Being, as I am, descended from peasant stock, I would, no doubt, have been one of the spear- or sword-bearing soldiers charging on foot across a bloody battlefield with only very low odds that I would eventually survive one of those awful battles. I blessed what I considered the civilisation of the times in which I actually existed.
Now I’m not so sure. I’m not so sure that though we have dressed the whole thing up in ‘rules of war’ (sic), pacts and treaties, that we are that much better off. I wonder too if the liberalisation that we know today has been for our betterment.
A photograph that appeared a few weeks ago in our newspapers and on television news programmes of a man lying face down in the water at the edge of a sea, river or lake and his little girl wrapped inside his tee-shirt with her arm around his neck, I found quite upsetting. They were, of course, dead. They had drowned whilst trying to cross the Rio Grande to get to what they thought might be a better life in the United States.
That photograph was reminiscent of another from a few years ago of a young boy, aged about three, found lying face down on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum. He was one of at least 12 Syrians who had drowned attempting to reach Greece. I — as well as very many others — also found that photograph particularly upsetting, especially when I realised that it had happened on a beach near Bodrum where I and some of my children had holidayed only a few short years before.
The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of what was a holiday resort that thousands of us had visited only a couple of years before that, was brought home to us as images of the lifeless body of the young child revealed the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.
All these things have been on my mind recently and I begin to wonder what kind of a world are we, our generation, preparing and leaving for those who are coming after us.
Those thoughts are brought to mind too when I think of the terrible murder of the little girl, Ana Kriegel, in Kildare; the callous murders that are taking place almost daily on the streets of our capital city –—and elsewhere.
A young man out walking with his infant child in a pram or pushchair is attacked and shot dead. The streets of a lovely town, Drogheda, have to be patrolled by armed gardaí in an effort to keep the peace. Just a couple of weeks ago, armed daily garda patrols commenced in the town of Longford to deal with an outbreak of violence and public order offences between feuding local families. Two small children, aged seven and five, found a Glock handgun abandoned near their home in Dublin last week — it is believed it was thrown from a car that was being chased by gardaí.
Browsing through the daily papers, it is no wonder that parents exist in a state of near panic when their young people go out for a night’s entertainment. They cannot sleep or even relax until they hear the youngsters coming home in the early morning.
The front page of a daily newspaper led one day last week with an allegation that a young man had been charged with assaulting another man and causing him harm with an ignited firework in a prominent nightclub in Dublin.
In the same paper, there was a story about a 61 year old man, a visitor from the U.S., who had been jailed for two months for taking photographs, using a mobile phone, up the skirt of a young lady who was just watching the Gay Pride parade. I admire the young lady who, when she became aware of it, confronted the accused man as well as reporting it to the gardaí. When passing sentence the judge said: “The day is long gone when men can simply use, abuse and objectify women without their consent, for their own benefit or pleasure.”
Then I came across a story of a young woman hospitalised after she was stabbed in the head and neck with a fork at a well-known Dublin restaurant.
A 19-year-old man is reported for having received a three-year sentence for committing two robberies at knife-point. In one of them it seems he hailed a taxi but when he got to his destination he put a knife to the taxi-driver’s throat and demanded money.
Still on the same page there was a report of a 78-year-old man who accidentally shot his six-year-old great-grandson dead with an illegally held .22 rifle. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
A few pages further on, there was the story of a 44-year-old woman who appealed, unsuccessfully, against a four-year sentence for attacking and injuring a woman outside a hospital in an unprovoked attack. It seems the attacker was on bail at the time for another crime and had 21 previous convictions.
What puzzles me is why, with 21 previous convictions, the accused woman got the benefit of one year of the sentence being suspended.
There are, of course, occasions when suspending a sentence is the right thing to do, but somebody with 21 previous convictions is clearly not somebody who might benefit from ‘a break’. It seems the injured party was kicked and punched in the stomach and continually kicked as she lay, curled up in a foetal position, on the ground. The victim needed a number of stitches and has nerve-damage to the side of her face. She says she now suffers from panic attacks and depression.
A 28-year-old man from outside this country was jailed for nine years for — with two others — robbing two elderly brothers in Co. Kildare. The victims were bound and badly beaten and one of them was stabbed in the hand and arm. It seems the criminals arrived at about 7am at the home of the victims and the ordeal lasted for more than an hour.
To find these stories, we don’t, of course, have to go to the newspapers published in Dublin. Closer to home last week we read that a pensioner was stabbed in the legs in Cork city and believed at the time that he was going to die. The attacker was jailed for five years — the sentence was six years but one was suspended.
The criminal actually called to the victim’s house on two successive days last Christmas. He took €160 the first time and another €100 later. The pensioner was then told to withdraw a large sum of money from his Credit Union account and told if he didn’t his house would be burned down and he “would be sorted out”. When he didn’t withdraw the money he had a knife put to his throat. The victim was stabbed in the leg and another €148 was taken.
The accused in that case also had previous convictions for robbery and had a sentence suspended before. I can’t but wonder what good was likely to come from another sentence being partially suspended in those circumstances.
All the crimes I have averted to involve a recognisable victim. Whilst, however, there are victims too where a man who was prosecuted in Cork for having child pornography was concerned, the weirdest thing about that case was the accused man told the gardaí “he watched beheadings as a way of relaxing after work”. How weird is that?
In writing this article, I have only quoted from two newspapers. The problem is every single day there are news reports that are similar and equally horrifying. Yet we consider ourselves to be ’a civilised’ people.
Whilst the consumption of drugs may well be involved in some of the crimes I have outlined, I didn’t really get started on the drug culture that is so prevalent all around us. Neither have I mentioned cases involving sex crimes (except, of course, the Kriegel case but I think enough has been written about that) yet it is difficult to pick a newspaper that doesn’t have reports of such cases.
I can’t but wonder if the liberality that is all around us today is the way to go. Then, perhaps, I am just showing my age.
Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org