A national ‘respect squad’ is being launched by John Reid to help in the battle against anti-social behaviour. Local councils, MPs and police chiefs will be able to call in the squad to help tackle cases of “yobbishness”. The squad, which will work across Wales and England, consists of 10 frontline local authority and police staff.
It sounds quite comic-book, doesn’t it? Ten souped-up coppers and bureaucrats, roaming the country, stamping out disrespect wherever they go. Why not just call it the Justice League and be done with it?
“Anti-social behaviour ruins lives and fragments communities – particularly those in some of the most deprived areas of our country. We should and will be unremitting in our efforts to drive up standards of behaviour and enforce a culture of respect, for the benefit of all.” [emphasis mine]
Reid really does skew wide of the mark here. He’s committed the fundamental error of confusing actions and behaviours with attitudes. Wielding your big respect-stick at people may well change their behaviours, but it is not going to magically change their basic attitude to their fellow man or woman. You may well be able to stop e.g. hostile groups of youths congregating around street corners through brute force, but changing their minds and attitudes is another order; I don’t think even our hardman John is able to do that, unless he’s perfected the Ludovico technique as well. It might be safer and more reassuring to walk the streets (which is a welcome thing), but if the problem is just being diverted behind closed doors, with more domestic violence, drug abuse or self-harm as a result, then society has not gained in any real way whatsoever.