Sunday, December 22, 2019

Responsible Child and moral philosophy

Lord Bonkers' Well-Behaved Orphans were originally a bit of a joke against myself.

Because of an unhappy period in my own childhood, I used to be overfond of Oliver Twist and other tales of wronged children.

I have largely cured myself of that taste, but still watched Responsible Child this week.

There is no doubt where the play's sympathies lay, but as Jasper Rees said in the Telegraph:
there was no one making the case for trying children in adult courts. Perhaps that’s because there isn’t a good one to make.
Another Telegraph article, this one behind its paywall, reveals:
Lord Navnit Dholakia, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, has campaigned for a Private Members’ Bill that would see 11 and 12-year-olds tried in a new court “specially designated for young people” to help them understand what is going on. 
“Psychologists and others have found that [children below 12] are not capable of understanding the seriousness of what they’ve done, it passes beyond them,” he says. “I’m very keen that there is a rehabilitative process.”
The play was inspired in part by the case of 14-year-old Jerome Ellis, who was sentenced to six years in detention for his part in the killing of his stepfather.

The writers do not seem to have strayed far from the facts of that case. A report this week in the Sun said the boy's teachers:
gave witness statements which revealed Jerome was often hungry and that he was a young carer for his mother and his siblings.
By making Raphael - or Ray - only 12 in Responsible Child they tipped the scales a little, but that change may have been made because they found such an extraordinary actor of that age - Billy Barratt - to cast.

You could also mention that, like Oliver Twist himself, Ray sometimes appeared to be from a higher social class than those around him.

One thing that interested me is that the play raised an issue in moral philosophy that has always troubled me.

Altruism is sometimes presented as the greatest good, but to me it is not necessarily a good thing. In the play, Ray took part in the killing of his stepfather out of love and concern for his older brother.

It turns out that one can do wrong out of love for others just as much as one can do wrong out of self-love.

I usually attribute that insight to Joseph Butler, though I have no idea where he said it.

Finally, a Trivial Fact of the Day. As has been widely reported, Billy Barratt is the grandson of Shakin' Stevens.

No comments: