Drugs are a bad thing, we have collectively agreed; therefore they should be blocked, and the block must be policed and enforced – by good men and women who have no interest in drugs themselves. They give their lives, and thus wreck other lives – that of their families – in pursuit of our dream of blocking the availability of drugs to the ne’er do wells who would take them. That is why some 200 good men have died in Afghanistan and – to me – more horrifically, many hundreds more wounded and permanently maimed, left to make a future life without a leg or an arm, so that we armchair critics can dream of a future when there will not be drugs available to those who wish to live their life in oblivion. Policemen are killed, governments and officials corrupted. Drugs kill, we cry, quietly ignoring the obvious fact that blocking drugs does an equally good job at killing people – good people, decent people. Collateral damage to our knee jerk reaction.
There is a similar trade off in the paedophilia industry. Paedophilia is a bad thing we cry, it must be stopped. So hundreds of good men and women, who would have no interest in such things, must go to work daily and have their brains sullied by watching gross images, to track down the masters of the porn industry. More good men and women are occupied guarding the few perpetrators who are caught, and supervising them when they emerge from prison – prison which other good men and women have worked hard to pay for.
When they do emerge from prison, we insist that they are labelled and vilified. This has two effects, more decent people must go to work to support them in their lifestyle for we have made it nigh on impossible for them to get a decent job – assuming that our expensive prison break had actually changed their ways. The second, more difficult to gauge effect, is that we insist that they do not live near schools, we chase them out of ‘decent’ areas, we corral them in the worst possible accommodation, amongst people whose values are little different than their own, and we employ hundreds more decent people to go amongst them and regulate their lifestyle, an impossible task, but we do not care, we ‘have done something about it’ – until it all goes wrong, and then we wreck the lives of the social workers and police officers by labelling them incompetent and uncaring for failing to complete their impossible task. More collateral damage.
We have ‘rescued’ Jaycee Lee Dugard from Phillip Garrido’s garden. Bully for us. We have pandered to our knee jerk reaction. A wrong has been righted – but how many other wrongs have been done in the process? She was not truly a prisoner, she worked in his business, she had many meetings with the outside world. He was captured because he took her and her children with him to a probation office meeting for heavens sake. Yes, a great wrong was done to her – and her true parents, she was kidnapped. However, over the years she had become acclimatised to the life she had, in the same way that an adopted child would become acclimatised even if they had the misfortune to be adopted by a ‘bad’ family. Now she is stigmatised and confused for life. She has been torn from the life she knew – little different, in truth, from the lives of hundreds of other young girls from the boondocks, living in poor accommodation, giving birth to children by a man she did not love. Two more children who knew no other life have similarly been confused and wrenched from their life and their friends.
How much ‘good’ have we really achieved?
There will no doubt be those who will say – but look at the Fritzl case, those children were physically harmed by the life they led! Indeed, but the world didn’t go into a paroxysm of moral outrage, nor were those children rescued because of the physical damage to them, there are thousands of children all over the world living in far worse circumstances. That case made headlines because we had had a ‘result’ to one of our knee jerk reactions.
We will pour thousands and thousands of dollars into counselling Jamie Lee Dugard and her children. An entire support industry will spring into action, consuming thousands more dollars. The media will indulge in an ‘outragefest”. Oprah will no doubt pontificate, more laws will be passed.
And what ‘good’ will we really have done?
Drugs will still be consumed by those who wish to, children will still be born in seedy homes to women who are regularly beaten up, lifestyles will still perpetuate themselves. It is not as though we are ever going to stop these things happening.
Meanwhile, there is an army out there, risking their lives, polluting their minds, working themselves ragged, costing a small fortune, and I sometimes wonder if its sole purpose is to keep those of us happy who say ’something must be done’ – regardless of the collateral damage.