Kiwi Polemicist

July 19, 2009

• Sian Elias and the “Blameless Babes” speech

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Updated 26-7-09.

sian eliasI’ve read the execrable speech titled “Blameless Babes”, which was given by Sian Elias – our illustrious Chief Justice – and I’m amazed that she isn’t a basket case. It must cause massive internal conflict when her world view says one thing and reality says the opposite. A person who wishes to function in that situation has two options – deny reality or change their world view. Elias has chosen to deny reality, and if someone does that for long enough they’ll head into the realms of mental illness.

What is Elias’ world view? I cannot say with certainty, but judging by her speech and the fact that Helen Clark appointed her to the Supreme Court (when the Privy Council was done away with in 2004), I think it very likely that Elias is a Socialist/Marxist, an extreme feminist, and an extreme social liberal.

Let’s have a look at two portions of the speech (PDF 126kb)…

Portion 1: Where did “Blameless Babes” come from?

This speech was the annual Shirley Smith address, given in her honour and hosted by The Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Law Society Women-in-Law Committee. Elias says that she “loved” Smith.

Elias said

In November 1999 Shirley wrote a letter to the editor expressing her opposition to a bill increasing sentences. She said:

“To provide only a prison at the bottom of the cliff is not a solution. Criminals will just go on falling into it, at great cost to the community.

We have to find out why blameless babes become criminals. Writing as a lawyer who has read many probation reports I have no doubt that their life experience has been the cause. Society creates criminals, society must look at the conditions that create them. ” (para 4)

I have three comments about this:

*****1-> Smith says “We have to find out why blameless babes become criminals…I have no doubt that their life experience has been the cause“. This is correct in and of itself but Elias and Smith blame the wrong life experiences: they believe that children are born blameless and would remain so if they were not corrupted (made evil) by an external factor or factors, including parents. This, Elias and Smith believe, means that criminals are in fact victims and those who corrupted them are ultimately at fault. To say that people would remain as blameless as a babe unless corrupted by “society” is pure fiction, because children are born with an inclination to evil which they will follow unless they are taught (trained) otherwise. Consider this: any civilised parent will tell you that a child left to its own devices will do wrong in short order, and teachers patrol school grounds at lunch time for the same reason. Raising children is like laying a concrete path: if you just throw the concrete on the ground it will follow its natural inclination, which is to spread out and make a mess that hurts the feet of those people that come into contact with it. What is needed is boxing – the pieces of wood that shape the concrete – and something to smooth the top so that the concrete will form a good path that is kind to those whom come into contact with it. Concrete can make a bad path or a good path. Children can become kind adults or criminal adults. Children will grow up and make a mess of their life and the lives of those whom they come into contact with unless they are shaped by parental training that opposes their inclination to evil.

The life experiences that lead to criminality are (1) being raised by parents with a criminal world view or (2) being raised by parents who allow their children to follow their natural inclination to evil (i.e. their parents failed to teach them to deny that inclination and do good)¹.

*****2-> The sentence “To provide only a prison at the bottom of the cliff is not a solution. Criminals will just go on falling into it, at great cost to the community” says a lot about Smith and Elias. They think that criminals “fall” into crime and prison, as if it’s something beyond their control. They think that whatever corrupted the “blameless babes” is to blame for their later “fall” into crime and prison. That is dung of bull: criminals choose to commit crimes, knowing that prison may be the consequences of their actions.

*****3->Society creates criminals, society must look at the conditions that create them”. I detect the stench of Socialism/Marxism here. According to Smith and Elias, you and I have created Theodore the Thug who lives down the road, and we “must” (that’s them telling us what to do) look at the conditions that created him. This is how Smith and Elias take the responsibility for crimes committed away from Theodore the Thug and place it on everyone else’s shoulders. As I said above, criminals choose to commit crimes, and they are solely responsible for their actions.

Portion 2: Elias’ Conclusion

Elias’ speech is rambling and has little structure, but the conclusion does give us a good summary of what Elias believes. She has clearly adopted the views of her beloved Smith:

Time and again Shirley Smith made the point that “the threat of imprisonment does not deter, and imprisonment does not reform”. She points to the causes of crime – lack of love and care, cruelty, bad diet which handicap the child and lead to physical damage of the brain as well as psychological damage. I leave the last words to her. “As a society we create our criminals; we, as a whole, are responsible”, she wrote in one letter to the editor. And in another, she said this:

“As counsel over many years, defending those charged with criminal offences, I read probation reports that would break your heart.

