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Freedom was, and still is, the most universally acclaimed ideology of the human race; even the Communists, famous for their autocratic regimes, described it as the ultimate aim of international Communism, though this could, according to them, only be achieved under Communist benevolent rule. Freedom is now used in an extremely wide sense, ranging from the unobstructed movement of body to the unrestricted development of the mind. To rob a person of his freedom is the most cruel criminal offence in the world today, and not surprisingly, "freedom" has become a byword of politicians for more power, a favourite utterance of dissatisfied elements, even though their grievances probably had little to do with the loss of liberty. In short then, freedom is the basic principle underlying the human character, a principle vaguely demonstrated by peoples' revolutions in the past, and finding full expression in the world of today.
Freedom is by no means a modern concept. It has, perhaps, evolved ever since the creation of man. Though the fundamental concept has withstood the test of time, the doctrines that revolve round freedom have undergone a complete metamorphosis. To take but a few examples, the philosophies of Lao Tse, and his recent contemporary Rousseau, seem to us today preposterous and impractical, but they in their lifetime may indeed have commanded a considerable following. Lao Tse, in his works, the Tao Te' Ching being the most famous, advocated a return to nature. Governments instituted among men are means of restricting a person's freedom, it was claimed. Men have no right whatsoever to exercise any form of control over their comrades. As preccedents, Lao Tse often referred to ancient man. He argued that at some time before the creation of governmental institutions, men lived a life of simplicity. This is the life man must return to; this is the ultimate utopia of freedom of movement and of thought.
Rousseau, similarly, contended that the perfect life lay in the absence of discipline, government and control. It is certainly striking that two persons, so far apart in time and distance, should think in such similar terms. The explanation, perhaps, lay in the fact that man, whatever his race or identity, possessed one quality in common - a crave for freedom.
It happens frequently in history that when mankind is subjected to great pressure, as when his freedom of thought is undermined, a high form of thought is produced. This adherence to the principle of action and reaction is indeed strange, yet, when we think of Jefferson and the Declaration of American Independence, Rousseau and the French Revolution, Sun Yat Sen and the Chinese Revolt, it does begin to make sense. Indeed, our history is marked by the work of men striving to attain or preserve, as the case may be, freedom and liberty. Wars have been waged between freedom and subjection. Neither side has, as yet, achieved any permanent success.
The modern form of freedom, and in fact of the whole structure of society, hinges upon the rule of law. The idea of absolute freedom is getting outmoded, for it is now realized that freedom should receive certain restrictions and delimitations, if it were to serve its purpose best. Thus emerges the maxim - "freedom under the law." The modern democracy is a concept not only of rule of the people, but the rule of the majority of the people so that the will of a few may not control the freedom of the many. This is in general the accepted form of freedom today. In short, freedom exists when the state exists. The destruction of the state is a death blow to freedom of mankind. This, then, is the basic concept of modern freedom and democracy.
Legally, a citizen of any nation is entitled to certain rights. That of freedom of speech is of course considered the most important. Any democratic government, in fact, thrives on criticisms and comment, so that nothing against the government, however uncomplimentary, should provoke the government to take action against any individual who makes such remarks. To do so would be dictatorial. The British Government recognises an Opposition in Parliament, and the Leader of the Opposition is a paid post, and, says Sir William Harcort, "the work of the Opposition is to oppose. "It would not be in the spirit of the true democracy indeed if the public were prevented from voicing frank opinions, or perhaps even be deprived of the freedom of speech, as in the case of some African countries and countries in the Communist bloc. To the governments of these nations, public opinion matters little., either they know nothing of the precedents of violent revolution, or they know of precedents but are being deliberately obstinate. At any rate, let them be warned that history often repeats itself. Freedom of the Press is closely allied to that of Speech, and the same argument holds true. It is not surprising therefore to find that opinions that are most contradictory are to be found only in the most democratic countries. Never has any opinion beside that which the government holds been tolerated in a Communist country or a dictatorship.
