Victim? Villain?

Leading on from the previous post (and because I'm interested)…

The drug user, chasing that feel-good feeling, in too deep and now addicted. Robbing and mugging people – Victim or villain?

The paedophile, abusing your child, he was abused himself. Victim or villain?

The person who steals your car, he thinks he is poor – so he helps himself to your property, doesn't he deserve it? Victim or villain?

Brought up by his gang, he stabs an innocent family man to death to earn his stripes. Victim or villain?

He's unattractive, has poor social skills – he wants sex, so he rapes women. Victim or villain?

The nurse, she wants to be special, maybe has a mental health problem – so she kills the children under her care. Victim or villain?

His wife doesn't love him any more, so the husband kills her out of sudden rage. Victim or villain?

The leader of a country, fears revolt by an ethnic group, in order to keep his country stable drops bombs on men, women and children. Victim or villain?

The terrorist who blows himself up on the tube. Victim or villain?

The man in the cave who sends the terrorist bomber to kill people he'll never know. Victim or villain?

The burglar who breaks into the house and gets stabbed by a frightened housewife. Victim or villain?

The alcoholic who punches me in the face, breaking my glasses, cutting my face. Victim or villain?

The person who robbed my ambulance, stole my crewmate's belongings. Victim or villain?


At what point do you say, “No, it was not right to do this, there is no excuse”?

I have seen acts done out of evil, out of carelessness and out of illness. In my job I can't judge, won't judge. But at some point shouldn't we say, “That is unacceptable, there is no excuse” and to demand some personal responsibility?

There are people abused or unlucky, or that live in poverty who don't turn to hurting other people to get what they consider is their right. We don't hold up those people as paragons, yet their law-breaking counterparts are victims?

Life is complicated, but sometimes isn't someone to blame?

I look forward to reading your comments, please do keep them civil.

A more ambulance related post later today methinks…

36 thoughts on “Victim? Villain?”

  1. Both! The complexity of the situation has spawned an entire genre of true crime writing and television.They absolutely should pay/be put away for what they do, but the reasons they do it equally fascinate and repel us.

  2. I agree. They are all villans. A much more eloquently written post of what I was trying to say before re. the theiving junkie.Just because someone has a (usually selfish) reason to do something wrong, does not excuse their actions.

  3. lol, I like that arguement!I guess you're right. I still hold my opinion, however, that if someone's behaviour is down to a decision they have made, they're a “Villain”

    eg. I decide I quite fancy trying a bit of pot. I quite enjoy it, and do it regularly. I'm not addicted, I just do it most days because I like it.

    The more I do it, however, the less effect it has on me. One day, one of my friends suggests I try something else. He says I'll enjoy it more. I do, so I start doing that instead of pot.

    This process continues, until I am taking heroin every day. By this point, I need it. I crave that high, and all I can think about is how to get that next rush. I run out of money, so I “borrow” some money from a friend of mine's wallet. I owe more and more money, until I'm regularly stealing, and stealing lots.

    Is it my fault I'm a thief?

    Of course. In this case, if I hadn't tried the cannabis in the first place, I would never have ended up a thief. I am a “villain”, as the theft comes purely as a consequence of my decision.

    On the other hand:

    I was never very bright as a kid. couldn't get the grades, although I tried really hard. I always behaved at school, but try as I might, just wasn't clever enough. I just scraped 2 GCSE passes, then tried to get a job.

    I couldn't. I just didn't have the basic intellect, or the communication skills, to get anything. I signed up for the dole, and just scraped by. I have a kid, and whilst my benefits increase, so do my outgoings. I know, however, that I can't go on like this. I need a job. I finally get one, but the pay is so poor, the amount of money I have to live on actually decreases. Regardless, I work, as it's the only way I can get promoted, and the only way I can eventually increase my standard of living, and that of my kid.

    The kid stays with its grandmother whilst I work. I work hard, and finally a promotion comes up. I'm tipped to get it. Pay's slightly better than the dole, but anything helps.

