Draconian sentencing: 20 years for an intimacy.

Christopher Hibbert's History of Crime and Punishment shows that the savagery of the punishments is proportional to the savagery of the crimes, not inversely proportional: the savagery of the crimes have not decreased with an increase in the savagery of the punishments.

That is the general picture. I admit that instances may show the opposite. One Glasgow judge inflicted savage penalties, fitting for the truly savage offense of razor slashings, and soon put a stop to them.
How does one reconcile these apparent contradictions?
The answer could be that savage penalties are emergency measures that sometimes can win battles but dont end the war.

There is a wonderful tirade by Alessandro Manzoni, that opens The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi). (This novel is to Italy, what Robinson Crusoe is to England: amongst the first and greatest of its kind.) It is to the effect that the direst threats of the law against the bravoes, in the seventeenth century, went unheeded by all the "little oligarchies" of special interests and their hangers-on, vexing only the peaceful and unprotected.

In an impotent regime, the savagery of the sentencing is liable to be inversely proportional to the seriousness of the offense. A judge's ruling may be more an unwitting exposure of the government than one of its citizens.

2010 started inauspiciously with news of an Idaho judge sentencing a 37 year old teacher to 20 years in prison for having sex with a 13 year-old pupil. (Paul Thompson; The Mail, 31 december 2009. Some on-line commenters, on this article, are refered-to on this page.)

Does it make a difference what their genders were?
Transatlantic opinion evidently thinks it does. There was much sympathy for a woman (one Ashley Jo Beach) given such a savage penalty. There was probably more condemnation and calls for harsher sentences.
How much harsher can you get? What is there left to throw at crimes of evident harm?

Perhaps that is the point of someone being made suspiciously like a scapegoat for a minor sexual transgression compared to the vast military and financial transgressions and entanglements that have reduced the reputation and prosperity of the Republic, not to mention the United Kingdom.

Much of the hostility to the woman teacher, in question, was based on the fact that a man would have been vilified for preying on a girl pupil. John Mortimor did a sympathetic treatment of a male teacher's affair with a female pupil, in one of the Rumpole of the Bailey stories. He mentioned that Romeo's Juliet was 13. Who doubted that was a passionate relationship? The worst motives cannot be assumed. The facts have to be examined in each case. That is why English and American law is so much Case Law.

What are the worst motives?
Good policy insists on the vastly different consequences for boys and girls. A girl should not be burdened with child-bearing while she is still a child herself. That is to inflict a twenty year sentence of child-rearing on her, as the Idaho judge inflicted a twenty year sentence on the teacher - except to prevent her doing her job of bringing-up her children. What do they have to say of the matter? We cannot afford the luxury of self-righteous indignation over the rights of the children to a mother they presumably need and want, if they could make themselves heard over the howls of their elders.

If this (literally) exposed woman has been chastened, what is the point of clogging-up a prison with her? There is such a thing as probation.

The considerations for a man, sexually attracted to a girl, may not be so different in kind for those to a woman, attracted to a boy, but they are massively different in degree. And they are not so much penalties, as moral laws that self-indulgence, at others' expense, is better foregone, or must be atoned-for by commensurate service to the community.

The man who has made a child bring another child into the world, must help to bear that burden for twenty years, indeed. And if he is not amenable to being a helpful citizen, then custodial treatment is an option.

But prison should only be the necessary evil of having to restrain those who would otherwise harm people. It is to be avoided as the most extreme form of institution, whose unthinking routines take away the independence of its inmates, rendering them unfit for self-reliance in a free society.

Yes, community service, that despised remedy for anti-social offenders, is recommended. I'd go further and say that the whole community should do community service for two years of their lives, genuine work for the disadvantaged and those fallen on hard times, such as in housing improvements for the poor, and taking care of the elderly and incapacitated.
In other words, there should be national service again but a civil service, if with a military service option. Brat Camps work for delinquents (or vice versa).

This would be a good discipline for learning to lead a useful life to others. A life of service can be appreciated by others. Who can appreciate a life of self-indulgence? One may become a bore even to oneself. And the promiscuous may come to realise that they are merely using each other for their own gratification, with little lasting affection, trust or companionship.

The self-indulgent West can say what it likes about the Chinese government. (Their failure to come to terms with civil liberties is a rather more extreme instance of the general failure of governments, notably my own.) At least the Chinese understood the individual's obligation to the community, in restricting the birth-rate to managable levels. The whole world will have to do that or suffer a population explosion with the ensuing crash, from the collapse of the planet's ecology, the dissolution of a planetary house-hold living beyond its means.