Children brought up in dysfunctional families, without love, abused and beaten, ill-fed and ill-clothed, how were they to turn into model citizens?

An overall cause is the replacement of a sense of community by that “every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost” culture …

To reduce crime it is necessary to identify what makes criminals and deal with the causes …

This is the only long-term, effective way to help victims, to reduce their numbers. Punishment does not work”. (para 46)

I have six comments about this:

*****A->She points to the causes of crime – lack of love and care, cruelty, bad diet …“. Those things do not cause crime, and I am amazed that supposedly intelligent people would think that they might. Those three things are common in criminal families, so perhaps Smith and Elias are making the fundamental error of confusing coincidence and causality.

What are the causes of criminality? Either the criminal world view is actively taught by a child’s parents, or parents allow their children to follow their evil inclinations to a degree which results in criminality. In either case criminality is deeply – almost indelibly – etched onto a child’s heart by the time the child is about seven years old. The criminal world view is characterised by narcissism, hedonism, indolence, rebelliousness, and lack of respect for the person and property of others. Translation: the criminal world view is one of utter self-centredness and a grossly inflated ego, where pursuit of pleasure is the purpose of life. Add to that laziness, rebellion against laws and the mores of society, and a lack of respect for the person and property of others, and you have a criminal who will take whatever he wants because it is the easiest way of fulfilling his lusts/desires. It also saves him from getting a job where he will have to obey the boss and not be able to do whatever pleases him.

*****B->As a society we create our criminals; we, as a whole, are responsible”. Bunkum – see #3 above.

*****C->Children brought up in dysfunctional families, without love, abused and beaten, ill-fed and ill-clothed, how were they to turn into model citizens?“. The phrase “model citizens” sounds very Orwellian to me, and a capitalist would say something like “healthy individuals”.

*****D->the threat of imprisonment does not deter, and imprisonment does not reform”. “Punishment does not work“. How amazing, here’s something else that I agree with. The question is, why not? I believe that because the criminal world view is deeply etched on a person’s heart they will continue to be a criminal, because people always act according to their world view. A criminal will always be a criminal unless he changes his world view, and the state cannot change the world view of an adult. Adults can and do change their world view, but it is a very rare and difficult thing.  Also, a person has to want to change their world view and most people prefer the status quo. I’m reminded of an old and rather lame joke: how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to want to change.

*****
E->To reduce crime it is necessary to identify what makes criminals and deal with the causes …“. I believe that it is illegitimate for the state to be involved in crime prevention. Furthermore, this type of statement is almost always a justification for state interference in the raising of children.

*****F->To reduce crime it is necessary to identify what makes criminals and deal with the causes …This is the only long-term, effective way to help victims, to reduce their numbers“. Even if this was legitimate and it worked it wouldn’t be the only way. Amongst other things, I want to see an end to welfarism and state education that reinforces the criminal world view. I want to see restorative justice, where a criminal is repaying his debt to the victim, instead of this nonsense where criminals repay their fictional “debt to society” by occupying a rent-free bed with meals, laundry, etc. thrown in. I want to see a legal system that does not hinder victims when they seek redress from criminals.

My conclusion

• Smith and Elias think that the cause of criminality is as follows: children are born innately (naturally) good and then corrupted (made evil) by external factors, including “society”. Later they become criminals and “fall” into prison, but it’s not really their fault and “society” is “responsible” for them. The solution, they say is state intervention in child rearing.

• The real cause of criminality is parents who instill a criminal world view into their children or allow their children to follow their inclination towards evildoing. By about seven years of age a child’s world view is deeply – almost indelibly – engraved on a child’s heart. Prison and the alternatives don’t change criminality because people act according to their world view. A change of world view is possible but rare and difficult. The state, itself a criminal, can never change the world view of another criminal.

• Elias doesn’t have a clue about the causes and cures of criminality because her world view is grossly defective. In her speech she says that imprisonment doesn’t work and therefore prison populations should be reduced. She also says that alternatives have been shown not to work, but that we “need to keep trying to see what works in the criminal justice system” (para 19 & 8). Thanks, that’s a great help.

• In my humble opinion this speech shows that Elias is confused and has nothing to offer New Zealand. In both respects she is like every other person who shares her Socialist/Marxist, feminist, social liberal world view.

