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Friday, 14 November 2008

Evil Aided by Incompetence

The philosopher Edmund Burke said that for evil to triumph, all that is needed is for good men to do nothing. In the case of Baby P, it's wise to remember that the actual perpretrators who inexplicably have only been sentenced to fourteen years in prison, are the ones who carried out the appalling treatment of the child. But perhaps here, evil has flourished aided by incompetence and secrecy. There is a very good article by Camilla Cavendish who recently won the Private Eye Paul Foot Award for Journalism. You know proper journalism where you look under rocks, question the official version and keep going, past all the lies and obfuscations, till you find out what's really going on. Where all you gather are enemies in high places, not baubles and free lunches.

She believes that "social workers jumped to the conclusion early on that Baby P's mother was inadequate but not a physical abuser. They then stuck to that in spite of the staggering and mounting evidence to the contrary."

I've tried to imagine myself in a roomful of experts and everyone is telling me that I'm overreacting; that the mother is co-operating, that all the evidence shows that chldren taken into care do very very badly. Would I have the moral courage or just the stubborness to press forward and keep arguing that no, mother is not just inadequate, she is an abuser. I wouldn't have had the confidence to do this in my twenties. And groupthink is very powerful and so hard to fly in the face of. When the whole group is telling you that you are wrong, even if instinct and mounting evidence tells you otherwise, what do you do?

Charles Percy Snow said that "There have been many crimes committed in the name of duty and obedience, many more than in the name of dissent." When it comes to the failings of the social services this couldn't be more true.

5 comments:

Kit Courteney said...

I'm with you. I'd like to think that in that situation I would be the one to shout and scream 'It's the fucking mother, you morons!' but the power of conformity is rather shocking. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments)
Obviously, this is not about little lines on a piece of paper, but who knows how one would react in those circumstances.

People - govt depts, social workers, health care workers, teachers etc. - do not sit by and 'let' these things happen. I'm sure they don't get up in the morning and think 'Now whose abuse and torture shall we let happen this morning?' but how many times must this situation occur before lessons are learned? That is what I can't grasp. WHY are these people not able to pick up on things... like a broken back...?

There is something so very wrong with a nation that ploughs money into absolutely fucking mental pointless ventures (I'm thinking 2012 but that's just my opinion!) but can't give the 'caring' professions enough funding/ training/ support in order to pick up on something as tragic and AVOIDABLE as this.

Jane said...

Do you know Kit, I thought of that creepy conformity experiment. The electric shock one wasn't it? Ta for bringing it up. We all imagine we would be the one to stand up as you say and shout: "It's the mother you fucking moron!"

Having said that, I could never be a social worker - I couldn't switch off. I'm sure there are thousands of decent, hardworking social workers who feel as sick to their stomach as we do, and want to grab the baby they see brought up in squalor and just run. Instead they have to smile and wave away the fag smoke and gently suggest that maybe the family rottweiler should be wearing a muzzle and when did the little one last eat.

I'd go mad.

The Dotterel said...

It beggars belief, really. And I know Social Services always get it in the teeth when things like that happen, but we (as a nation) pay a tidy sum for them to step in to prevent tragedies like this. I'm afraid - as with the police - part of the problem is a ridiculous strain of political correctness which teaches that these bodies have to look outside their 'natural constituency' for 'customers'.

Jane said...

I know Dotterel. Someone I know inside the social services (nothing to do with this case) said that colleagues of Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat were cautious in accusing her of incompetence, not wanting to be accused of racism. This is the senior doctor who failed to notice a child with eight broken ribs and a broken spine.

Kit Courteney said...

In my dim(?) and distant psych degree days - I *believe* the electric shock expt was Milgram. (I'll have to google it now to check!) The Asch one was FAR more simple than that. 3 lines on a piece of paper...which is the longest? If the set-ups said 'A' (when clearly it was 'B') then the subjects said 'A' after a number of set-ups (lied) and said 'A' - just to conform.

Scary.

I agree... the frustration must surely keep them (social workers)awake at night. Horrible.

Your imagery of the Family Scum is very amusing... but probably very real too... alas.