Sorry, what? Blithering? It means 'to talk foolishly'. Try to keep up...
Anyway; criminals. Much is made of criminal behaviour - indeed an entire field of academic study exists to...study it (I wish I'd planned that sentence a little better). It's called - rather unimaginatively, I feel - Criminology. I've never studied criminology, although there are one or two books in the house on the subject, busily - if slowly - collecting dust that might otherwise fall upon something much more useful (for example: cake). I've met many people who have engaged themselves in this field of study to varying degrees, and our discussions upon the subject of criminal behaviour tend not to last very long. There's a very good reason for this, I think; a divergence of experience and practical application.
My professional life has mostly revolved around dealing directly with criminal behaviour, the people who exhibit it and of course the most important group in this triumvirate; the victims of crime. I've dealt face-to-face with everything from the slightly miffed neighbour who wants his garden rake back to the angry victim of a domestic burglary, to the child who has just been told that their dad will never be coming home.
I know that these experiences have affected my perspective; I understand that I have a particular angle on crime, but due to the extent of my experiences, I firmly believe that it is a viewpoint based upon the best kind of evidence. It's based upon facts; not statistical facts, but human facts; the emotional impact of crime upon victims. You will often hear people sympathize with a police officer in terms such as; 'It must be so hard to tell someone that their loved one has been killed'. Yes, it is, but the overwhelming number of cops that I have worked with tell you that their discomfort is as nothing in their minds compared to the agony of the bereaved or the panic of the worried relative when told that their loved one has been hurt. We have lots of 'fly-on-the-wall ' style TV programs which portray (some of them quite well) the work of police officers, but there are precious few - if any - programs which look in any meaningful way at the effect of crime upon the victims of crime. Entertainment value seems to outweigh the real issue; crime hurts.
Over the years, having dealt with crime in many different scenarios, a broad base of data has unconsciously accumulated inside my poor overworked brain cell. Whether by choice or otherwise, a picture has formed, based upon cumulative experiences, conversations (with criminals) and observations. I'm pretty confident of my conclusion, even though I accept that compared to an exhaustive academic study, it's bound to be a rather simplistic explanation. I do, however, feel that the overwhelming majority of criminal behaviour arises out of one fundamental human trait.
That particular trait is: selfishness.
My experience has been that the utter disregard for any (and in some cases almost all) of society's rules is seated in a criminal's deeply-rooted belief that he or she is entitled to have or to do whatever they want whenever they want it. For most of us, this premise is clearly nonsensical and unworkable. For most of us, the understanding that there are limits upon how completely we can fulfill our immediate or long-term wishes is fairly straightforward. We comprehend without difficulty that the world does not revolve around us, and hasn't done so since we were helpless babies. It's not a difficult concept, however the personalities that I've come across in my professional life would probably not understand what I'm talking about.
When I was a very young, naiive copper and beginning to deal with some of the lower forms of life on our social ladder, I would occasionally engage some of them in conversation in a foolish attempt (I was young!) to rationalise their behaviour and to try to help them understand why what they were doing was something of a dead end. Each and every time I came across an insurmountable hurdle - namely that we would be talking in different languages. The (predominantly) men I spoke to were working from a different set of values and perceptions about the world. Almost without exception they considered it their right to steal what they wanted, to inflict harm upon whomever they decided deserved it, and to essentially satiate whatever desire they experienced as soon as possible. It didn't take long for me to realise that my fleeting contacts with such idiotic examples of the species was not going to change the world.
People who hold such values struggle to function within society. It's probably not easy for them, but I don't really care if it is or it isn't. What - and whom - I care about are their victims; the people who suffer loss or physical and emotional injury. Those people are the ones that matter; those are the people who deserve the support of a shocked and caring society. It's a great shame, therefore, that the reality of our modern western society is that far more groups and organisations exist to support the welfare of the convicted criminal than exist to support victims of crime. It's an imbalance that has existed for many, many years, and no doubt will continue to do so for many years yet, while those who seek to make a criminal's life better remain ignorant to the effects of crime upon individuals.
Will we ever be crime-free? Not a chance - not while selfishness exists; not while people feel entitled to have and do what they want when they want. We're stuck with criminals. As our population continues to boom (pandemic diseases notwithstanding), our criminal population grows with it. The question that society as a whole needs to face up to and decide upon concrete answers to is this: what do we want to do about crime and the people who commit it? It is, of course, a massive question, and while I have my opinions (ever-evolving), I'm not intellectually equipped to find the magic solution - in fact I can't even imagine a magic solution. It bothers me that containing criminals may be the best that we can do, that making prison so appallingly awful may be the best deterrent to crime that we have at our disposal. It bothers me because so far, history has taught us that it's never worked.
The universe is a randomly ruthless and brutal place, and we have arisen out of this maelstrom of stardust, essentially by chance. Could it be that ruthlessness is the human race's best chance to prevent an implosion, to prevent chaos? I sincerely hope not, but so far we have failed to contain the disease called crime in any other way. The Singapore system and the experimental system in New York, both (to a certain and differing degree) ruthless applications of law, have been fruitful in radically reducing crime, although with some largely unavoidable curtailment of what we may consider traditional 'freedoms' to transgress just a little bit(who among us has never gone over the speed limit, never dropped a piece of litter, never sworn out loud in public?).
The line between policing by consent and either chaos or a police state is a fine line, but a line nonetheless. I hope that the human race can find a way to increasingly marginalise crime without turning us all into servile, frightened servants of the state.