Earlier today I sat in on a gathering of people who talked about the changing evolution of corrections (prisons) that Canadian society was moving towards. A lot of what was said falls into the category of classical social fear; crime is getting out of control and safety for property and person were at the top of the list from almost every speaker who lead the discussion. The dynamics of the meeting was subtle, but from person to person who gave their input, I could see that each changed to fit the “group think” attitudes that prevailed until everyone just agreed.
Am I surprised?
Categorically, the meeting ended with each speaker making a statement that issued an appeal to the government, law enforcement, and to their fellow citizen to pull together and help clamp down on the crime menace. None of the speakers would, however, answer the one key question that hung over the entire meeting, “have you ever been a victim of a crime within the last twelve months”?
The speaker that I thought was the “most out to lunch” was actually the star of the show, so to speak. He was loud, captured the audience, and made tens of statements in less than three minutes before he sat down. His introduction was extreme, and waisted little time getting to the point. He said, “The only real experts on crime are C.O.P.s (sic), and those academics have no clue what is out their in the real world… to create a bunch of theories does not fix anything, we need action now…, and we need to do something about the issues instead of thinking like a bleeding heart Liberal (sic).”
Obviously I cannot argue with someone who has closed their mind to the openness and vastness of human society and the intricateness of human psychology. However, I can make him think further, and go beyond the single brush stroke statements, and make him see that the issues cannot be painted with just one colour. But time is the great definer of getting that message across, and time was not on my side–time ran out for me.
There were several issues that really concerned me that came out of this meeting today. Most are very serious in that they are false and misleading from the truth based on scientific facts. To discount peer reviewed studies, is like going back to the Witch Hunts of the Dark-ages, ignoring the enlightenment of human ontology. To invoke fear, well, that is in itself is a criminal act depending upon the level of unsighted accusations being made, and this gathering came close to breaking that threshold.
In terms of rhetoric, the foundation of my friend’s logos, cited the media as proof enough that crime has gone beyond what anyone organisation can manage to deal with. And with that, came the pathos of his argument, that we should fear, becuase the changing face of our country is diminishing, and we (his group) will be swept a way if we (he) sit back and do nothing. And finally, his ethos of his closing statement was based on his next door neighbour being a police officer, and confiding in him (the speaker) of the moral dilemma of why even the police are powerless in the war on crime.
What I have witnessed today is typical of a group who are trying to deal with a problem that goes beyond the scope that most care to deal with today at a complex level. The study of crime and deviance is a huge field, with many branches that stem into a vast array of specialised fields, as each field has developed into its own faculty or discipline, and few have studied under all of them. I studied Criminology, and I continue on today with that study, looking at both the social and psychological perspectives of humankind; so I try to go to these gathering in hopes that I can broaden the mind of the general public and move forward to a better society. “Baby steps” as an old friend used to say to me, “baby steps.” Not everyone is an academic.