Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sexual offences the price of moral ambivalence

There was today a story in the NZ Herald today about a disturbing sexual offence in Sydney. People are of course quick to judge in such cases, but thinking is always an after-thought.
I however want to say that these sex offences against this child are completely compatible with contemporary values. Hard to believe? Well let’s break down the story. Firstly, let me say that I am no way condoning these actions. My point is that – if we want to stop such acts, society needs to change their values. Clearly these parents went another 'mile', but fundamentally their values are compatible with a great many 'civilised' people in your community.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that the man was probably sexually abused as a child. Let’s acknowledge that his partner was probably abused as a child as well, however in any respect they both had diminished self-esteem. Let’s acknowledge that they had reason to snub society because society is scornful of such behaviour, and tends to treat such offenders as ‘creepy’ rather than as victims. Sadly victims give rise to victimisation. Their whole value system has been distorted by their child experiences. The scorn of society was only destined to result in those values being pushed underground. i.e. They would initially have performed their acts as a clandestine act; eventually becoming more daring.
More interesting and shameful was the fact that the man was streaming the footage of his wife and son having sex. Sure he would have been doing it for his own sexual gratification, however it appears moreover he was turning it into a spectacle. This was probably normalised behaviour for him. We need to appreciate his perspective. He was showing signs of ‘control’, the same control that he wished he had when he was abused as a child.
The response of the judge was to lock him away for 9 years. This is silly for several reasons. There is no evidence of violence. The control was a reaction to his childhood. It would make more sense to place him on an island with other sex offenders rather than release him into the community in 9 years. The US has such a facility. Australia ought to have one as well, though I don't think it needs to be as high security as the $170,000 per person per annum would justify. Simply give them GPS trackers. If they escape the island, they go to a higher security prison.
So in what sense is this reflective of contemporary values? Well, we would like the man to have some sense of empathy for the boy. We would hope he would have some respect for the law. But consider the following:
1. The lack of empathy people have for paedophiles – it does not mean approving of their values – on the contrary it means understanding how they came to fall in their position, such that we might prevent others. This did not happen in this case...until it was too late. Why? Scornful social values resulted in this man doing as he pleased because he was invalidated by society.
2. The fact that there are too many kids in Australia or NZ who are placed in positions of risk by custodians who have no ideas; who are not conceptual thinkers, who don’t anticipate problems....because it’s not their problem...until it happens.
3. Consider how easy it is to spurn the law when it comprises the arbitrary, self-serving laws enacted by politicians. Might 'commonsensical' common land be undermined by the nonsensical statutory laws which are all too common.
4. Consider the first cause of the custodians, who enabled by lack of responsibility or insight, enabled their child/children to be abused. The reality is that its too easy for a pedophile to pick up kids. Parents really need to be vigilant. These predators are systematic is their objective, whilst you are perhaps distracted by other things. The sad reality is vigilance is the only protection.

The acts of his wife are not unbelievable. They are entirely logical from her perspective. She has low self-esteem, so the worst thing that could happen would be alienation from her husband. She has therefore a subjective sense of reality. It is therefore easy for her to place her appeasement of her husband’s demands before her child’s security or interests, which she can conveniently rationalise away if there is a greater value. If society had greater respect for objective values...this would be harder to justify. She doesn’t, they don’t, so abuse persists in society, and thus more innocent people become victims.
This is of course not a justification for sexual’s an explanation for why it happens. In this instance, there is sufficient evidence to develop a psychological profile for the offenders.
Society’s view is of course to be scornful of such acts....but why not take the next step and understand the causal nature of such offenders. The fact that such instances occur in society is evidence enough that we need greater moral vigilance. This is not how people think. Instead people just compartmentalise their life and do their own thing....concluding instead ‘what is right for you if your life, what’s right for me is something else’. i.e. This is of course the subjective values that these offenders endorse.
In society, we all face acts which test us. When we have bad role models around, its all the more probable that we will make bad decisions and be defined by those. i.e. If you have a prison sentence, you define yourself as a 'criminal' and you are tagged for life. Really, we are never so invested in people. This is part of the problem. We maybe it very easy for people to opt out of life, and very hard for them to join the human race. The whole structure of society needs to be rewritten. What I can tell you is that we are so off the course that you have little hope for a better world. With the power of the internet, let's give the world 50 years at least to turn this around. I might just live to see it. I guess I'm clinging to optimism.
You might ask why I am so empathetic of pedophiles. I think its because I expect so little from them....and so much more from you. I think that is why I like Japanese people more than foreigners. When you look at their social context, you kind of expect them to be weird and am more impressed when you meet a sane one. Try living in Japan and you will realise how perverted collectivism can make a society. This is not to imply you should have contempt for Japanese people. Even if their values are collectivist, they each have a personal context. The richness of your experience relating to them comes from empathising and understanding their particular context, not alienating them with scornful judgement. Of course we ought to appreciate that they are all individuals. I have met some very impressive Japanese people. Some might say 'very Western'...or simply 'normal', if you like that relativist standard.

The focus of this article is sexual or physical assault. The reality is that psychological assault is just as concerning, and its even more concerning when its perpetrators are the government, whom are systematically imposing their values on you through the education system, through the political system, and other institutions. More on this topic in our political blog.
Andrew Sheldon
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