Getting Involved – A Price Too High To Pay?January 11, 2010
It was all over the papers this weekend, but I heard it on the radio and heaved a heavy sigh of despair. Sukhwinder Singh, an Indian national and resident of this country for ten years, a builder and a young father, did his civic duty by chasing the men who had just mugged a young woman at Barking Station. He was stabbed for his trouble and now he’s dead. A wife is now a widow, a son no longer has a father and family and friends are among a growing number of people who are trying to make sense of what happened to their loved one.
There’s a natural urge in wanting to help. It gives us purpose, oils the wheels of society and reassures us we’re not alone. As we give, we receive in return. When we hear a story like this, it shakes us to the core and chips away at our sense of security and community. No one wants to die at the hands of another in that way and the police try to steer us away from responding through our natural sense of justice (or revenge?) because we may come off worse in a confrontation. This makes us more wary, leading to the decision that the price of getting involved is just too high.
I remember an incident years ago where I stepped up on behalf of another. I was on the top deck of a bus and it was school closing time, so there were lots of kids screaming and shouting, like they do. One group sitting opposite me was picking on this boy. He was in great distress. The ringleader was particularly loud and could’ve done with eating a few less pies. The bus was full of big men and adult women, some possibly parents, but none of them intervened. None. I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I leant over and slapped the ringleader on the hand (you couldn’t do that now) and told him to cut it out. The boy was able to wriggle free and run downstairs. Then the group turned on me and proceeded to call me names and blow paper pellets at me through straws. It was uncomfortable at the time, but I felt good afterwards knowing that someone’s son got home safely that day due to my action. Then there was another case three years ago, where a couple of guys and me on a nearly empty train managed to persuade a group of girls to stop beating up a woman. We were protecting them as well as this woman who didn’t help herself by giving it the large one knowing we were there as witnesses and protectors.
Now we’re into the first days of 2010 and the new decade and I have to ask myself if I would get involved now. Because I’m Officially Old™ I’m closer to death than life, but that doesn’t mean I want to speed up my meeting with the grim reaper, because the sad stories of people like Sukhwinder Singh give the idea that every crim in town is tooled up and therefore should be left alone if you don’t want to be the next newspaper story. I hope that I would still get involved in some way. We’d fall down as a society if we just gave up and let these people roam free. I don’t know what we could reasonably do when Myleene Klass gets a warning from the police for tapping at the window of her kitchen with a knife to warn off tresspassers in her garden as a woman alone with her child. OK, the knife wasn’t a good idea. Perhaps she should’ve used a spoon, but you know what I mean. Where do we stand when in the few instances of the suspects being caught they receive, to our minds at least, inadequate sentencing? I’m stuck on this one. If you have any thoughts on this, please let’s have the conversation, because this really can’t go on. Personally, I’m sick of it.