The single most important means, to a sustainable population, is known to be women's education. Sir David Attenborough, as chairman of an optimum population organisation, repeated that wisdom, in a recent tv program. Educated women want to make use of their abilities, which means that they cannot do-with and do not want many children.
When I read a 2009 report in The Mail on Sunday of an encounter with the Taliban that women are now being encouraged into education, I hope it is true. The whole human race of every country, more or less weakens itself by not making full use of the intelligence of half its population.

The potential harm of impregnation to a child, in lost opportunities for a life of her own, is obvious enough. It is a grave offense to put a female in the dilemma of whether or not to have an abortion. Girls and women need protecting against sexually motivated aggression. In such cases, there is still a tendency for some men to think they own women, especially if they had a relationship. Any resulting children might also be treated like property.

Men enslaved by sexuality are liable to treat their women and children as slaves. And, there, prison, the ultimate enslavement, may be the only option. That is part of keeping the peace, in the home as well as in society. Not to forget the disturbing fashion of ladettes: girls behaving badly as boys, perhaps inspired by commercial role models.
But what of a woman's sexual relation to a boy?

Some commenters, and the judge, who sentenced the teacher, regarded her as a ruthless predator. Little as could be learned from the Daily Mail article, it would appear she was a prey to her infatuation. A woman of mature age, who gets caught in the bushes, hardly seems in full possession of herself, and by that token, less pitiless victimiser than a pitiful victim.

The judge's extremist ruling throws in doubt his over-all judgment of the defendant's character. Without going into the case, which is none of my business, there is little to go-on to form a balanced opinion of one's own. And it becomes hard not just to react against the judgment.

Publicly, I dont like to see such a miscarriage of justice and the ship of state lose its bearings so hopelessy, as if some sexual magnet was dizzying a moral compass away from magnetic north and an accurate course.
Personally, I am old and indifferent, tho, I dare say, had I been a 13 year old nowadays, he might have thought of the rogue school mistress as "Wicked!" "Radical!"
That's another caution to zealous magistrates not to stir a self-defeating sensation.
Among commenters, there was some honest male expression of envy for a lad so favored by his glamorous teacher. It gives a whole new meaning to the old phrase "teacher's pet."

In fact, this school-children's condemnation comes close to this teacher's real offense. Teachers, I am sure, generally know they are falling down on their duty if they show any preference for any member of their class. All should be equally important to them, whether they like them or not; whether they are charming or obnoxious. The good teacher tries to give all her charges the best future she can, regardless of their natural and social advantages or disadvantages.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, it would be interesting to know the results of a secret ballot of the children (if broken-down by gender) on whether this was a good teacher and whether they wanted her to stay or be dismissed. It would be worth knowing whether she actually taught her (official) lessons well, rather than automaticly assume otherwise.

This question is quite apart from whether children should or should not have a deciding voice in who their teachers are. An English school voted on whether to accept their new head-mistress.
Incidently, my school-days led me to believe that choice of teachers, who you can best learn from, is crucial to success or failure.

In some societies "the older woman" might well be a respected initiator of the adolescent into manhood. The conventional people who cry "paedophile," might be likened to folk in other societies, who would be out-raged by any slur on such rites of passage. Western societies, lacking such customs, cannot place those who improvise them. So, public opinion sways from the sexual hysteria of a Salem witch hunt to discounting a misdemeanor. While others think of the seduction: some people have all the luck.

Making an institution of the rite of the older woman, however, would make it so respectably dull, that future ages would wonder what all the fuss was about, like 1960s British queues to read Lady Chatterley's Lover, after the censorship trial.

Some commenters pointed out that in countries like Spain, 13 years is the age of consent. Recently, in Britain, a boy had the courage to say that he had no objection to a sexually-charged woman, who did him no harm. She was, nevertheless, imprisoned.

Commentators, who said Britain is easy on such unfortunates, were wrong in that and, I believe, other cases, one sees from time to time.
I have the uncharitable suspicion that some self-righteous or vindictive people get their kicks from persecuting and stigmatising and putting-away those they disapprove-of, without the necessary safe-guard of presumption of innocence to their irregular relations, in this cold country.

