Tomorrow I am going to a funeral, not of a friend but of a colleague / team-mate, whichever of the two words best fit. I won’t use the person’s real name out of respect. He was 52 and played for the same chess club as me, but he was at a much stronger level so our paths barely crossed. I played once with him and enjoyed his company immensely. But throughout the long game (each of us lost games that lasted four to five hours) he was drinking heavily. It was clear he had a problem. A few weeks later he was hospitalised with severe problems with his liver. A few members of the club went to visit and it was clear that he was very ill. His gaunt figure and depressed face were icons of a body unable or unwilling to walk and eat properly. His situation was desperate.
After six weeks in hospital he was discharged back to his flat with empty bottles of Scotch where a week later he died. With few or no friends to talk of, the bottles were always there to reassure him life was worth living. Tomorrow, a few colleagues from the chess club will stand at his grave with his only remaining relative, a sister who lives far away.
On the day we played in that match together he told me about his great prowess as a chess junior, about how he once beat a now famous grandmaster, about his interesting work in computer programming for a blue-chip company. And you might think that a man with such a mind and talent could find his way in a great city like London with its myriad of opportunities for work and play. But no, here was a person who was out of the social services radar and did not have the ability to ask for help. I wonder how many more like him are out there.
Today, anybody who had not managed to find out the information online was able to read pages of information online or print. The horrific circumstances behind Baby P’s tragic death, including details on his mother Tracey Connelly and the two men involved in the mayhem, were presented to the British public.
I was disappointed in this article in The Guardian: A monstrous evil? No, an all too familiar duplication of abuse
I can see where Anna Motz is coming from here but expected more from a practitioner armed with a sizable collection of theory and case studies. The article represented society’s drift to a philosophical liberalism in ‘understanding’ perpetrators of crime. But this kind of theorising has done little at best and nothing at worst to prevent abuse continuing. The liberal broadsheets’ obsession with explaining such ‘dysfunctional’ behaviour so that their readers will feel better about why it all happened is actually no different to the tabloids’ approach of ‘flog and hang ’em’. I would find it far more enlightening if Ms Motz had written an article about people who had been abused in childhood but who did not then go on to abuse. I would wager that this group far outnumbers the group she so eloquently describes in this article.
An interesting book that I am reading at the moment is Commandant of Auschwitz by the notorious commandant Rudof Hoess. The allies ordered Hoess to write the book between his trial and execution and despite the original manuscript being semi-illegible, the book gives a valuable insight into how evil transcends social norms. In a superb introduction to the book the late Primo Levi wrote: “This book…………is filled with evil……it has no literary quality and reading it is agony. The author comes across as what he is: a coarse, stupid, arrogant, long winded scoundrel. And yet …..it is one of the most instructive books ever published.”
And herein lies the problem with educated people like Ms Motz trying to ‘understand’ and ‘explain’ evil; it simply does not work. How ironic that the words live and evil mirror each other.
For Gary Reinbach the NHS was hardly a cradle to the grave concept. The 22-year-old from Essex had started drinking at 13; ten years later and with one of the worst cases of cirrhosis his doctors had dealt with, he was basically left to die in a hospital bed. Strict NHS guidelines determine that before a person is able to undergo a transplant he must stay sober for six months. Twenty two is an apt age in Gary’s case because he was literally in Catch 22. Too ill to leave the hospital to attempt rehabilitation he was unable to benefit from medical care inside it and died.
It may well be that there is a shortage of donors and that all forms of treatment are rationalised. And clearly Gary’s lifestyle, heavily dependant on drink, was the ultimate cause of his death. But when the NHS was set up the government asked us to buy into the concept of ‘we pay our taxes, you keep us well’. We were not asked to live a certain way, despite the millions of pounds of government money going into the coffers of trendy ad agencies advising us to do just that.
The NHS cannot have it all ways it chooses. If resources have to be rationed then we the public can make a judgement on whether we wish to minimise the risks inherent in unhealthy lifestyles. But it’s the start of a slippery slope that matches the Winter Olympics bobsleigh course when the government, through one of its most iconic departments, puts the proverbial black cap on because a patient does not match one part of the NHS’s strict criteria for receiving medical care.
There is of course a precedent for this kind of rationing of health care. For Gary Reinbach in England 2009 read adults with a learning or physical disability in Germany circa 1938.