A large number of freedoms follow from this, that of worship, movement. owning property, etc., probably being the more well-known. It would be well nigh impossible to evaluate each in, detail, but a study of one or two will probably suffice for the whole. The freedom of worship is a modern concept indeed, judging from the persecutions, murders, and wars between the religions that marred our history. In the state of long ago, one religion persisted. He who worshipped otherwise was a heathen, an infidel and more often than not, was subjected to brutal punishments. It seems unreasonable indeed that a person's liberty of worship, which is not injurous to the state as a whole should be impeached. Consequently, most states are now secular, with the exception of a few feudal monarchies. Communist China has, in this respect, a unique policy of abolishing all religions.
The freedom of movement and of owning property varies with different countries. In countries of the free world, movement is considerably less restricted. The government too has the right to acquire certain property. Regardless of the freedoms, however, restrictions are placed on each, so that none of the freedom are really absolute. So that they should function perfectly, these restrictions are necessary. In the case of freedom of speech for instance, although voicing opinions unfavourable towards the government should be tolerated, slander, libel or sedition are all considered crimes and are subject to punishment. Similarly, though an individual may exercise his freedoms and privileges, he should in no way infringe or encroach upon the freedoms of other people. The story of "your freedom ends where the other man's nose begins" is not unfamiliar to us, though many still regard hitting others in the nose as part of their freedom of movement. Absolute freedoms are now on the decline, and it appears most unlikely that they would one day dominate the world again. The trends of thinking have, as has been said, altered profoundly. Various generations have produced various versions of the concept of freedom, attached new ideas, subtracted outmoded ones. The ideas today will soon become obsolete. Whatever the changes, freedom is the ultimate utopia should never alter. Woe betide the world when freedom has become part of remote history. As long as it is maintained, therefore, mankind comes nearer to a perfect life.
The Problem of Children
The Juvenile Delinquent
The Meaning of Delinquency
The Nature and Cause of Delinquency.
Delinquency has been attributed to bad companions, adolescent instability, mental conflicts, extreme social suggestibility, early sex experience, love of adventure, motion pictures, school problems, poor recreation, excessive street life, vocational dissatisfaction, sudden impulses, bad habits, obsessive ideation, poor physical structure, ill-health or premature puberty. Yet most children have experienced one or more of these 'causes' and have never become delinquent '
Most delinquents who come before the courts are under-privileged children, from impoverished, overcrowded homes in deteriorated neighbourhoods, where they run in gangs from whom they learn to steal and to rob. Does one conclude from this that poverty, slum, and bad companions are the causes of delinquency? If this is so, then why is everyone who is poor and who lives in slum areas not delinquent? Many delinquents are malnourished and are undersized; they have physical defects or they are mentally deficient. Is delinquency then caused by a physical condition or mental deficiency? Again, if this were true, how do we account for the many healthy, bright delinquents? One hears about the pernicious influence upon children's behaviour by the radio, the motion pictures, and comic book crime thrillers. Still, a multitude of children are exposed to such items of popular culture every day, yet they never commit a delinquent act. A large proportion of delinquents come from miserable homes, broken homes, homes in which discord is rife. Can it be that the cause of delinquency is bad home environment? Then why does one child become a thief and another in the same family become a useful citizen? These are questions of strategic importance in the study of the causation of delinquency.
Influence of Home and Family
It cannot be overemphasised that a child's family is the most important influence in shaping his personality and character. In this profound primary group, the child acquires his basic ideals and a sense of right and wrong. Here, he first experiences social interaction and becomes conscious of standards, goals, values, and the formulation of judgements. Here he is a member of the cell-unit of society, the first stage upon which he learns to imitate his elders as he begins his awakening into a fuller knowledge of the world about him. Undoubtedly, therefore, the pre- eminent requisite for the prevention of delinquency is a stable and secure family.
Delinquency is often viewed as a consequence of a defective home life, with accompanying inadequate religious and moral education. Many cases of delinquency are directly attributed to the failure of this primary group, the family, to provide the child with appropriate non-delinquent social roles and to exercise social control over the child so that these roles are accepted by him.
It is generally recognised that broken homes constitute an underlying cause of juvenile delinquency. Broken homes are usually classified as those disrupted by divorce, separation, desertion or death. Moreover, a home may be broken by death, divorce, or otherwise, without inducing delinquent behaviour. Most of the actual delinquents continue to come from homes that are not "broken" at all.
