The New Observer Uncategorized The need for enemies

The need for enemies

That’s why we are giving judges the power to order vile offenders to attend their sentencing hearings, with those who refuse facing being forced into the dock or spending longer behind bars.

This is a statement by the Prime Minister Sunak announcing new legislation to force convicted people to turn up for their sentencing. The legislation apparently includes powers for custody officers to drag people from the cells to the dock, which could make for some interesting medieval style sentencing episodes.

This is just populist legislation off the back of the tragic Lucy Letby case.

But it is the “vile offenders” I am picking up on. This is just an example; the language used about convicted criminals is in general of this style. They are “vile”, awful, heinous and so on. Convicted criminals are talked about as other. Almost like an invasive species. At least like an enemy.

But, the problem is, they are us. Even Lucy Letby. It just seems that politicians think there is political capital to be won by creating this narrative of the “other” and damning them. The group huddles closer together with the “other” now excluded, and placed outside. I don’t mean by being sent to prison; in many cases that may be reasonable to protect society. But, I mean in terms of how they are construed, immediately, as Others/aliens/not us. An exile from the body politic. Something different from “us”.

But “they” aren’t Other. People who commit crimes (I mean the kinds of crimes contemporary ideology sees as crimes, so that means excluding mass larceny and human rights abuses on an industrial scale) are, objectively speaking, no less “one of us” for doing that. (Even the corporate-government larcenists are also us). Actually, this view is expressed in Christian thought which allows that the “sinner” is one of us. It can be observed that we aren’t a very Christian society.