Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Post De-Civilizing Era

"Everything was turned upside down [with people becoming disengaged, less committed to societal well-being; eventually finding their way back to a stable social contract]."
"Culturally, we've become much more civilized."
Neil Boyd, professor of criminology, Simon Fraser University

Young men, said Professor Boyd, now represent 9% of the Canadian population, but back in the 1960s which represents a time of great cultural upheaval, they were double that proportion of the overall population. Since homicide rates reflect in large part an age demographic where violent crimes tend to be committed by young men, Canada's current low level of annual homicides reflect their age-demographic at the present time.

From the 1960s forward, and from a peak in the 1970s when violent crime was far more prevalent, sociologists feel that factors such as the abolition of capital punishment, the legalization of abortion, the elimination of leaded gasoline and the rise in the use of juvenile psychiatric drugs has led to a gradual decrease in violence, and the rate of homicides. A kinder, gentler nation does not direct its government to commit state murder.

In the social upheavals of the 1960s the murder rate in Canada began its spike, culminating in a peak around 1970. Since then there has been a steady drop in such crimes. Statistics Canada informs us that in 2013, 505 murders were committed representing a national rate of roughly 1.44 victims per 100,000 population, which "marks the lowest homicide rate since 1966".

Murder data from the United States and around the world encompassing ten years of steeply increasing criminal violence that peaked in the mid-1970s, has followed the same trend; a slow and steady decline in the following years. In the opinion of at least one prominent Canadian criminologist, the diminishing murder rate reflects the slow progression of society toward a civilizing effect.

The growth of an aura of internalized self-restraint among the population reflected in a decrease of violence and other cultural offences has been attributed to the rise of more complex social structures within a society, an interpretation of changing social and cultural mores expanded by Norbert Elias, a German sociologist: advanced cultures teach their members self-restraint.

After the Second World War, and the tide of Baby Boomers that resulted, who widely took it upon themselves to challenge their elders whose presumed lack of self-restraint led to conflict, social parameters were challenged and frequently overturned. There resulted, given the baby boom, larger numbers of restive young men challenging authority, leading to a rise in statistical violence.

Concomitantly, alcohol consumption rose 50% per capita, divorce rose by 400%, illegal drug crimes reached elevated status within a more permissive societal backdrop and unregulated industries boomed "where people take matters into their own hands", particularly pertaining to illegal drugs, pointed out Professor Boyd.

According to Statistics Canada's latest report, 2013 reflected a steep drop in firearm homicides, a majority committed with handguns, the lowest rate since 1974. Although similar trends are seen in the United States, their numbers are much higher from four per 100,000 in the 1960s peaking to over ten, then falling back to about where it is today, at 6 per 100,000. Firearms are also readily available in the U.S.

But this gradual diminishing of violent crime is also reflected in statistics coming from countries in Europe and Asia as well, reflecting a global drop in homicides. Professor Boyd feels the abolition of capital punishment was "pretty much irrelevant" to the outcome of the current statistics, while the de-institutionalization of mental health patients had a far greater impact.

The "abortion filter", whereby legalized abortion, as the theory holds, resulted in fewer unwanted, neglected children who would mature to become social deviants also played a part in civilizing society, rather affirming the adage favoured by those lauding 'free choice', of the phrase, "Every child a wanted child", with all that the thought behind it implies.

The use of anti-depressants and medication for the control of hyperactivity is seen as another driver, as is the legislation to remove lead from gasoline, a contaminant that ended up in children's bodies, and which was associated with behavioural problems. Also hypothesized was the gentrified inner cities from which earlier generations had fled to the suburbs.

"The reality is there's no single determinant", pointed out Michael Arntfield, formerly with the London Police Service, now teaching at Western University, who proposes two major influences: demograpy and technology. The "aging out" of the population that typically commits murder and the cultural factors coming into play giving opportunities for offenders to contact their victims.

"Until [Robert] Pickton, [Clifford] Olson was the worst serial killer in Canadian history, and this was his MO. He would go out and take advantage of this nomadic, free-spirited culture and pick up young boys hitchhiking." Whereas Robert Pickton "found a new type of vulnerable victim", pointed out Professor Arntfield, in the drug-addicts of downtown east side Vancouver.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet