Monday, October 15, 2007

Do we want to hear about the warm human side of major criminals?

I watched Pat Kenny's TV interview on Friday with Frances Cahill - daughter of the late notorious Dublin criminal Martin Cahill who was also known as The General. Frances has written a book about her father. From what I can gather she has written it from the perspective of a child's view of her father as she was growing up.

Seemingly Martin Cahill was a loving father and Frances' has very good memories of him as she growing up. So the book was an attempt I suppose to show another side of the much hated criminal. Predictably, the messages sent into the show were almost entirely very negative about giving any airtime to a book that showed a warm side to this nasty criminal.

I'm not in a position to offer any useful specific comments on this new book as I have not read it. However, the barrage of negative comments coming in (presumably from people who had not read the book - as it is just published) set me thinking a little of how society view people who do evil. I think we often view criminals as inhuman monsters who have no right to respect for any positive human qualities. We do not want to hear about the side of an evil criminal who loves his daughter and reads her a bedtime story. We fear that by airing such notions that the criminal could be wrongly made to look humane and therefore lessen the evil of their crimes.

Life is never black and white the way we would like it to be. People are never pure 100% evil. But if my own life had been ruined by somebody like the General then I'll admit that my initial tendency would be to winch at the thought of listening to his kind human qualities.

On a bigger scale this attitude also applies in dealing with political dictators and terrorist leaders. Very often democratic leaders cannot accept that such people are anything but psychotic lunatics. No point at all in negotiating, listening and learning how to work such people around to more sensible ways. But like it or not, evil dictators are often lovers of art and music and are tender with children and families. At fundamental levels they are not as different to you and I as we like to believe. They become obsessed on a particular negative track and correcting inputs get ignored or dismissed. But there are many examples of people being persuaded to turn their back completely on violence and evil and leading normal productive lives.

A big subject and I'm not a psychologist, but certainly food for thought. By understanding people better at all levels maybe we have some of the ingredients to approach correction. Closing our ears to the full person seems wrong.


Bill said...

I have read the book and found it very interesting , in particular, her piece about the late Veronica Guerin's investigation into the violent killing of my Uncle Fr.Niall Molloy and the contents of the stolen DPP file on Niall's case.
We live in a Democracy , Frances is entitled to write and publish her book. People can ignore her views simply by not purchasing a copy of it.

My family welcome some of the revelations she has finally brought into the public arena, in particular ...information that the late Veronica Guerin had intended to publish before her own violent death.

Others have written about Martin Cahill and made money for their efforts.. there was no public outcry about those publications or indeed the movie.

< Molloy >,

John of Dublin said...

Interesting thoughts, thanks for the comments. I must admit that I'm tempted to read it, always useful to view things from various perspectives.