Unrestricted freedom becomes conceptually impossible. (...) It’s a radical liberal utopia that turns against itself.
Author: Leszek Kołakowski
22nd of June 2011: In front of the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, a bomb placed in a cargo van exploded. Eight people died in the attack. Fifteen were injured.
The same day at the AUF’s (Workers’ Youth League) summer camp, a man wearing a police uniform opened fire upon a group of youth. In one and a half hours he killed 69 people and injured 155, of which 110 critically. The average age of his victims was 19 years. The oldest was 51 years old, and the youngest –14. The shooter surrendered to the anti-terrorist forces without resistance. His name is Andreas Behring Breivik. He is 32 years old. He admitted to both attacks.
The world is in shock. Norway, one of the safest countries in the world (GPI 2010 – 5th place, 2011 – 9th, 2012 – 18th) faced one of the biggest mass murders in Norway’s history. The Media flooded society with letters, political statements and Breivik’s diaries. For almost two weeks, the Norwegian killer’s face was ubiquitous. And then the story slowly faded… the attention of the public turned to the riots in London and the ongoing Arab Spring.
Breivik returned to the public eye in April 2012, when his trial began. He was recognised as sane and not regretful of his acts. On the 24th of August he was sentenced to 21 years in prison (minimum of 10 years) with the possibility of indefinite extention. The only higher sentence in Norway is 30 years, for genocide.
Since the day of the announcement of the court, I have been questioning the world I live in. How is it possible that a person who killed 77 people is sanctioned with only 21 years of imprisonment? And, to make it worse, he has been recognised as completely sane; he did not express remorse in respect of the acts committed (and even if he did, would it change anything?). Breivik will be 53 at the end of his sentence; unless it is extended (it can be extended for a maximum of 5 years at a time). At this age, he will be fully capable of committing other crimes, and free to carry on his terrorist activity (assuming that through his sentence he will utilise the treadmill and computer which he is allowed to have in his cell). [Update: After publishing this post on my blog in Polish access to the computer has been denied for Breivik. He is trying to get it back, claiming that it was a part of deal with the Norwegian police].
The case of Breivik is not the only one in which our society and legal system seem to be too liberal. Almost every year I hear about a robber, thief or other kind of criminal who was shot/badly injured because didn’t expect his victim to have a gun (or to use it in self-defence). Unfortunately, in most European countries, self-defence is very restricted. If someone attacks you with a baseball bat, you are allowed to use similar weapon, but you are not allowed to take out a gun (used in the family for hunting) and shoot him. In 2005, a situation like that took place in Skórzewo , near Poznań, in Poland, where a man shot one of the burglars. In 2010 in Germany, a retired man, whose passion was hunting, was attacked in his house by 5 young men. After being badly beaten and tied, he managed to release himself and shot one of the young guys while they whey escaping with the stolen goods. He was been accused of murder with the motive of nationalism, as all of the assaulters had been immigrants. (Luckily after a long trial he was exonerated)
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t vote for public access to guns. But if someone attacked me I shouldn’t have to hesitate with defence. It shouldn’t matter whether I use a rail from a nearby fence, a broken glass bottle found on the pavement or a knife from my kitchen. If the authorities have decided that it’s legal for me to have a gun in my house, and someone tries to attack me, why shouldn’t I use this gun to protect myself and my family?
Returning to Breivik, I’m not a supporter of the death penalty, and I don’t think that John Locke was right (A criminal who, having renounced reason ... hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or tiger, one of those wild savage beasts with whom men can have no society nor security. (Second Treatise of Civil Government, Ch. II, sec. 11). However, I’m a huge believer in the Latin saying Qui non laborat, non manducet, “which means the one who does not work shall not eat” ( 2 Thessalonians 3:10).
I think that criminals sentenced to long-term/life imprisonments should earn their living. It’s hard to find a sensible explanation as to why their access to treadmills, computers and two hot meals a day should be funded by my taxes. That’s why the idea of employing prisoners makes sense to me. I know that it would also generate expenses (wards, security at the work place etc.) but it seems that in the long term it would be cheaper.
I have seen this in action in the USA (prisoners in bright orange uniforms repairing the road and watched by several armed guards). I have also read somewhere that some prisons started to use metal bracelets with GPS transmitters, which help to locate prisoners in case of escape. In order to protect society from prisoners who pose a threat, and manage to escape, bracelets connected with a taser (working with a GPS transmitter) should be allowed. After a certain distance, a high voltage impulse would be released. This would enable the use of prisoners for building flood embankments, street cleaning, road works, or other manual labour.
I understand that it sounds similar to the Soviet GULAG system, but why should I agree on paying for food for someone who took pleasure in rape and murder? Wouldn’t it be better to use that money to improve the NHS or education systems?
Original text has been published in Polish on here on 4.9.2012