    My mum gets ill. She can't cope with looking after the kid. I do the sums, and I reckon that, with my new job, I can just about afford to send the kid to daycare, but we'll have to tighten our belts a bit.

    I don't get the promotion. Now I can't afford to send the kid to daycare, but if I don't, I can't work, and we don't eat. We can't survive on this wage – we need more money. I feel I have no choice, and I start putting my hand in the till, and short-changing customers. I only take an extra tenner a week, but its enough to feed the kid.

    Here, despite my best efforts, I'm forced into crime. Here, I am a “victim”

    Is the crime due to a choice, or despite their best efforts. This is how I determine whether someone is “villain or victim”

  4. I don't think there will ever be a case of being one or the either in these cases, as, in the example of the paedophile who was abused himself as a child, was a victim who might not have been given any support and their learned behaviour is that of what they have been subjected to, leading to then become a villain.Over the years, society has started to see and actually speak out about things that are wrong. I know of families that knew their neighbour was abusing another neighbour's child, yet nothing was said for fear of what may happen to themselves.

    Everyone will be a victim and a villain in their life time – be it being the butt of a nasty joke, or being the person cracking the nasty joke – it's just the extent to which the villainy is taken.

    Well that's my opinion after being awake for 20-odd hours staring at my mac doing 4000 words on my professional development…. :S

  5. I've just re-read that and realised half of it doesn't make sense….many apologies….like I say, I've done hours and hours of professional development…

  6. “That is unacceptable, there is no excuse” and to demand some personal responsibility?”IMHO you have nearly answered your own question right there!

    a) The behaviour is unacceptable (by society)

    BUT

    b) Although you have reasons (not excuses) – there should be a certain amount of personal responsibility. How much, that I cannot answer.

    I also support what becktimms says.

    Time to start a PhD, Tom!

  7. Plenty of people suffer all of those things and don't turn to crime. Unfortunately society on both sides of the Atlantic is wallowing in a culture of moral relativism. Not every crime or wrong act can or should be attributed to illness or past events. Some people are just plain rotten.If society expected people to be accountable for their actions and stopped accepting lame excuses, we'd all be a lot better off.

  8. “Plenty of people suffer all of those things and don't turn to crime.” Oh so true! So, is being a “good” person nature or nurture? What is that that makes two people in the same situation take such different paths?Also, accountability is huge. Pleading insanity is not good enough for me.

  9. It doesn't always make sense to think of victim or villain, right or wrong, guilty or innocent. Society has rules, breaking those rules brings consequences. If you start out on a life of crime hopefully you'll get caught and get a light sentence. If you don't learn from that then the penalties get stiffer as you continue to go against society. I'm told (brother in law, ex-cop) that 80 odd % of juveniles who get cautioned are never seen by the law again. Of the other 20% say 15% will get a second caution, learn from it and not be seen again. The remaining 5%, ah the remaining 5%, you might as well lock them up as you're going to see them again and again as they don't learn. time for bed ..

  10. This has already been mentioned, but there is a huge difference between a “reason” and an “excuse”. As someone who has been sober for a number of years, I run up against this misconception a lot when I try to discuss alcoholism with people who have never been seriously affected by it, and even with people who have been. If there are alternatives to take, and a person chooses not to do so, it's pretty mad NOT to hold them responsible for it. Especially with drugs and alcohol. There are alternatives out there. Extremely difficult, but they are THERE. Their “reason” for their behavior doesn't give them an “excuse” for their actions.

    The flipside to this, of course, is community support. People can bitch at the liberals all they want about the useless and paralyzing “victim” mentality, I certainly do, but without proper support, you're taking away these “victims” chance to help themselves. In effect, you're giving them an excuse…

    “There was no where for me to turn to, I couldn't get the help I needed…”

    It's a crap situation all around, but I've met many, many people who have turned their crack addicted lives around to truly amazing and inspirational results, and there's no. way. in. hell. these people could have done it without the social programs in place that make EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE rehab programs and outpatient support possible for people who can't afford it. I have no clue about the UK, but in the US these programs are somewhat a rarity. California is one of the more liberal states, afaik most places don't have them in place. Of course, don't ask me about the ratio of people who have turned their lives around to the people who pop in and out until they turn up dead from a shooting or OD, but it's still the most promising way around.

