Hate can’t be put behind bars

We will never succeed in driving out anti-semitism, Islamophobia, racism or sectarianism by threatening people with five years in jail for breach of unenforceable, unworkable, knee-jerk drafted laws which, in addition, will prove both costly as well as ineffective.

You cannot impose consideration for others and good manners by imprisoning those who fail to accept that such are fundamental to living in a free society – particularly as those you seek to reform have chosen to pursue such behaviour so as to demonstrate their rejection of that same society and its values.

You cannot put hate behind bars. You cannot imprison thoughts or words. The Troubles of Northern Ireland have taught us that much.

The formation of the liberal and tolerant society starts in the home with parents acting as an example to their children. Governments should back and encourage this.

However, governments appear to have done their very best to liberate society from the family by redefining its meaning and purpose, and its substitution with less stable, less consistent other norms.

We should not be surprised, therefore, that the cultural breakdown in this fundamental societal unit is manifested in a cycle of generations of antisocial, hate-induced behaviour.

Catholic and other Christian schools actually teach love of neighbour as an imperative, both in word and in action. That commandment is without qualification – both as to friend and foe – and in case any of your readers have been asleep for the last quarter century, protestant churches are referred to as familial sister churches by the Vatican.

Of course, progress towards a more tolerant and liberal society is hampered by some sections of the media, which sees fit to publish slander, stoke-up prejudice, enflame hate and exacerbate conflict with lurid headlines – all under the banner of fair comment and free speech. This is defended by editors who excuse their publications by stating they are merely fulfilling their duty to report news – not make it – careless of any consequent effect or responsibility for the society into which they pour their selective facts.

For political leaders who have pursued educational policies with a non-judgemental, ethics-debateable, morals-free, all-inclusive, rights paramount-responsibilities ignored syllabus, it should be hardly surprising that there has been a recent case of one school child allegedly murdering another for a bet in which a cooked breakfast at home was the wager. If the child is not to be taught what is right and what is wrong by word and example, then how is it to be that, on maturity, such person will either know, or care much, about the difference?

When some supposed role-models have shown they are not averse to acquiring opportunistic, profit-yielding notoriety by a media-hungry, well-publicised paddle in the immoral or unethical sewer end of behaviour, we should not pretend we can effectively imprison the smell, while simultaneously continuing to promote liberty as an irresponsible exercise of an individual’s right to wallow therein – regardless of any duty to society.

Political party leaders must beware that in espousing loyalty to the land or cause they love, they do not fall temptation to promoting their case by pouring tribal scorn on their neighbours opposite. Their ill-considered outpourings might be compared to the behaviour of bigoted, bully-boy, partisan, sectarian fans of some fantasy football team.

R. S. G. Baillie