9, and about 3 times lower on average and about 4 times lower in troubled locales. The upshot is that the USA cannot reduce its murder rates to anywhere near the levels of Britain or Western Europe DESPITE putting proportionately 7 times more people in jail; it's also with noting that over 70% of the influx of prisoners into US jails since 2001 have been convicted of violent offences, so we should really say putting 7 times more of its VIOLENT people in jail."

Laban puts his oar in :

Questionnaire : "heavy taxation of the global financial industry, the shift of funds from finance capital into production capital, large-scale nationalisation, full, secure and compulsory employment, the return of the family wage so someone can look after the kids, an absolute ban on advertising for kids under 16, strict control of broadcasting, the removal of the worst offenders from the community into long-term jail or secure rehabilitation centres, improved policing and massive effort into early-years education."

I didn't know you were a BNP supporter - that sounds pretty much like their manifesto to me. Don't forget those extra prison places for the 100,000 habitual offenders who commit half of all crime a/c/t the Home Office. Say 50,000 are banged up at any time - we'll still need another 50,000 or so. Get building.

"There are three main conditions on which the European civilizing process rested:

1) the maintenance of long chains of interdependencies in society and economy

2) the monopolisation of violence by a legitimate state

3) the maintenance of behavioural codes (best transmitted by families and communities)"

Wow ! Question, we agree on something !

OK, who blew it ? I think that's where we'll disagree.

1) welfare blew the dependency between working and eating, and destroyed the working class culture of pride in the job and the 'good grafter'. Look at the difference between the heroes of 'Trainspotting' and Sillitoe's Arthur Seaton - ur-chav but still with pride in his skill.

2) Madeleine Bunting and questionnaire types (enemy #1 Roy Jenkins) destroyed the link between crime and punishment - liberating (unpunished) private violence for private ends. As we see now. The state is no longer 'the nutter of last resort', the organisation you REALLY don't want to cross. Other forces have taken over that function - like the Crocky Crew and Nogz Dogs. BTW, the state never had a monopoly of violence - it was used for public ends and as a means of enforcing social norms by many people. The big change is the rise in private violence for private ends.

3) behavioural codes. Sixties counterculture. Rise of the Guardianistas and decline of Christianity. Normalising of bastardy, "the family is changing, not declining". Social workers who no longer discriminate between deserving and undeserving poor.


Questionnaire :

"OK, who blew it ? I think that's where we'll disagree."

No doubt about it.

"1) welfare blew the dependency between working and eating, and destroyed the working class culture of pride in the job and the 'good grafter'. Look at the difference between the heroes of 'Trainspotting' and Sillitoe's Arthur Seaton - ur-chav but still with pride in his skill."

This is just simple-minded. The welfare system evolved as a means of solving real problems that became apparemt when the dreadful condition of the industrial working class was revealed during the Boer War fiasco. Most of the British soldiers - many recruited from the 'casual poor' - were too weak and ill to carry their packs and rifles more than a few miles. It also evolved as a means of preventing serious poverty, strikes, riots and potential revolution.

What blew the relationship between work and reward was the expansion of the parasite class in business and entertainment, as Thorstein Veblen said at the turn of the 20th century, the new barbarian 'leisure class'. Dodgy trading is the way to make easy money, much better than hard graft. Your problem is that you know nothing about criminals. I was brought up in a rough area AND I've done the research. Most criminals hate welfare dependent people - they call them 'Aldi-bashers', 'skip-rats' and other disparaging names. Criminals model themselves on businessmen; most of them remain on benefit only so they have a source of income to declare.

"2) Madeleine Bunting and questionnaire types (enemy #1 Roy Jenkins) destroyed the link between crime and punishment - liberating (unpunished) private violence for private ends. As we see now. The state is no longer 'the nutter of last resort', the organisation you REALLY don't want to cross. Other forces have taken over that function - like the Crocky Crew and Nogz Dogs."

First I'm a BNP supporter and now I'm a liberal-left softie. Your problem here is that you can only think in stereotypes. At your worst you remind me of that idiot Keith Joseph.