• Criminals and crime will always be with us as long as this world lasts, so build a bridge and get over it.

What do you think about Elias’ speech and the points that I have raised here?

Related posts:

Mother expects police to control her 10 year old son

Update to “Mother expects police to control her 10 year old son”: more about the car theft

Nine year old thug in New Zealand

New Zealand should have restorative justice

1. Obviously I’m just concentrating on the two primary causes of criminality for the sake of brevity. If I tried to cover every possible path to criminality you’d be reading a PhD thesis 🙂

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2 Comments »

  1. Personally I object to the Chief Justice’s speech, not on its content, but along the grounds that it stretches her constitutional role as a jurist; to apply, rather than direct, legislative policy.

    In terms of your specific concerns, however, I believe that they are somewhat misplaced.

    In particular I find your statement that “it is illegitimate for the state to be involved in crime prevention” questionable. Surely this is one of the strongest justifications for what political philosophers term the “social contract” (or in other words the justification for government). If crime prevention is not within the gambit of legitimate state power I would ask what, to your mind, is? If you don’t believe that the state has a role in crime prevention then you obviously hold an anarchist world view that would condone “eye for an eye” retribution, vigilantism and ultimately a “might is right” scenario. This is supported by your comment that you “want to see a legal system that does not hinder victims when they seek redress from criminals”. In fact, one of the most vital pillars of a civil socity under the rule of law, as Dame Sian strongly argues in her speech, is the delegation of the right to enforce criminal justice to the state, in order that the passion of personal retribution is removed from the equation. The purpose of such extraction is to provide for an overall result that not only considers the needs of the victim, but also of society.

    To put it more simply, what the Chief Justice is arguing is that sentencing should not only take into consideration the rights of the present victim, but also, through targeting recidivism, potential future victims. Sentencing therefore needs to not only comprise punitive and retributive considerations but also requires rehabilitation (ie preventing the present prisoner from re-offending) and deterrence (ie preventing others from offending in the future). In this way, rather than precipitating the downward spiral of criminality that a purely punitive criminal justice system has been empirically demonstrated to create, we can attempt to create the macro-effect of reducing crime through the criminal justice system (even though you may personally disagree that this is a legitimate aim).

    I would value your thoughts in response.

    Comment by Ian — July 19, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

    • Ian:

      In particular I find your statement that “it is illegitimate for the state to be involved in crime prevention” questionable. Surely this is one of the strongest justifications for what political philosophers term the “social contract” (or in other words the justification for government). If crime prevention is not within the gambit of legitimate state power I would ask what, to your mind, is?

      It may or may not be one of the strongest justifications in the opinion of some people, but that is irrelevant to me because I believe that nothing can justify an evil social contract (which is a misnomer). See https://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/what-is-a-social-contract/

      Furthermore, the fruits of crime prevention show that the tree is evil. For examples see https://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2008/08/31/police-checkpoints-breach-the-civil-liberties-of-the-many-to-catch-the-few/
      and
      https://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/drink-driving-should-be-legalised/

      I believe that the only legitimate function of the state is punishing those who violate the non-aggression axiom.

      If you don’t believe that the state has a role in crime prevention then you obviously hold an anarchist world view that would condone “eye for an eye” retribution, vigilantism and ultimately a “might is right” scenario

      That is an unwarranted assumption.

      In fact, one of the most vital pillars of a civil socity under the rule of law, as Dame Sian strongly argues in her speech, is the delegation of the right to enforce criminal justice to the state, in order that the passion of personal retribution is removed from the equation.

      We do not “delegate” it, the state takes it. There’s nothing wrong with passionate retribution that is proportional to the crime (no, I’m not talking about lynch mobs or other forms of vigilante justice. I’m talking about doing things in a civilised way). Remember that a crime is committed by a person against another person.

      you obviously hold an anarchist world view that would condone “eye for an eye” retribution, vigilantism and ultimately a “might is right” scenario. This is supported by your comment that you “want to see a legal system that does not hinder victims when they seek redress from criminals”.

      As I said, the first part is an unwarranted assumption, and my statement that you quote in no way whatsoever supports that assumption. The key word is “legal”, which clearly implies a structured way of doing things.

      As regards your last paragraph, the state has shown itself to be essentially incapable of preventing recidivism and rehabilitating criminals, for the reasons described in my post. The idea of a criminal state attempting to rehabilitate other criminals is laughable.

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — July 22, 2009 @ 12:07 am


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