    Anyways, just because a person has an reason for being in their situation, that doesn't mean they have an excuse, and it certainly doesn't mean they shouldn't be held responsible. Any victim, whether it's the old lady being mugged on the street, or the little kid born addicted to cocaine, or even his mother, who can't put down her crack habit, has a responsibility to do something about their situation. It's just important for everyone else to be there to give them the best opportunity to do something about it. And if they don't… yeah. They gotta be somewhere where their own disinclination to help themselves won't be harming the rest of us.

    Heh, yeah, sorry to rant and ramble. First post btw, just read your book and I've spent the last week going through the archives, can't get enough. Thanks Tom!

  11. Sorry to piss all over the paedophile's parade, but recent research has shown that the claim to have been abused as a child as explanation for paedophilia is likely to be another form of manipulation.The research first recorded the numer of participants (all convicted paeophiles in the UK) who claimed they had been abused as a child. Although I can't remember exact numbers (research still pending publication), it was something like 78% of them claimed to have been abused as children. The participants were then put through a “lie detector”, and those claiming to have been abused dropped to ~40% with questions marks being raised to a further percentage because the polygraph recorded stressed answers.

    However, that's irrelevant to your question. In short, I think there are two issues:

    1 – When is someone not responsible for their actions?

    In short, whenever they are not in control of their perceptions and behaviour. That means psychotic patients are not responsible. It means that anti-social personality disorder patients are responsible. It means that paedophiles are responsible. It means that the line of responsibility for addicts is blurred, but (I have The Ultimate Test coming up) not so much that they are blame-free.

    The Ultimate Test: could the person restrain themselves from committing their offence in front of a police officer? If yes, responsible. If no, probably not responsible. Serial killers, child sexual abusers and addicts tend not to offend in front of police officers, thus one must conclude that they are entirely capable of regulating their behaviour.

    2 – How do we make these people to take responsibility for their actions?

    That's a good question, but I can tell how we don't do it. We don't do it by withholding medical care, we don't do it by being judgemental whilst delivering medical care, we don't do it by delivering substandard medical care. Doing any of those things is not in the patient's interest. We are charged to “first, do no harm” and as a humanist, that is my first responsibility. (Of course, if the patient is abusive to the health care provider then for the protection of ourselves from harm, we must withdraw ourselves.)

    As tempting as it is, if we don't provide impartial, quality care then we will not be trusted and this will cause long term harm.

    (PS – That doesn't mean you can't be frustrated by it afterwards!)

  12. surely the point is that they (we) are both victims and villians, and generally attributing blame is less helpful than trying to see what can be done to stop bad situations happening in the future. By helping victims we might prevent them becoming villians, by helping villians reform we might prevent the creation of more victims.I know all this is easier said than done – but sure the point is to accept what is and find the best way to move on rather than play the blame game

  13. Makes perfect sense to me and you echoed my thoughts before I put pen to paper.At least there are two of us on this planet.

  14. My experience has been that although there are (of course) lots of people who have had a very difficult life and DON'T commit crimes or hurt others, the people I've dealt with who've visited serious harm upon others have without exception been in circumstances that were too horrible to contemplate.

  15. I agree that we are all both victims and villains but i don't feel that these labels achieve anything. What is more important is how we respond to improve things. There are several ways, but i think the restorative justice programme is one option. On You Tube the video 'The Woolf Within' is pretty interesting, interviewing Peter Woolf and Will Riley.

  16. It's not always that black and white to say victim or villain, yes we ultimately are responsible for our own actions, unless mentally impaired, however there are times when due to other influences (drugs, drink, learned behaviour) when normality and reality don't join up and prevent us from stopping when something isn't right.Is it (society and the people in it) worse now than 20 years ago, or just more publicly exposed?

