Fear of crime

Stabroek News Sunday - - NEWS -

angst to de­fine these deeper as­pects of angst in so­ci­ety. For now I con­fine the sub­ject to the dread of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is dan­ger­ous. Fear is a ter­ri­ble teacher in the halls of democ­racy and civil rights. By far the most pow­er­ful ex­po­si­tion in po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy of the ‘need’ for ruth­less dic­ta­tor­ship is con­tained in Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan. And the key to that great, dark book is fear. “Fear and I were born twins,” Hobbes wrote about him­self. And, he warned, when men live “with­out a com­mon Power to keep them all in awe,” then in such a vac­uum there will be “no Arts; no Let­ters; no So­ci­ety; and, which is worst of all, con­tin­ual fear, and dan­ger of vi­o­lent death; and the life of man soli­tary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” The strong arm of power is wel­comed with a sigh of re­lief. So in the end for or­di­nary men and women safety comes be­fore democ­racy and hu­man rights. A de­plorable con­clu­sion, no doubt, but some­thing to pon­der as any so­ci­ety faces what seems to be a grow­ing break­down in law and or­der.

In a pas­sage which I think per­fectly cap­tures the dan­ger which a demo­cratic so­ci­ety faces when ever-in­creas­ing threats to life and se­cu­rity plague so­ci­ety, that great West Indian-Amer­i­can, Alexan­der Hamil­ton, in Chap­ter

ANo. VIII of The Fed­er­al­ist, Novem­ber 1787, had this to say:

“Safety from ex­ter­nal dan­ger is the most pow­er­ful direc­tor of na­tional con­duct. Even the ar­dent love of lib­erty will, af­ter a time, give way to its dic­tates. The vi­o­lent de­struc­tion of life and prop­erty in­ci­dent to war, the con­tin­ual ef­fort and alarm at­ten­dant on a state of con­tin­ual dan­ger, will com­pel na­tions the most at­tached to lib­erty to re­sort for re­pose and se­cu­rity to in­sti­tu­tions which have a ten­dency to de­stroy their civil and po­lit­i­cal rights. To be more safe, they at length be­come will­ing to run the risk of be­ing less free.” lexan­der Hamil­ton was re­fer­ring to the ex­ter­nal threats of war. But what is vi­o­lent crime run­ning out of con­trol but in­ter­nal war? And in the grip of fear even the most lib­erty-lov­ing will be all too in­clined to con­done or even en­dorse a strin­gency among law-givers which in nor­mal cir­cum­stances they would cer­tainly con­demn.

The sooner au­thor­ity re­cap­tures the ini­tia­tive in deal­ing not only with the vi­o­lent crim­i­nals but also with spread­ing law­less­ness, mi­nor and ma­jor, the sooner democ­racy as well as safety will be se­cured. which he wrote in

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