The return of privatised violence in the 1980s - reduced to very low levels by the 1950s - took the state by surprise. At the same time, it was disempowered by cut-backs and discredited by the diffusion of libertarian state-hating ideology from the Right. Again, I have researched this. My team and I have reams of qualitative data from criminals: they HATE the state.

Here's a little preview from our forthcoming book:

'Look, it takes a certain type of stupid c*nt to work for the council and other socialist sh*te like that. I think that those c*nts should be f*cking sacked and the f*cking commies who employ them should be f*cking shot. And the same goes for that f*cking University across the road. I'm not one of those stupid c*nts, I'm a successful businessman, and I make my own way in life. If any of the useless c*nts I employ complains about anything, they can f*ck right off, they're two-a-penny'. (30 year old self-employed mobile carpet cleaner, who turned to crime when his business collapsed after three months)

Most criminals are arch-Thatcherites.

"BTW, the state never had a monopoly of violence - it was used for public ends and as a means of enforcing social norms by many people. The big change is the rise in private violence for private ends."

Technically, it did. You're right about the rise of private violence, but think why - what is the real source of the 'privatised' mentality?

3) behavioural codes. Sixties counterculture. Rise of the Guardianistas and decline of Christianity. Normalising of bastardy, "the family is changing, not declining". Social workers who no longer discriminate between deserving and undeserving poor.

I agree about the counterculture - but it was not a product of the liberal-left, it was a product of the marketing industry and the libertarian-right. It produced people like Abbie Hoffman and Felix Dennis, little Thatcherite entrepreneurs in tie-died T-shirts, and libertarian hedonists like PJ O'Rourke. Read Tom Frank's 'The Conquest of Cool'.

Crime rates were very high before 1850, when Christianity was still a major institution in civil society. I agree about the family, but what really tore it apart was the decline of the family wage - it remained strong before the 1980s alongside the welfare state.

And to another poster

"When is your book being published? I shall most certainly buy it."

http://www.willanpublishing.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9781843922551

I warn you, though, when you find out how superior qualitative data actually is in explaining social phenomena you will become hooked for life. You will renounce the scientific method and parade up and down your local high street with a banner proclaiming yourself as a former Gradgrind who has seen the light and converted to the art of verstehen, and you will become an addict haunting the internet bookstores, craving ethnographies, getting into debt to ethnography-dealing gangs, attending rehabilitation clinics and driving yourself to bankruptcy. Honestly. So be careful.

"Since you seem to have researched this subject in some depth I really would be interested to know how crime breaks down in ethnic communities and if you have any ideas as why the figures - if they exist - should be as they are. Would I be right in thinking that crime is particularly low in Hindu, Buddhist and probably Muslim communities? If so, why?"

Try the very good work of black American sociologists Carl Rainwater and William Julius Wilson. There are a number of issues here, but perhaps most importantly these:

1) Crime is comparatively low in these communities, but in the West each generation of Hindu and Muslims (I don't know much about Buddhists) see slightly more youngsters involved in crime and gangs. We must not forget that the Asian immigrants were mainly middle-class, and they did well in trade, business and the professions. The Afro-Caribbean immigrants were largely working class, and therefore reliant on industrial and service sector jobs.

2) Asian cultures tend to have a good patriarchy/matriarchy balance in the domestic sphere as far as influence on children goes. African-American and Afro-Caribbean cultures tend to be intensely patriarchal, and male children are very reliant on the father for a role model and a transmitter of the behavioural codes that keep male violence in check: it's very much a 'wait till your father gets home' culture. The decline of blue-collar work and the family wage hit this culture especially hard, causing a lot of family breakdown, absentee fathers and the loss of respect of sons for fathers. This last issue is very important, and our past research has also shown it to be a problem in white English working class cultures. When the father loses work and status, some sons - especially if the relationships are a bit rocky to start with - start to see their fathers as useless losers, or 'mugs'. They lose all respect for them, and the values and behavioural codes cease to be transmitted. Many mothers also lose respect for their husbands, and the male is humiliated and ostracised in his own family, often leaving. The son starts to take on responsibility, usually fails miserably, and resorts to short-cut methods of achieving wealth and status, looking outside to external role models for guidance and inspiration. In run-down estates with active drug-markets the rest is easy to comprehend. The youngster becomes a 'lost soul', outside of the culture's symbolic order and its conscience-building rules and prohibitions. There is nothing quite as dismal and terrifying as a symbolic order in the throes of disintegration. When one becomes an experienced social scientist and sensitive to the existence of these abstract systems of meaning and value, watching one disintegrate becomes something like watching a nearby planet implode.