  17. I think sage303 might just have hit the nail on the head with that comment. I think that although things have certainly got worse in the last few years, it is something that has been brewing up for a long time. 20 years ago the media wasn't like today, it todays world we have news 24/7, channels on tv that cover every possible taste. I don't think society has changed a great deal, its just we know more about it, we know more about other countries and what news they have to offer. When you look at recent stories you see that these people have been around for decades (the Austrian basement being a perfect example) its just that we didn't know about them.

  18. I was going to write something myself, but LWilliams and DavidSJA covered everything I was going to say. I particularly liked LW's reason vs excuse comment. Very true, but a distinction which is often overlooked.”The Ultimate Test: could the person restrain themselves from committing their offence in front of a police officer? If yes, responsible. If no, probably not responsible. Serial killers, child sexual abusers and addicts tend not to offend in front of police officers, thus one must conclude that they are entirely capable of regulating their behaviour.”

    I agree with this most of the time. I would add a clause, however. Someone who had a strong enough addiction may get to the point where they cannot restrain themself. I do not believe, however (in the majority of cases), that this makes them a victim – at the end of the day, they are in this situation due to choices they made at some point in their life. To me, they, therefore, are not victims. This does not mean, however, that they do not deserve help and support. The choice I mentioned is often a silly mistake that has propagated to the extent that they are now having problems.

  19. I like the Ultimate Test! The problem is that there's never a copper around when you need one. Which is why most societies have spent their energies on putting policemen into people's heads, either with religion, peer pressure, or the shadow of the noose.Our society has very little in the way of internal policing, apart from fear of unemployment or a fairly low risk of imprisonment. The old school discipline, arbitrary, brutal and unfair as it was, at least installed a healthy fear of authority, and also drove the sense of grievance that makes for a healthy democracy.

    Oh, and it has to be done by the time you're 14. A badly behaved 21 year old can be made to behave, but it takes ferocious sanctions and a lot of time. E.g. Erwin James, who did life for murder, is now an impressive writer and a fine human being, but it might have been better if it hadn't cost a human life and decades of imprisonment to get him to that state.

  20. I think as far as the Ultimate Test goes… many things that a person *has* to do can be deferred until the next opportunity. Just because serial killers tend not to offend in front of police officers, it doesn't mean they don't feel that they *have* to do it, just that they don't *have* to do it right this second.To draw a crass comparison… I don't think I would go for a wee in front of a police officer. That doesn't mean I can 'regulate my behaviour' to the point where I don't have to go for a wee, ever. I can defer my need, but I cannot eliminate it.

  21. I can't agree with your The Ultimate Test, particularly in reference to antisocial behavior. By that measure, the yobs who attacked police officers in Manchester recently, beating one to the ground and kicking him weren't responsible for their actions. “Joyriders” who ram police cars looking for a chase aren't responsible for their actions. Examples are numerous. These people are not afraid of the consequences of their actions, therefore do not fear the police or any authority. During “the troubles” in Northern Ireland, the police were discouraged from attending calls in certain areas, and the IRA set themselves up as judge, jury and often executioner. Antisocial behavior was discouraged by punishment beatings, kneecappings, having wrists and ankles shattered, and eventually a bullet to the back of the head. Antisocial behaviour still flourished, with several instances of joyriders driving through police/army checkpoints resulting in joyriders being shot (which the IRA bitterly protested, but that's a different story).It seems that life is so empty for some, that the risks of pain and death are blurred by the momentary high of the thrill of the chase.

    I'm not defending or justifying, just pointing out what another poster said. Some people are just rotten, and should be locked away forever.

  22. Becktimms – i was saddened at you saying that families you know were aware of a neighbour abusing a child and not telling anyone. I don't mean in a judgemental way as i really understand how impotent people can feel in a situation like that. And scared of consequences. I was just saddened by their experience that you described. I haven't been in that situation myself but i guess if i was scared of the 'fall out' from telling, i would maybe contact social services anonymously, though i'm not sure how seriously they would take anonymous letters? Perhaps people can contact them to voice their concerns and ask for their identity not to be revealed.

