Life must be beautifully simple in whatever delusory parallel dimension the collective mind of the Daily Mail resides. The moral landscape is a comfortable, if a little drab, chessboard of black and white. Science can and should deliver binary “yes” or “no” answers to complex issues and when it can’t we may as well just make up crazy shit and believe that. Britain is bloody great and every other country is populated with peculiar yokels. And people can be neatly sorted into perfectly homogeneous little squirming dollops of either “goodies” or “baddies” based on the most superficially obvious of their circumstances.
So, the depth of thought required to navigate rationally through our world where the human condition is an inextricable knot of complex interacting factors would make their tiny brains, sensitively balanced to handle only the most childishly simple of concepts, bubble and pop like simmering porridge. No surprise, then, that they avoid such attempts at analysis and deliver indignant headlines like the one we can see today:
“Millionaire who fought off a knife-wielding burglar is jailed (while the intruder is let off)”
Bloody hell! You’d be forgiven for thinking that each member of our judiciary had disappeared up his nearest colleague’s arse, forming a spectacular ouroboros of thousands of suffocating judges that would rival the London Eye. However, remember that this headline was written by denizens of the DailyMailian utopia where “the transgressions of goodies” is a logical non-sequitur and any unpleasant fate that befalls baddies is their just dues. Therefore, it’s no surprise that some “nuances” may be missing from this perspective on the events.
With that in mind, let’s attempt to fertilise this half-story with the semen of fact and see if we can’t deliver something more wholly resembling the truth. First of all, it is not in dispute that a “millionaire”, in this case businessman Munir Hussein, “fought off a knife-wielding burglar”. It also seems to be an undisputable matter of record that Mr Hussein has been “jailed”. What is implied by the headline, however, is that Mr Hussein was jailed for fighting off the knife-wielding burglar. Now, that’s not quite true. Mr Hussein was jailed for, after successfully “fighting off the knife-wielding burglar”, pursuing the fleeing criminal down the street before using a cricket bat, a metal pole and hockey stick to deliver an attack that was vicious enough to break the cricket bat into three pieces.
It also seems to be the case that the “intruder was let off”. “Let off”, however, is a rather rosy way of painting this particular picture. The intruder was declared unfit to stand trial for the burglary because Mr Hussein’s assault had smashed his skull to pieces and has left him brain damaged in a hospital bed.
Predictably, the mouth-breathing, Mail-reading masses have swarmed all over this roundly nasty little tale like maggots feasting on a gangrenous sore between the bum-cheeks of humanity. “It’s a travesty,” they froth “a dastardly outrage and a perplexing nonsense that the law will not permit us to exercise gruesome acts of violence in order to protect our property, our families and ourselves!” Thing is: the law does allow us to perpetrate horrendous violence with near impunity in the pursuit of these understandable goals. Consider the case of Nathan “Poseidon” Kirk, a young man who, when confronted with a “knife-wielding burglar” in his girlfriend’s house, unloaded a three-pronged harpoon from a spear-gun into the trespasser’s surprised face, causing serious damage (including the loss of an eye).
He, quite rightly, walked from court a free and victorious man. In this case, Mr Kirk was confronting an ongoing threat. In the case of Mr Hussein, any immediate threat had passed, yet through anger or a desire for vengeance Mr Hussein gathered weapons, pursued his trespasser, and spent several energetic minutes challenging himself to turn the young man’s brains into Ardennes pâté.
We all, from time to time, allow ourselves to enjoy fantasies of the terrible vengeances we could mete out against our transgressors. Gladly, though, most of us possess qualities such as “reason” and “self-control” and never see these desires go any further than a few pejoratives grumbled into our spaghetti hoops. If we accept the right of the victim to deliver justice, and the right of the transgressed to decide how to deal with his transgressors, we accept putting power in the hands of the people least likely to be objective and sanction a return to times when the mob ruled, salt water was a decadent Christmas feast and the consumption of bees was considered a credible means of contraception.
So, should Mr Hussein have gone to prison for what he did? Truthfully, I don’t know. I’m positive, though, that he should have been punished. He might have been out of his mind with adrenaline (as his defence team suggested) and he may well have wanted to make sure there was no chance of the burglar returning. Neither of these considerations means we should excuse and passively encourage mindless or pre-emptive violence. It’s at the end of that little sewer of nastiness that mob-rule and vigilantism lies.