Thursday, December 01, 2005

ASBOs, Social Order, and What Ireland Can Learn from the Ancient World

Crassus - he didn't take much nonsenseLike anyone else that saw it, An Spailpín Fánach watched the Prime Time show on Monday featuring the feral behaviour of young people beyond the law in housing estates all over Ireland with no small amount of revulsion, revulsion that very quickly turned to anger. Ordinary, decent people are having their lives ruined, blighted and put in very real danger by these hoodlums, while Irish society just wrings its hands and says "oh dear, oh dear, these children have problems, oh dear, oh dear." As remarked in this forum only yesterday, An Spailpín Fánach is only too aware of the dearth of positive role models for these young people, but, with the greatest respect in the world, that's no damned good to the aged, the infirm, the elderly and the helpless who are spending the autumn of their years in terrorised house arrest in their own homes.

It's not good enough. It really isn't. And, in the absence of positive role models, how about a negative role model to be getting along with? Something to remind these young people that, while they may be feeling disenfranchised and isolated from society now, society reserves the right to make them feel a damned sight worse if they continue to act the maggot?

As a proto-classicist, An Spailpín is reminded of the problem faced by Marcus Lincinius Crassus, who was praetor of Rome when Spartacus led a slave revolt in the first century BC. Crassus took on Spartacus' army and defeated it at Capua in 71 BC, but he still needed to make an example, to make it middling clear to all concerned that the Senate and People of Rome would not be standing for any nonsense.

Marcus Crassus had an idea. There were six thousand prisoners taken after the defeat of Spartacus at Capua, and Crassus had every one of them crucified along the 200 miles from Capua back to Rome, as an example of what happens when you start getting notions. Nothing good, in short. Allowing for crucifixions on either side of the road - a very practical people, you know, Romans - that works out at a cross every sixty or so yards on both sides of the road for two hundred miles. Crassus got his point across, and the Empire lasted for another thousand years.

An Spailpín Fánach is not advocating for an instant that we have crucifixions in Ireland at every sixty yards of road. Traffic is enough of a nightmare as it is without the added distraction of Emma Caulfield of AA Roadwatch telling commuters to use alternative routes and plan extra time for their journeys rather than use Merrion Square this evening at rush hour, as the Corpo are nailing up a few boy racers and delays are expected. No; that would be doing the dog on it.

All you need are a couple of high visibility crucifixions, to get the point across. 100,000 men joined Spartacus two millennia ago - we're talking about buckeens here that wouldn't be able to count that high, some of them. A mere handful of crucifixions will get the point across in jig time.

The standard crew to carry out a crucifixion in the Army of Rome was five, which worked out at one centurion and four ordinary soldiers. In 21st Century Ireland, this works out at one ganger, from Meed or some awful place in the midlands, where they don't breed 'em squeamish, and a few Eastern Europeans, who are glad of the work. They make their way out to whatever community is on the list for that evening - and I won't name names, but we all know where they are, don't we? - and the keep their ears peeled. Somewhere there'll be some wiseguy with his acolytes around him giving it socks about how he did six munts in da 'Joy, no worries, them cops are only bleedin' mulchies, I'm well tough, I am. He'll do just fine. Over go Ivan, Josef, Pavel, Nikita and Mick, they scare off the wiseguy's mates, and take the wiseguy himself. I'm not sure how many of these acolytes will go Musketeering with the one-for-all, all-for-one stuff when their dread commander is taken, but something tells me not many. So the crucifixion party take the wiseguy, his mates run away like the gutless wonders they are, pretty good at burning out old people's cars, not so tough at taking on crucifixion parties, and whack, whack, whack, up with the wiseguy the cross, and leave him there. Our hero, who found incarceration in Mountjoy Prison no sweat, won't have half as much jawing when he's a Carrion Crazy Meal for Pakie Preachán and the rest of the boys.

A lot of people will be horrified when they read this. Surely, they will say, this is simply too much. Rome's was a cruel and vicious Empire, which placed no value on human life or dignity. We've moved on from that - that was two thousand years ago, we've moved on.

Well yes, I am willing concede that point. One Roman practice your correspondent would not advocate, for instance, was the old superstition of human sacrifice, of burying people alive to appease the gods. An Spailpín Fánach would never advocate such a measure - in the time it'd take the Corpo to dig the damned hole the sacrifices would have died of old age, and An Spailpín will not stand over such a cruel end. But as for going for the lámh láidir with anti-social behaviour, I really don't see why not. It's going to come to that anyway, as the generations breed out a population that's more and more distanced from any sort of authority. And the longer it takes society to make a stand, the bloodier that stand will be. Make up your minds.