I've been thinking about what I wrote the other day on the tar & feathers incident in Belfast, about it being a warning not only to the crooks but to the government as well.
One of the basics of a free people is that if the government does not, or will not, take care of its job, then the people have not only the right, they have the obligation to take care of it. Not something generally thought about, but it's there.*
Now, this obligation brings in one of the frustrations and dangers for a society: when the authorities(police, judge, jury, prosecutor) don't do their job for whatever reason. When some rapist or robber or burglar isn't prosecuted, or is but plea-bargains to something minor and walks out or whatever. At the least it erodes confidence in the system: at the most it can lead to people deciding "Ok, if the damned police and judges won't protect us from those bastards, we'll do it ourselves". If frustrations and fears and anger become great enough that they start acting on it, things have a real potential to go to hell in a major way.
There you wind up with the authorities("You cannot take the law into your own hands!") facing the people("If you won't enforce the law, we've got not choice but to do it ourselves!"), with- most of the time- little good that can come out of it. There are real problems with both sides here: people in authority positions don't take kindly to someone else taking over what they tend to see as their prerogative to act, even- sometimes especially- when they're not using it. And it really is not a good thing for people to have to enforce the law, call it 'informally'. If it's hit that point, and the police come down hard on the people doing it, they've now gone from being the 'useless bastards who won't put the crooks away' to 'the enemy'. At best they might be 'the worthless shits screwing over the people doing the job the cops wouldn't do', but that's not much better. Just a bit. Same thing happens when the law enforcement authorities come to be seen not as peace officers, not as the people Sir Robert Peel** wrote rules for, but as agents of the politicians, who don't care about the law and right or wrong.***
At best, at that point, The Authorities get the idea that if they don't straighten up and accomplish some of the things they're supposed to do, all hell will break loose. The people decide to give the Authorities the chance to do their jobs, and things settle down.
At worst... That line about 'hell breaking loose' isn't hyperbole, it's a description. That can get to the point of, at worst, open war. At which point it's much, much more difficult to get things back on track. And even if you do get back on track, the emotions and attitudes set up by the Troubles(to borrow a phrase) will last for years, with real distrust/dislike/hatred on both sides. Politicians and cops who've had their Authority and Dignity kicked in the ass by something like this have a bad tendency to decide that The
Which is why I very much hope the Brits either elect some people who understand the problems they've got and actually work to improve things(not a lot of hope of that), or the Stout Bulldogs manage to bite the collective ass of the government bad enough to shock them into straightening up(not much hope of that, either, at this point). Otherwise- ESPECIALLY if there's another big, bloody terrorist action, but also if people just get fed up and say to hell with it- it's going to degenerate very badly, which will probably get very damn bloody
*Side note: A lot of people- most, in most places- understand the right of self-defense, but not as many think of the obligation. I've read that in the Torah there is specific note that if you are attacked, you have the obligation to protect yourself, your family, your people; that to fail to do so not only leaves you a victim but means you have failed in your duty to God.
Ok, take deity out of it: that still leaves you a victim if you do not act in self-defense, and, in the long run, everyone around you is at more risk. Because if the bad guys get away with robbing/raping/killing you and yours, they're out there waiting for a chance to do it again.
I think a lot of us know this without having actively thought of it this way. "If someone robs/cripples/kills me and just walks away, they're free to do it to someone else." Which adds a certain amount of pressure to things. Not at the time of the act, I wouldn't think; you're kind of busy at that point with the more immediate problem. But thinking about it before, and dealing with it after... It's become kind of a cliche', "If you hadn't stopped him, he'd be killing/raping/robbing/torturing someone else soon, so stop blaming yourself for killing him." But it's a real fact to deal with: you stop an attacker, whether by shooting, whacking them with something heavy or holding them for the police, you're both protecting yourself and the other people that crook would have victimized after you.
** These deserve posting:
|SIR ROBERT PEEL'S NINE PRINCIPLES|
***Remember the piece about 'Romanian rules'? The latter has become a real attitude problem among a LOT of people. They don't trust the FBI or ATF or US Marshalls much to start with after the crap that's been happening the last couple of decades: add in some big, messy incidents and it goes from 'don't trust' to 'they're the enemy, period'. In the aftermath of Ruby Ridge and Waco, as the piece points out, a lot of feds got the idea real quick as to what would happen if there were any more of those incidents, which is probably why they didn't. But that's been a bunch of years ago, and there are a lot of agents in various agencies who've forgotten that, or they weren't there at the time and haven't really learned it/figured it out. Which means a real possibility for disaster in the future.