Illegitimacy may also induce defiant behaviour, especially when the child ts aware of his 'fatherless' status. The stigma attached to this situation, rooted in traditional noses and reinforced by many adults in the name of 'normality' all too often becomes a part of the child's own deep concerns. The term 'illegitimate' is stamped on the birth certificates of such babies in Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia.
Many writers on the subject of juvenile delinquency attribute a great deal of it to bad parents, bad home conditions, and a generally bad environment. Environment as a cause of crime has probably been greatly exaggerated, particularly when we remember that however unsatisfactory parents and home conditions may be today, they are for the most part far better than they were a hundred or even fifty years ago.
Imagine a thousand children aged from eight to seventeen starting out on a new year - say, 1 January 1959. By 31 December up to ten will have been found guilty of stealing or some similar serious crime. If we inquire into the circumstances of these ten delinquents, we shall probably find in the case of perhaps four or five that there were several features in their environment which predisposed them to commit the crime they did. Of the four or five so predisposed, we shall find no doubt bad home conditions, drunken parents, or parents who themselves have a criminal record, brothers who have already been in trouble with the police, a widowed mother who is too preoccupied in keeping body and soul together to give anything like adequate supervision to her children and so on.
Yet at least one of the boys had an excellent home and excellent parents and another far better home conditions than most. So that we cannot say - here is a child with an excellent home: he will never become a delinquent. Here is a child with very bad home conditions: he is certain, to fall into criminal ways.
From this may we not ask ourselves - are we not placing far too much emphasis on what is outside the child and far too little on what is within? The great factors determining juvenile behaviour, in short, are not the external conditions in which a child finds himself but the spirit and character found within his own being. If this were not so, then surely we should find not only the ten delinquents in the thousand as shown by the criminal statistics as being brought before the courts, but also every one of the other three hundred with the distinctly bad homes and, too, many of the others whose homes are far from satisfactory.
This is not a perfect world. If the only way of combating juvenile delinquency is, as some seem to think, to produce a nation of perfect parents and perfect homes we shall have to wait a long time and even, then we may be disappointed in the results. Cain and Abel were brought up in the same home by the same parents. The home and the parents may have been good. They may have been bad. Both boys had the same start, yet Abel was faultless and Cain became his murderer. It was not the parents or the environment that made Abel good and Cain bad. It was the spirit within, and fortunately for civilised communities most children have more of the spirit of Abel than of Cain. If this were not so, certainly, we could not have our property unguarded as we do.
If this reasoning is correct, must there not be an immense latent inner force making for law and order far greater than we have been able to devise ourselves externally in the shape of courts, penal sanctions, bolts, bars, and padlocks; and the like? There is within all of us a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. Most of us go through the year without ever once dreaming of taking someone else's property, still less of attacking his person. Even many delinquents feel this force for all their failings. With St. Paul they exclaim, "the good that I would I do, not, but the evil which I would not, that I do."
What is Prevention?
Official Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency
TIME WAITS FOR NO MAN
The morning was cold. Black clouds had accumulated overhead and an occasional flash of lightning streaked across the sky, followed by sharp rolls of thunder. He was carrying a raincoat, feeling certain that a storm would ensue. As he approached the house he recalled the slogans in his office which had been put up to persuade the clerks to work harder: 'Time and tide waits for no man', 'Make hay while the sun shines.' 'It's now or never.' As he imagined seeing these slogans on the walls, a smile appeared on his face. "Yes, now is the time," he mumbled to himself. With the smile still on his face he entered the house. The interior of the house seemed very quiet compared with the tumult in the heavens.
"Do you have it with you?" started Charles, rising from his seat.
"Charles, I want to tell you something," he replied, disregarding the question. "I want you to know right now that I will pay no more and further ......"
The conversation thus proceeded and their voices grew louder and louder. Outside in the spacious garden not a soul moved, all were waiting as if in expectation of the approaching storm. Not a breath of wind rustled the leaves; silence reigned. Suddenly a shot rang out, followed in rapid succession by two more. They were hardly perceptible to the occupants of the neighbouring houses, if there were any.
