Posted by: aboutalbion | September 21, 2012

Manchester murders

This is now the third day after the dreadful murders in daylight of two unarmed female police officers in Manchester.  I think there are few people who have not been challenged by this shocking event.

I think the Prime Minister chose his words carefully when he commented that it was a “despicable act of pure evil”.  I’m glad that he did not refer to the perpetrator as “pure evil”, and my reasons for writing this can be found in my previous posts on the subject of evil at the end of July.

A man has now been charged with the murders last Tuesday (and with other murders earlier in the year).  The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has referred to the context of these murders as feuding between gangs, and disclosed that grenades are in use by them.  He said: “We are not confident that we have recovered all the grenades. We don’t know for certain. We have made it clear that the threat is still there.  This has been a long-standing criminal feud between different outfits. As we have indicated as part of this inquiry we have had to issue warnings to a large number of individuals who we felt could be at risk as a result of this particular series of events.”

I referred in my post of 26 July this year to the writer, Nell Noddings.  I wrote then that, for Noddings, the elements of evil are the feelings of fear that are associated with pain; both physical pain, and the psychic pain that accompanies helplessness and separation.

Noddings has also considered specifically male violence.  And in relation to male violence generally, she makes the following observation: “The fear that often sustains men in their wars and tortures is the fear of being like a woman – of confessing dependence on other human beings, of being moved to tears by the pain of another, of saying directly, ‘Please don’t hurt me!  What is it you want?’ (p222)

This is the insightful suggestion that, in a patriarchal culture, males are introduced to the idea that life is just not worth living if they display any feminine attributes.  Thus a patriarchal culture expects (and tolerates) males to demonstrate their special attributes in order for the males to convince themselves and other males that they have no feminine attributes.

I remember that when I first came across this suggestion, I began to consider body contact sports at school in a different light.

In relation to gang culture, Noddings’ suggestion does indicate a possible explanation for the increasing levels of male violence used by ‘both sides’ in a feud.  And in relation to the Manchester murders last Tuesday, it would not surprise me if evidence emerges that the two female police officers were the victims of a misjudgment ‘in the heat of the moment’.  I find it significant that the man now charged with the murders is said to have walked into a police station shortly after the murders and given himself up.

[Noddings, N (1989) Women and Evil.  Berkley: University of California Press.]

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