There are two things which I am officially done with in the
media this week. New Zealand
The first is the media’s insistence of referring to Stewart Wilson as ‘The Beast of Blenheim’. For example, if you were on Stuff this morning, you may have noticed the headline ‘Beast move upsets inmates’. If you had clicked on it, you would have seen the following opening paragraph:
“The serial sex predator known as the Beast of Blenheim is already offside with his new neighbours, who have been kicked out of their home before he's even moved in.”
No. Quit it.
I was going to use this space to talk about my opinion, and the conclusions of a wealth of psychological and forensic literature, about prison/punishment in general. Then I realized that I just do not have the energy to read the comments that such a post could potentially inspire, so I’m going to stick with Mr. Wilson himself.
As a somewhat obsessive Belle fan, the creature that first comes to mind whenever I see the word ‘Beast’ is the Disney character from Beauty and the Beast. He is cruel, unsocialised, violent, entitled. He displays no empathy, no warmth, no humanity. But throughout the course of the film, he changes, and develops into a far more palatable creature.
How? By having the news media incite fear and hysteria about his potential actions? By being loathed by an entire country? By having all human aspects that remain in him, god, even his name, ignored and shunned by the world in favour of the things that make him most beastly?
No. The beast became a man because he was treated like one. He was treated like a human being. He was shown gentleness, kindness, respect, and empathy. He was shown a world that he wanted to be a part of, but in order to do so, he had to abide by certain rules. It took him a long time to learn some of the rules, but he got there.
Am I saying that I genuinely believe that the world is like a Disney movie? Not quite. Nor am I saying that I believe that if we just send a pretty girl in to dance around Mr. Wilson’s garden flinging snow about that he will magically transform into a valued and valuable member of society? No. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a fucking terrible idea.
What I am saying is that if we treat people like animals, like beasts, we can expect only beastly behaviour in return.
Only humans are punishable by human law. If we punish Mr. Wilson based upon his membership in a law-driven society, then he needs to be treated as a member of a law-driven society. If Mr. Wilson is a beast, someone so far removed from humanity that he does not even deserve a name, then why would be expect to adhere to our laws? How can we ever expect him to become an adaptive member of society if we do not even treat him like a human being?
I acknowledge that Stewart Wilson has done hideous and heinous things. I acknowledge that there is a high chance that he will do hideous and heinous things again, if given the chance. But is the best way of preventing him from doing these things treating him like a beast – and not even just treating him like a beast, going to far as to label him one?
No. So quit it. Just use his damn name.
I also think this is an excellent chance to point out that the laws suit a lot of us. Take a moment to think about which laws you would ‘break’ if no laws existed. Would you smash someone’s window and take all their possessions? Would you wrap your hands around the throat of that hideously annoying woman in the supermarket? Would you have sex with an eight-year old? I don’t know about you, but my choices not to do these things are not at all based on whether or not I’ll get in trouble if I do them. In fact, there are very few laws that I follow simply because they are law. I know someone who only has their restricted who does not hesitate to take other people (who haven’t had their full license for two years) out and about in her car, because she thinks that that law is bullshit. And I don’t judge her for that, because she’s amazing. But I digress.
It’s simple to follow the law when your base impulses are congruent with it. ‘I do not want to kill you’ goes excellently with ‘I am not allowed to kill you’. ‘I am only attracted to consenting adults’ goes perfectly with ‘I am only permitted to have sex with consenting adults’. But for some people these things aren’t congruous, and it’s really easy to heap judgment and punishment on them in spades. And yes, sometimes they have done heinous and hideous things, and I am not saying that anything that Mr. Wilson has done is even in the least bit okay. But a man having sex with a man was against the law, once. It can be hard to follow the law when your every impulse screams against it… and that does not make you a beast.
I had a whole different ‘quit it’ to write about the man having a wahh because he wanted to see the Muslim women’s unveiled faces but I just don’t even have the emotional energy to go into that right now. I will just say this: who is more negatively impacted at the end of the day, the man who wasn’t allowed to see one art exhibition, or a woman who feels violated and removed from her beliefs because a male viewed her body without her consent, against her explicit wishes? Oh, you didn’t get to see a little movie? Wahhh. The fact that you’d even want to when you know how much that woman doesn’t want you to is gross. Quit it.