I was prompted to write this blog by two things. Firstly, I came across “If” by Rudyard Kipling so I re-read it and it got me thinking about decent behaviour and how society has changed since Kipling wrote the poem. In particular, how some pillars of society conduct themselves nowadays. The poem is reproduced at the bottom of this post but, essentially, it advises the reader on how to be a decent and honourable man. Secondly, I got into a Twitter discussion with some people about the Pilkington case.
The Pilkingtons were a mother and an adult, mentally retarded daughter who were hounded for years by a group of yobs. Despite numerous calls to the police there was no effective action taken. The mother was driven to despair and, eventually, killed her daughter and herself by self-immolation in her car. Interestingly, no police officers were disciplined. You can read about the story here. However, “lessons have been learnt” and “procedures tightened”.
The people I spoke to on Twitter were “in the justice trade” and seemed to be more interested in whether the yobs were committing “hate crime” or anti social behaviour when they persecuted the Pilkingtons. My stance that the yobs were committing a crime and the police had failed to protect the Pilkingtons seemed to baffle the Twitterati. Bizarrely, one of them said I was accusing the police of a cover-up. I wasn’t of course (there has been a full enquiry) but making accusations like that are a standard diversionary tactic if you question vested interests.
Then I came across the story of Simon Burgess who went into pond, apparently had a seizure and drowned. What made this sad story stand out was there was a host of paramedics, firecrew and police on site but they didn’t attempt to rescue Mr Burgess because they hadn’t been trained to walk into a 3 ft deep pond. Over 30 people stood around and did nothing of any practical value. Nobody can say for sure whether Mr Burgess would have survived had he been pulled out of the water when the emergency services arrived but it is possible as rescue could have been affected within the resuscitation time frame. You can read the details here.
I don’t especially blame the emergency staff in these cases. I do question their fitness to act in the interests of the public they serve in extremis. Not because I think they are cowards or jobsworths. They are constrained by societal and managerial norms that are more concerned with health and safety or the rights of the perpetrator than the people at risk. Indeed, staff have been threatened with disciplinary action for doing their job.
My view on this is very simple. I pay local and national taxes which fund our emergency services. I don’t want a police service that is working with other agencies to blah blah blah. I want a police force that will enforce the law and a judicial system that will give out effective deterrents to criminals. I could not give a fig if criminals come from dysfunctional families or have drug, alcohol or anger management issues but I do want a society where the law-abiding majority can go about their business in peace.
I also want paramedics to treat me as soon as is humanly possible and firecrew that will put out fires and do their best to rescue me from a blaze, a car or a pond. I don’t want paramedics and firecrew that haven’t got the gumption to fish me out of a pond when its necessary. No doubt the Pilkingtons and Simon Burgess would agree with me if they could and I suspect many other people will too.
To conclude, compare those stories to Kipling’s exhortation: If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you, Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ I can’t imagine Kipling having much truck with the risk-averse actions of the people, or their bosses, in the above stories. No wonder we lost the Empire.
The whole of If now follows.If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!