Tuesday, 16 December 2008

[Turtlewind] Punish Me


Capital punishment, ah, there's a knotty topic. Some might say it's an instant recipe for an electrifying debate, guaranteed to inject some life into the dullest dinner parties.

Yes, there are some who say capital punishment is wrong, but we have lived under it for far longer than we realise. Capital punishment has supposedly been abolished in the UK, yet my good buddy Blueshift has been punishing capitals mercilessly as long as I have known him. In the middle of words, at the end of words, anything to break their tyrannical monopoly on sentence starts and proper nouns. NauGHty cApItAls, you deserve a hessian necktie, and I'm more than happy to yank on my sturdy oak lever.

But when I tried to explain my point of view at my last birthday party, I was greeted with derision. Barry cringed on my behalf as the Archbishop gave me a hard stare from the other side of his bowl of yellow jelly (THE ONLY WAY TO FLY!) and said:'I think you've been licking toads again, young man.'

It turned out that the whole debate was really about whether it was acceptable to kill dangerous criminals. I realised my agile imagination had once again laid a bear trap for my guileless soul, and I responded with all the nimbleness available to a drunk scorpion-tamer: 'Sven, hold him down while I cosh him with the bread bin!'

When the Archbishop had regained his senses, he had no recollection of my embarrassing faux pas, and I began to talk as though Socrates himself had his hand up my bum.

'Why, of course capital punishment is wrong, you sweet reverend fellow,' I crooned, to the soft strains of The Moody Blues, 'You only have to take a glance at the huge numbers of miscarriages of justice that have taken place in our fair nation in the last ten years or so. For shame, sir, have you not followed the success of the heroic Criminal Cases Review Commission, who have referred tens of capital cases to the Court of Appeal following serious evidence of institutional wrong-doing? Would you, sir, send innocent men to their deaths?'

The Archbishop seemed about to say something then, but Barry was flexing his sting in an especially nonchalant manner, and so he remained silent. Jamie Oliver was not so docile, however:
'Yeah, pukka mate, coriander, lemon grass. But what if, yeah, coconut milk stir fry, it's proved beyond doubt that they done it like, poncy grin?'

'Ah poor naive Jamie,' I sighed. 'Does it really seem appropriate to your scruffy Cockney poseur mentality that we should stoop to the level of common murderers and guttersnipes to guard our society? Surely society exists to protect all its members, including [especially?] those with whom we would not have chosen to share it. To set upon one erring individual and tear them to pieces is to surrender to the pack instinct, to the tribal impulse that we have spent millennia avoiding. Now go and do the washing up, you nobhead.'

'Yeah but,' declaimed Mr Beckham in his usual timorous tones, 'What about Rousseau and them other Frenchies what believed that civilisation can only start with a scapegoat sacrifice kind of thing? Like Jesus or summing.'

'Oh, David, must you of all people lend your endorsement to this fool's crusade? For if there was ever a capital offence, it was getting us kicked out of a World Cup by Argen-bloody-Tina. And how would you have subsequently dazzled us all with your extraordinary-named celebrity babies and free kicking prowess with your be-quiffed head rolling in a basket?'

'Are you saying,' asked Harold Pinter, belching slightly on the last jaffa cake, 'that capital punishment is inherently wrong because it rules out the possibility of reform and rehabilitation?'

I paused for a moment. That always annoys dear old Harold, who knows the debt his works owe me.

'But of course, old bean. In a largely secular society, how can you possibly believe that killing people as a punishment has any higher moral element than gutting cows in an abbatoir? If violent crime is indeed on the increase, it does indeed tell us that something is sick with our society. Must we always treat only the symptoms, and never address the cause?'

'Shame on you all,' I concluded, and blew out my ten candles a happy intellectual.

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