  23. I can see how this argument works, and appreciate both sides of the debate, however….I'd answer all as villain.

    I was bullied and abused, and I don't abuse, abhor bullying, and aside from a drunken traffic cone have never stolen a thing in my life. Circumstances can create a degree of understanding by society to the action taken, but the action itself is still wrong.

  24. The other side of that is families getting put through the wringer because someone with the wrong end of the stick – or worse, someone who bears malice towards the adults in the family – decides to make a consequence-free anonymous allegation. Suddenly, despite the allegations having no basis in fact, the child is placed on a register, social services are making spot-checks, the parents are made to feel like criminals and spend an indefinite amount of time fearing that if their child so much as grazes his knee, he might be taken away.Allegations of child abuse shouldn't be made frivolously, and if someone is really, genuinely concerned for the welfare of a child, then putting their name to those concerns should be the least of their worries.

  25. It doesn't really matter who's to blame, it doesn't really help. Punishing people doesn't really help, it might let someone feel better for a bit but it doesn't help. Trying to work out what and who is good and evil is futile and makes you confused and angry, because it ultimately has no point. Good can never win in this world because it doesn't exist. Neither does evil. There's nothing you can do. Bit of a bugger, really.

  26. The drug user, chasing that feel-good feeling, in too deep and now addicted.In too deep and addicted? Then you should know that he's far beyond chasing any feel-good feeling and is now trying to stem the pain of withdrawal, a subject I have some knowledge of. This by no means excuses his actions but certainly explains the motive behind them. Victim? Only of his own stupidity.

    Robbing and mugging people – Victim or villain?

    Having been in dire straits, I know there is always a way to find enough work to feed oneself and find shelter somewhere.

    The paedophile, abusing your child, he was abused himself. Victim or villain?

    Paederast! PaedERAST! A paedoPHILE is simply someone attracted to children just like, you know, all those Greek philosophers who came up with thee system of government we claim to live under (even if it now resembles something more 20th c. Russian or German). Villain, though we have some understanding of the reasons for it.

    The person who steals your car, he thinks he is poor

    Is he actually poor? See answer 2. Car theft is rarely done in order to feed and shelter oneself.

    Brought up by his gang, he stabs an innocent family man to death to earn his stripes.

    Every tribe has its rituals. This one can be seen as a victim of a society which in an attempt to be “modern” and “forward-thinking” prefers to coddle and tolerate — rather than discipline — both children and their parents. Still a villain.

    He's unattractive, has poor social skills – he wants sex, so he rapes women.

    Extremely rare; rape is normally about power, not sex. Rapist=villain, and I recently stumbled across a rather suitable — if NSFWHammurabian punishment.

    The nurse, she wants to be special… so she kills the children under her care.

    A Munchhausen by proxy villain.

    His wife doesn't love him any more, so the husband kills her out of sudden rage.

    How could he be seen as a victim?

    The leader of a country, fears revolt by an ethnic group, in order to keep his country stable

    Administration is tough. Will killing the few protect and spare the lives of many more? If it's a Stalinist or Pol-Potian purge, villain; otherwise “effective leader”.

    The terrorist who blows himself up on the tube.

    Duh.

    The man in the cave who sends the terrorist bomber to kill people he'll never know.

    Double-duh.

    The burglar who breaks into the house and gets stabbed by a frightened housewife.

    He knew the risks of his profession.

    The alcoholic who punches me in the face, breaking my glasses, cutting my face. Victim or villain?

    Finally! I get it now. Did you know that ampules of apomorphine are very easily confused with those of various other IV medications which might be indicated in such a situation? Very easy to grab the wrong amp when the patient is combative, and considerably more effective in preventing repeat business than an ASBO.

    The person who robbed my ambulance, stole my crewmate's belongings.

    EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!

    At what point do you say, “No, it was not right to do this, there is no excuse”?

    At pretty much all of them.

  27. “Circumstances can create a degree of understanding by society to the action taken, but the action itself is still wrong.”This I like.

    Even if a person could not have easily prevented themselves from committing the crime, they should still accept a certain level of responsibility on the basis that it was a crime, and they committed it, rather than going “it's not my fault because…”

    Like if you accidentally, and without malice or forethought, damage someone else's property. The usual response is to accept at least partial responsibility and say “I'm so sorry. Let me help you clear that up. Can it be fixed? Can I replace it? (or if it can't be fixed or replaced) Can I make it up to you?” rather than “It's not my fault! You shouldn't have put that item where I could break it! Someone else broke my one years ago!”

  28. In my opinion all of them are villains. They're all doing something that is accepted by the majority of people to be “wrong”. However, some of them are victims as well – of someone, or something that has caused them to get into that situation in the first place.

  29. The family I mentioned in my comment were aware of this happening, but as it was in the 1970's if you contacted social services you don't get the treatment you get today.I was however trying to show that some people fear reporting things for their own safety.

  30. I am absolutely FOR personal responsibility. Look, none of us had the greatest of lives coming up, or as young adults. We all made mistakes. The difference is, there ARE those of us who do NOT believe that we are ALLOWED to be irresponsible simply because life handed us lemons in some way. You are ultimately responsible for yourself and your own actions. Period, end of story. (Ok, I will make an exception for the truly mentally ill, but that's it.) You are only a victim if you allow yourself to become a victim. Bad things happen to good people. Make lemonade out of lemons…..you get the point.

  31. “The Ultimate Test: could the person restrain themselves from committing their offence in front of a police officer? If yes, responsible. If no, probably not responsible. Serial killers, child sexual abusers and addicts tend not to offend in front of police officers, thus one must conclude that they are entirely capable of regulating their behaviour.”Just because someone is entirely capable of regulating their behaviour so that it isn't detrimental to their freedom, does not mean that they are in control of themselves to the level you seem to imply. Knowing intellectually that something is wrong, or criminal, doesn't mean that you are able to prevent yourself from doing it, particularly in the case of addicts.

    I've know a few alcoholics over the years, and I think that if alcohol was made illegal, they would still indulge, just not in front of a police officer.

    It also brings up the problem with what is morally wrong, and what is legal or illegal. They are plenty of practices that are undertaken by big businesses through-out the world that people find morally objectionable, but are perfectly legal. On the flip side, there are things that people do, for example drugs, that are illegal, but are, in themselves, not immoral.

    I'm no liberal, but I do feel that having one extreme or the other is no way to work a society, as we are all individuals.

    As a personal example, I don't take drugs. I am working towards a degree where I will be working in a medical facility. I choose not to take drugs because I have the potential to seriously hurt someone if I screw up. As long as the harm done by drugs is to the person who takes them, I do not find that immoral, even though it is illegal.

  32. I agree – yes, many of these people are victims of what happened in the past. But they are villains too. They are subjecting onto others what society once subjected onto them, and it could turn into a never ending cycle.The best thing they could do is admit that yes, society may have dealt them a raw hand, but there are a lot of places they will be valued if they want to feel valued, and helped if they want to be helped. Being proactive in turning your life around is the best way to do that.

    Admitting you have done wrong, that you have been a villain (whatever your reasons), and then sorting out what you are going to do to change that (looking forward, always living in the present toward a better future) is the first step.

    Easier said than done.

    Especially when people are so wary of each other.

    It can be hard these days to find someone who's got the time to listen.

  33. The answer is that they're all both victims and villains in different ways.An alcoholic is a victim of alcohol addiction. It's an on going thing and it's sad. A person who punched you in the face is a villain. If a person who punches you in the the face happens to be an alcoholic, well, I don't think it changes very much.If in doubt, fall back on a good ol' saying: “Two wrongs don't make a right.”

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