Prime Time Crime  

 

(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of May  8, 2006)

I didnít do it.  It wasnít me.  Itís not my fault.

  By John Martin

The next time you hear of some hardened criminal blaming his offences on drugs, poverty, peer pressure or a lousy childhood, consider where he probably learned it.

After all, activists, lawyers and academics have been making excuses for criminals for over four decades.

We routinely exonerate wrong doers or minimize their sentences on account of stress, financial hardship, medical conditions, family circumstances and depression.  Defense lawyers have successfully introduced a myriad of mitigating factors including prescription drug side effects, marital breakdown, poor nutrition, video games, ethnicity, rap lyrics, and reality TV. 

But itís not just criminal behavior that is being excused.

Fast food chains are supposedly responsible for making people fat.  The tobacco companies, not smokers, are to blame for draining the health care system.  The banks give too much credit and make people go into debt.  And gamblers that donít know when to stop are victims of the vicious gaming industry.

Instead of personal accountability we have class action lawsuits and government funded support groups.

Able-bodied young adults collect welfare at a time when the service industry is booming.  People choose to have children and then demand taxpayers pick up the bill for someone else to look after them.  The teacherís union argues Gordon Campbell made them break the law.  Failed politicians blame a hostile media. And parents have no idea where their twelve-year old daughter is at 2:00 a.m. 

Avoiding responsibility has become a staple characteristic of the times. 

A lengthy parade of co-conspirators associated with the sponsorship scandal lied under oath, feigned amnesia and swore they did nothing wrong.  The Chretienites blamed the bureaucrats and the Martinites blamed the Chretienites.

Among Bart Simpsonís most memorable phrases is ďI didnít do it.Ē  Maybe we should work those words into the Canadian Constitution.

One of the items that made Cliff Claven, the mailman from Cheers, such a pathetic character was that he still lived with his mom.  It got quite a laugh.  Now we call thirty year olds who move back home ďboomerangsĒ and itís the high price of housing thatís to blame.

Iíve had university students ask for extensions in courses because they broke up with their girlfriend, had to look for a new car, didnít notice the assignment due date, couldnít decide on a topic, wanted to go rafting for the long weekend, and one wasnít sure if she could track down an internet cafť in Puerto Vallarta.  Theyíre generally stunned when such requests are denied.

Insisting criminals start acting responsibly and learn to be accountable for their actions is all well and good.  Too bad thereís such a shortage of examples to show them how to go about it.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at John.Martin@ucfv.ca

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