3) Educated, intellectually capable and skilled individuals and families desert the communities and move elsewhere, leaving them leaderless, rudderless and entirely unrepresented in national culture and politics.

40 Consumer values and the allure of the leisure class flood in through the channels of the mass-media, and individuals start to fantasise about a life of ease outside the community if quick money can be earned.

The criminogenic process is now in train.

It's more complex than that, but it'll do as a starter for 10.



Plenty of fodder to get one's mental teeth into. The appealing thing is that whatever he is, he's not actually a liberal.

"heavy taxation of the global financial industry, the shift of funds from finance capital into production capital, large-scale nationalisation, full, secure and compulsory employment, the return of the family wage so someone can look after the kids, an absolute ban on advertising for kids under 16, strict control of broadcasting, the removal of the worst offenders from the community into long-term jail or secure rehabilitation centres, improved policing and massive effort into early-years education".

Whatever you call that, "liberal" it ain't. He seems to think manufacturing's better than services.

"The return of the family wage" - now obviously I'm as keen as he is on impregnating women and chaining them back to the sink ;-), but I think he's not quite grasped the dynamics here. The "family wage" didn't disappear. But as more women went out to work, and the Thatcher government removed credit controls, house prices became linked to two wages rather than one, pricing single-earner families out of the market. The second earner needed another car, too.

Anfd why did more women go out to work ? Two answers (there are more than two factors, I know) - because it was no longer seen as deviant behaviour to hand your small children to paid strangers, and because employers found that women were ideally suited to the new administrative and service jobs - and made much more compliant, less stroppy employees than men. So the jobs were there.

And why wasn't it seen as deviant behaviour any more ? And why did employers employ women with young children, when twenty years previously women were often expected to leave work on marriage ?

Now we're down to our old friend culture again. IMHO the culture is not created by the economic structures (in this case the rise of the service sector) although it may be influenced by it. In Victorian times women would have made just as good service sector employees - but it was Bob Cratchit in the office, and Mrs C caring for wee Tim, because that was what culture dictated.

I digress from the "family wage". If some evil patriarchal fairy could wave his phallic wand and sack all working mothers, thus making house prices dependent on a single rather than joint wage, house prices might suddenly become affordable for a single earner again - on a 'family wage'.

But that isn't going to happen. So quite what he means by 'the return of the family wage' I know not. If low-income families wages are increased (say via the shambolic tax credits system) there'll just be more cash chasing the same number of houses and prices will rise.

"large-scale nationalisation, full, secure and compulsory employment"

OK, lets forget about nationalisation for the nonce - what happens to the underclass youth or adult who doesn't want "compulsory employment" ? If the answer is "If you don't work you die" he may be on to something.

"an absolute ban on advertising for kids under 16"

No problem with that whatsoever.

"strict control of broadcasting"

I think the BNP are also keen on that one, as well as the family wage and the return of manufacturing. Obviously they may have a different view of what 'strict control' implies to question's.

"the removal of the worst offenders from the community into long-term jail or secure rehabilitation centres"

Yes please - but, as I pointed out, we'll need an extra 50,000 prison places to deal with the half of the 100,000 habitual offenders who are out at any one time. He disagreed :

We wouldn't need an extra 50,000 places. Over 70% of those currently banged up have minor mental health problems, the victims of Thatcherite cuts in the 1980s. These people should be in top-quality, small-scale mental health units - that's where the building will take place.