The law cannot presume such liaisons bad, and really should not automaticly prosecute them. "If they are big enough, they are old enough." The ancient Roman boy took the toga of manhood at 14. Of course, adults can bring charges but their case is weakened if the alleged victim does not feel he is a victim. And if he is pressured into declaring himself a victim, that tips the balance of offense against the prosecution. One commenter admitted that in old age, he still had fond memories of one such liaison.

For that matter, there have been and still are societies that accept as normal sexual preferences that mainstream Western society regards as deviant. Many people are still opposed to the legalising of same-sex marriages. In Biblical times, struggling small tribes could not tolerate abstention from child-bearing because it threatened their very continuance. Your sexual preferences, indeed romantic preferences of any sexual stripe were an unimaginable luxury in the struggle for survival.

Because mankind has always lived in competition for resources available, life has always been cheap. The Black Death considerably raised the value of the working man. Today, the degradation of human life is shown not least in all kinds of sexual exploitation: child trafficking, kidnapping, prostitution, gold-digging, and thence onto all the world's wrongs, motivated by base passions or forced out of desperation.

In this era, over-population, rather than under-population, is the threat to survival. Same-sex marriages are no longer dysfunctional. There is a public interest in promoting loving relationships, gay or straight, because loving people are altruistic. When a couple declare their love to the world, they deserve respect in return. That's good relations. And a sign of a civilised society.

But people still will not tolerate the prospects, of their children raising children of their own, being blighted by homosexual interference with their sexuality. Nor, for that matter, will people tolerate religious seduction of their children's minds, any more than physical seduction of their bodies.

The difficulty with gay adoptions, tho their intention may be loving, is part of a general problem of atomised Western society. When children are confined to a nuclear family, they dont get a representative sample of role models, as they would from a traditional extended family.

It is not just the problem of a child having parents, or close relatives living-in, of only one sex. That happened anyway when men were away to war and often never came back. It is also the problem of children having just two possibly unsuitable parents, whatever their sex. If you live in an extended family, parents and children can get some relief from each other and welcome company from the outer family and friendship relations.

The atomisation of society and the unsatisfactory replacement of local community with national bureaucracy is a big problem, which needs communities to come together to begin to solve. This would be more healthy than living alone in dormitory towns, so long as people are content to live and let live.
I believe that peaceful relations, from the smallest to the largest scale of organisation, depend on knowing effectively democratic rules (of power-sharing, not the tyranny of the majority). This is a topic elsewhere on this site. Whereas I am not much informed on the sexual, economic and other exploitation (with the odd exception like electoral exploitation) that goes on in the world.

It seems that both men and women, in different ways, are suffering unjustly in their relations with each other, as a result of the unintelligent enforcement of supposedly enlightened laws. This seems to be behind some commenters' revengeful satisfaction. There are always folk who embrace every draconian measure. I suppose it's too much to hope that they could be persuaded to moderate their animus, at least, against those who have done little, if any, evident harm.

The real harm done here is by the "obscenely disproportionate" sentence, as one commenter put it. Someone else said the Idaho judge surely should be "sectioned." The judge's barbaric ruling, of 20 years prison for a sexual intimacy, may back-fire. An indiscriminate judicial reign of terror, as all reigns of terror are indiscriminate, has totally failed to give a sense of society's priorities in tackling the worst crimes. As some commenters said, murderers are routinely treated better.

One word I dont remember being used was "adultery." This was once a much over-used word. Every fling was branded with the word adultery, which had the force of a tabu. There is bound to be the suspicion that this affair was an intended adultery in the real sense of a husband being cuckolded. The cuckoo substitutes its egg for those of other birds, who are unknowingly left to hatch the infant that is not theirs.
No wonder the husband reacted badly. Two wrongs dont make a right but he was sorely tried.

British law can be vicious towards men. One woman wrote an article asking: why do we hate men so? Divorced men have held high-profile protests against their being denied access to their children. A woman novelist prefaced her book with a bitter quotation from a man, who said: I dont think I'll bother to marry. I'll just find a woman I dont like and give her my house.
The law appears to be so biased that when a marriage goes wrong, the man dispossesses himself from his hard-earned home, turned-out by a wife-come-lately, without the crippling costs of a court case, which he would lose, anyway.
I knew of such a misfortune and had no doubts where my sympathies were.

The enslavement to sexuality will not be lifted by judicial enslavement to fear. That just reinforces a condition of enslavement.

Richard Lung.
5 jan. 2010.

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