There is no magic method of sensing danger. And you can sense it all you want but if the hostility facing you is armed, you are at a disadvantage. The gun may have been longer in coming to prevalence this side of the Atlantic but it is here.
The morning after the Plymouth shootings, there were two young men in the convenience store where I get the papers. Twitchy, muscular,
buying this and that, talking too loud in that arch way which is meant to draw attention, calling down the counter to me. I really can’t see very well without my distance glasses and I don’t always wear them on this trip out. I didn’t move. The Asian shopkeeper served them, took their money and they left. He said to me “Thank you for waiting.” I looked at him. He said “I know you were afraid. Best to stay away from them. I never argue or engage with them. I just get through it and they leave. “
The problem is not what you call them, it is how you prevent them crossing the line from unpleasantness to killing. You know that old saw about “a ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure ?”
The problem about crime or injury is that the response is fine. What about the prevention ?
In the past, all sorts of things – I don’t intend to go on a trip down memory lane about doors left on the latch, unfortunate people being better internalised into community, someone you could tell about what much derided old style police officers used to call “a wrong ‘un.” And in those days they made a note and possibly used it.
We don’t know the background of this story specifically but some of the themes are horribly familiar. Whatever care was open to this young man, it wasn’t enough to make much difference. When people talk about a quiet area where everybody knew each other – does that mean the neighbours knew other people’s background, health, beliefs – or they knew them to say hello to in the street ? So the shooter wasn’t “known”, in which case this might have been anticipated. He was recognised – stay away from him, something not quite right there, shut the door…
And the voracious pressure of the internet which fills every gap in society including pulling together what we used to call “social inadequates” into groups, giving them a new name, inciting them to violence and most importantly, giving them someone to blame.
The main difference between men and women is still that more women turn their violence against themselves and more men direct it outwards. In plain language, I am more likely to cut myself and an incel is more likely to shoot somebody else. But the blame game is seductive, first cousin twice removed to “I couldn’t help myself.” And if the mother or the mother figure was the goddess of the last century’s psychology, then it follows the mother must be killed.
Each man kills the thing he loves – especially if she doesn’t love him back, exactly as he wishes. And now with all these images we must look a certain way which is evidence that he or she will love a certain way. Rigid, narrow, angry – I’d rather have my life than theirs. Gardening and crosswords sound like a doddle compared to this.
And it’s all got worse because the young haven’t had their expected social outlets under the terms of the pandemic. Shut in with the pernicious keyboard and the greedy social media, you can see how whatever is wrong gets worse and festers.
People who know a lot more about young men who hate women [which immediately shades into the predictable extremes of the right wing) believe this assault on women should be seen as a terrorist attack. Call it what you like, we have to face up to the fact that, apart from all the mundane things we call police for, there are three vast areas of involvement: identity theft, abuse historic and current, and terrorism. And they require thousands of hands and eyes and brains and millions of pounds. And there will still always be mistakes and horrible accidents.