I certainly agree that closing all the loony bins in the eighties was a bad idea, although I believe that most 'mental health problems' are simply labels we attach to deviant or disapproved behaviour. Probably 95%+ of 'mental health' candidates in prison would pass the McNaughten test of being able to tell right from wrong. However, if they're off the streets, banged up in so-called "mental health units", pretending to be ill while the medics pretend to cure them, that's OK with me.

"improved policing" : carry on, you're doing a grand job. Nowt to argue with there, except to hope that by 'improved' you mean a return to Peel's Principles of policing.

"and massive effort into early-years education"

Timed that one well, didn't you ?

The Government's early years education overhaul, which has cost taxpayers more than £21 billion since 1997, has failed to improve development levels of children entering primary school, research published today shows. The results of the research led the Tories to accuse the Government of introducing initiatives "that have not been properly tested". A six-year study of 35,000 children by academics at Durham University found that children's development and skills as they enter primary school are no different than they were in 2000.

I fail to see why question's bothered about a family wage if the State can educate and socialise a child (whic of course it can't). The massive effort has to be made by families socialising and passing on morality to their own kids. How that's to be achieved takes more space than I've got here. But you can start by establishing a simple rule - if you want less of something, don't subsidise it.

10 comments:

TDK said...

he's not actually a liberal

No but he sounds to me like a tanker communist. Plenty of communists that I knew in the late 1970s demanded "a right to work", which when created became effectively compulsory employment. Like the romantic vision of the USSR.

PS: I've sent you an email (Hotmail) about that radio show you wanted.

JuliaM said...

"...he sounds to me like a tanker communist."

That's a typo, right..?

Anonymous said...

""heavy taxation of the global financial industry, the shift of funds from finance capital into production capital, large-scale nationalisation, full, secure and compulsory employment, the return of the family wage so someone can look after the kids, an absolute ban on advertising for kids under 16, strict control of broadcasting, the removal of the worst offenders from the community into long-term jail or secure rehabilitation centres, improved policing and massive effort into early-years education"."

A hair's breadth from fascism or communism, I can't quite decide which. Such a programme simply could not be imposed, let alone maintained in a democracy, so he would be faced with either his masterplan going or democracy going. I'm pretty sure he'd go for the latter.

Anonymous said...

A few points for "questionnaire":

1. qualitative data is an oxymoron

2. the plural of anecdote is not data

3. the opinions of the subjects of your study are not only irrelevant but actually pervert your "data" (double-blind trials arose from the need to remove the (tacit) opinions of both subject and observer)

4. criminals are stupid - their opinions are worth even less than you paid for them

5. your harangue makes you sound kind of mental, dude

Sandra said...

"tanker communist."

You mean he drives a T.34?

Anonymous said...

You mean he drives a T.34?

Close. To my untrained eye this looks like a T-34.

Anonymous said...

Your untrained eye is correct, thats a T43, a T34/85 in fact, so called because of its 85mm gun.

There were plenty of them operational well after WW2 (and probably some still held in reserve in some former communist countries) so its no surprise to see one pictured in 1956.

Lurker

Anonymous said...

Jesus, I cant even type T34 properly!

Just forget T43 OK.

llekcarj said...

Questionnaire has a sense of humor with his book, with a chapter entitled "Life on the Precipice: Flexible accumulation."

It does sum up what burglars do quite nicely, with nary the slightest hint of censure.

Perhaps flexible accumulator will be the new PC term for thief.

Blithering Bunny said...

This "question" guy fails to appreciate that most people on welfare hate the state. They hate the fact that they are dependent on it, and can't manage on their own, because most people want to be independent, even if they aren't.

That's why so many criminals talk like they think they're self-reliant businessmen. It's not because Thatcherism turns them to crime, or because there's some link between the two (that's just idle sociologist prejudice). It's because most people do not want to
be dependent on the state, and if they are not they will feel superior to those that do. And if they are criminals they will naturally try to justify their behaviour in some way, and pointing out that at least they are not dependent on the state is the a good way of doing so.

But I have also heard plenty of criminals say that they're justified in stealing because it's wrong that other people have so much more money than them, amongst other left-wing sorts of theories. But would question take this as evidence that there is a link between criminality and leftism?