He emerged slowly and looked all round the garden and its surroundings. Seeing nobody, he started walking briskly down the drive. He knew that the maids arrived punctually at eight each morning, and he had to avoid them. When he had reached the main road and had got into his car, he felt greatly relieved. As he drove off he started to think. If he had been thoughtful before, he would not have become a victim to a blackmailer. "It is Charles' fault! He wanted too much. Anyway, my name must be kept out of this affair entirely or the police might discover....." His thoughts ran on incessantly. When he reached his office car park there was a smug smile on his face.
It had started to drizzle, and to the car attendant he remarked, "These days are really wet. I'm lucky to have brought along....." Suddenly he remembered. With his heart thumping against his chest, he hurried back to his car. It was not there: he had left his raincoat at Charles' place.
He was so frightened at that moment that he could hardly reason out anything; but there was only one course left for him: he must retrieve his raincoat, by all means. But then he remembered the maids.
His left wrist flashed up. The watch showed a quarter past eight.
Years go flashing on
"What! I must murder him? Why me?"
"It's because you are the bravest, strongest and most faithful of the lot. Also you're a new member, therefore you must show your skill," replied the Boss during a meeting of a group of gangsters who were discussing as to who should murder a millionaire.
The gangster spoken to looked at the faces of his comrades around him. They showed nothing, just stared at him. He thought his comrades would help him out, but from their faces, he knew that they expected him to do that job. He knew he must act up to his name or else he would be called a coward in front of all the other boys.
The "Boss" smiled, for he knew he had succeeded in makin- the new member promise to do the job.
"All right, boys, I'll do it, but give me time," the gangster said slowly but distinctly.
"Sure, we'll meet here again tomorrow night, and by that time, I expect this job to be completed, neatly and thoroughly; and remember this, don't ever show your face if you turn yellow, " shouted the Boss, shaking his huge first at the gangster.
When he reached his home that night, then only did he realise what he had promised to do. He threw himself face downwards on his stinking bed and began to think. He must decide whether to commit murder or change his mind and escape from the clutches of his Boss.
"Oh, God! Must I become a murderer just because I'm ordered to become one? Must I say 'Yes' to murder? Why can't I say 'No'? Why can't I tell them to go to Hell? MY pride. Oh! my pride, why must I have pride?" he cried pitifully. Then slowly, he dropped beside his bed, on his knees, and his hands came together.
"Oh, Christ, please listen to me. I've promised to murder a man, so I must do it. Believe me, God, forgive me and spare my soul." He sobbed bitterly then began to imagine things.
When he closed his eyes, he saw Christ standing over him and speaking softly and slowly, "You are young and stupid, you do not know what evil is and what Hell is like, so I will forgive you for your sins, but not murder, for then the devil will drag you to Hell."
He slowly opened his eyes but instead of Christ the evil face of Satan was before him. Satan was persuading him and telling him the evil things he could do with his reward.
"Don't, don't torture me, leave me alone! With that he blotted out his imagination with his pillow. After a moment he heaved a sigh of relief when he was himself again. The soft cool words of Christ and the evil words of Satan still lingered softly in his ears. He began to think, he had to choose the road to Hell or the road to Heaven.
His reward tempted him and the things he could do with it, but then he would be hunted and hanged and lastly he would go to Hell. This would not happen if he believed in God, for God would forgive him and protect him from evil.
The gangster had decided which road to take. He had defeated his pride, his pride which had led him through so much suffering. Now he had only to flee from the accursed town which had pulled him down to the mouth of Hell. The next moment he was asleep. He slept soundly and peacefully, for God was protecting him.
THE REVENGE OF THE GODS
The young man walked out of the dilapidated house, behaving as if he hated the very sight of it. In the hut, two heartbroken old people sat at a table, a sick, old woman and a weak, thin man. The sadness and despair in them were beyond description. How could a son talk thus to his parents, the two people who toiled, suffered and starved to send him to the university? How could he forsake the two people who loved him most?
As he walked along the lane, the young man thought about what had just happened in the hut and laughed to himself, but he suddenly sobered as he thought about his father's words. There was a ring of truth in them as he said it.
