Friday, 24 August 2012

Violence, Marriage Breakups and a decline in morality

This is a response to Lino Spiteri's article on The Times yesterday.

Why is violence on the rise? A few days ago we had a group of people caught beating up a man while surrounded by reporters, cameras and so on. They got a paltry €60 fine. A couple of days ago a man was charged with cutting open a man's face from forehead to lips - he got just over €100. Yesterday, two men chased down a man for "
flirting" with a woman who was their relative. The police arrested and charged the victim because, during the chase, he ran over and damaged a car. No mention was made of actions taken against the aggressors. This leniency for violent crimes clashes with the draconian sentences meted out to anyone caught growing cannabis - an activity that causes nobody any harm. Examples like this serve to erode the public's confidence in the courts, which in turn may lead to the more hot-headed of them to not bother with the courts to seek redress over clashes with other people, and take matters into their own hands.

As far as marriage breakups are concerned, I know of no simple answer. This of course is happening everywhere in the world. It could be a result of a more hectic lifestyle which leaves less time for one another, or a culture where the couple are more concerned with getting than with giving, or increasing financial and other stresses. Another reason of course is that there no longer is the same kind of social stigma associated with marriage breakups - especially if there aren't children involved. Of course this only means that, in the past, many couples continued living under one roof long after their marriage was ended, merely for the sake of appearances.

I certainly agree that the police should be equipped with "non-lethal weapons" to give them a middle-ground between a stern voice and a deadly weapon. However we should be careful that, first of all, most "non-lethal weapons" are in fact "less likely to be lethal weapons". Many such weapons can and do kill - so we must look beyond the manufacturers' brochures. Secondly, we must ensure that our police do not abuse of them simply because they are non-lethal. In recent times we've seen photos from abroad of police officers using pepper-spray in the faces of protesters who were seated and posing no danger to anyone.

As for the concept of God, people are simply realising that there is no link between morality and gods or church. Cases like last year's divorce referendum and the current debate on IVF have opened people's eyes to the fact that the church's morality is highly flawed - and that their own sense of ethics is superior to the church's, which remains mired in dogmatic rules based on a book of stories from the iron age. Of course it's irrelevant today. It's been irrelevant for centuries. Morality, on the other hand, is not. It's only the source of that morality that has changed.

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