"No, no. It won't happen," he said to himself. "He's only trying to scare me. Ha! The look of disbelief in their eyes really amused me. Did they think that I would say that my parents were poor and sick people? A feeble old woman and a thin shrunken old man on the threshold of death? I am now a rich man. I don't have any parents. My parents are dead!"
They had smiled when they heard that he had married a nice girl he had met in the university. "Now my son will become an important man. We shall now live comfortably in the future. This is our reward," they thought. Happiness shone from their faces but the next sentence struck them like a thunderbolt. Their son had told the girl that his parents were dead. As a result he had now come back to tell them that he no longer regarded them as his parents.
His mother swooned and would have fallen if not for the table. Her eyes filled with tears. His father had taken the news bravely but it was evident from his face that he had suffered a terrible blow. After some time, he said, with pity in his eyes, "My son, how could you treat us like this? Have you forgotten how we toiled from dawn to dusk to provide you with an education? Would you turn against us, the very people who brought you up and made you what you are today? Don't you have pity or gratitude in you at all? Repent, my son, before the Gods take their revenge on you for committing the gravest sin of all. You have foresaken your own parents. Repent before it is too late." With that his father broke down and cried. The young man had turned around and walked out of the door, unmindful of the heart-rending and sorrowful sobs issuing from the two people he had just left.
Preoccupied with his own thoughts, the young man had not noticed the sudden darkening of the sky. Suddenly jerked out of his reverie by the rumble of thunder, he looked up at the sky. At once fear shot through him. Only a minute ago the sun had been shining in all its golden glory. As he began to run the clouds broke with a shattering peal of thunder. Lightning flashed and the rain beat down on his face with a fury he had never experienced. Were his father's words coming true?
Too late he began to repent. He could not ask for forgiveness now. It was too late! "No! No!" he thought. "It's not too late. I will run back to them and ask for their forgiveness." He turned round and began to run as he had never run before in his life as lightning flashed all round him. Ah! there was the dim shape of his parent's house. "Dear God, forgive me," he prayed but a voice answered him, "It is too late now. You have sinned and shall be punished."
Lightning flashed. The rumble of thunder could be heard. Just as he reached the threshold of the house the sky split with a challenging roar. Lightning flashed down and struck the running figure. The rumble of thunder seemed to be an epitaph to his death.
Just as suddenly as it had began, the rain stopped. The sun shone again as if nothing had ever happened. Its rays beat down on the faces of the two old people standing at the door of their house, looking, with compassion in their eyes, at the still figure on the ground.
"The Gods have had their revenge", they said sadly together. "May his soul rest in peace."
CRIME AND CRIMINALS
Let us first look into why our present world is plagued with crime, violence and gangsterism. Statistics seem to provide the answer. For example in the last century perhaps only a few bicycles were stolen as compared with the hundreds in the present century. Without doubt we jump to the conclusion that morality has declined tremendously.
The statement is on the surface true but let us go deeper. Why has there been so few bicycles stolen in the last century? The simple reason was that then bicycles hardly existed! The situation today is quite different. Bicycles are littered all over the place, conveniently enough and without locks too!
So statistics have shown us nothing. Morality cannot be considered as having declined nor can it be thought that morality has anything to do with the crimes commited. But this search into statistics has not been in vain because it has revealed the chief cause of crime ......... TEMPTATION. As has already been shown, the potential criminal is given every opportunity to commit a crime and yet is expected not to commit it at all. The criminal is the modern Tantalus but humans do not possess the same power to snatch the loot from the criminal's hands as the Olympians do to snatch the water from Tantalus' lips as he stooped to drink. So the fault lies not only in the criminal but in ourselves as well.
Let us take it that the temptation is so great that the criminal commits the crime. What then happens to him? Let us have a look and see whether he has a conscience.
Authors (themselves a cause of crime) present ways of committing crimes and assert that criminals are as hard-bitten and ruthless as imaginable. In truth the criminals, however cool and calculating, still have a conscience. This main adversary of him occassionally tells him in a tiny voice the harm which he has done. He must bear this torture.
"Crime does not entail death, crime is death." Is not his torture cornparable to death?
Let us remember to avoid this pit-fall and regret the rest of our lives, for to regret is regretful but too late.
"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
Last update on 13 February 2000.
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