Thursday, October 13, 2011


According to a community newsletter, a retired man of the cloth is offering enlightenment with aspects of philosophical thinking. As I was wheeling my trolley around the grocery store, I was silently debating about whether to come out of the closet of greyness and participate. Turning into a new aisle, I bumped into the man himself.

"Oh", says I, "I was just thinking about you".

Retired man's bushy eyebrows rose in a mix of surprise and I thought I detected a glimmer of alarm. After all, we did not know each other from any regular community contact or distant friendship. I sensed a quick explanation was called for.

I said quickly, "I read you were interested in developing a philosophy group"

He visibly relaxed and with a drawn out "Ye-e-s" he explained he was thinking about throwing a quote into the arena, which he thought might be more at the level of ethics than pure philosophy. At the height of the recent riots in London (UK), he explained, someone described the rioters and looters as 'feral rats'

Exhaling with a long "So-o-oh",the ex-man of the cloth said, "if we examine the meaning of feral, as it relates to animals, do we get into the nature or nurture argument"?
I'm still thinking.... have you any thoughts :?: :idea:


Vincent said...

Yes, it is an important question, one to make us think. I shall merely answer the question he asked, with "Yes".

Once the yes answer is given, we can indeed get into the nature or nurture argument.

I can't help feeling that your ex-man of the cloth is certain that the parents are to blame. However a lifetime of beating about the bush on sensitive issues persuades him it would be wiser to lead his flock to water and let them drink of the fountain of wisdom themselves.

What think you?

ZACL said...

Hello Vincent,

Thanks for your comment. I have to ask you a supplementary question because of it. Why do you say one can only get into the nature, nurture discussion with saying 'yes'. With saying 'no' you would still have to discuss the N/N element, surely?

I'm not sure if the man of cloth would just blame parents; from what I have heard, he has never been a fire and brimstone evangelistic preacher with limited views. Then again, who can tell what he might say, especially if he chooses to play Devil's Advocate.

Vincent said...

I'm sure you are right, but it was the man of the cloth who posed the "if" question. His question didn't cover what options there might be if we didn't examine the meaning of feral. So I was simply answering yes to his question.

But I suspect that theological training includes more training in logic than you or I would receive, unless we went out of our way to get it.

A man of the cloth is on a sticky wicket. He has to practise his batting at the nets!

Actually, I can't think of who else to blame but the parents. But I had a privileged upbringing, went to private schools. Perhaps I don't know what it is like for others.

ZACL said...

Just a quick reply, till I have had time to think about what you say. I'll speak to you again, (it may be brief).

I am impressed by your charming and disarming reasoning for your own perspectives.

I value your input. Thanks :)

ZACL said...

As I haven't had the experience of private schooling, might I ask you, Vincent, why you think that might have some bearing on how people might behave in a riotous situation.

Obviously under-age kids absences would usually be checked on in schools if boarding. At least You would hope so. There, you would also be talking about institutional controls within the bricks and mortar of the institution. And, I would deduce that most private boarding schools would not be close to city centres. However, young adults out of school are not within that control. They are often informally 'forgiven' by community authority for their euphemistically described Hooray Henry antics in less heated times.

The conditional nature of the question is a bit brain-sweating, as it is meant to be; as for other options to feral, that is one question to toss around, I guess. The primary question is based on one angry person's polite, but incisive description. Others have already tried to re-frame descriptions of the looters, arsonist and rioters into other forms, mostly related to The Criminal Code descriptions we have.

Vincent said...

All I meant in confessing I was educated in private schools was that I did not come into contact with children who went to state schools or had working class parents!

So I don't presume to judge behaviours whose background causes I cannot guess at from any first-hand experience.

But in response to your last, I was taught strict codes of behaviour both at home and at school. So if I or my schoolfellows chose to breach those codes, it was in full knowledge of what the codes were.

I can however imagine children involved in the riots who were not taught any strict codes of behaviour except on the street, whether in gangs or otherwise.

ZACL said...

Your guess, Vincent, about codes of behaviour amongst the rioters is probably the same as anyone else's guess, including mine. We do know however, that there were people from other backgrounds who took advantage of the situation, who say they were caught up in it, in the heat of the moment. We just have not had much media focus on them. Somehow, they have not proved as 'meaty' for the news hounds. There were plenty of decent ordinary young people who were caught out by the rioting, were petrified and did not get caught up in the behaviours highlighted. I therefore feel other conclusions need to be drawn about those who did seriously misbehave. However, I digress a bit from the question....or do I?

Again, thanks.

Vincent said...

Well, we can come back to the question and ask whether your ex-clergyman would have included these people from other backgrounds, when he talks about examining the meaning of 'feral'.

Suppose there is someone who has been to university, or indeed a private school, whose parents may be very respectable in the world's eyes (they have a big house and one of them is a director of several companies). This someone has for 'ideological' or other reasons little regard for the norms of behaviour and respect for others' property, preferring the imagined role of revolutionary; and so joins the looting crowd, or even leads it.

Can this someone be called a 'feral rat'? Or just an amoral opportunist ready to rant some excuses about the rottenness of the system, as if the public disorder were some focused political protest.

Which it did start as, sort of. (Protest against trigger-happy police, or police racism?)

Feral rat is a vague term.

ZACL said...

Excellent Vincent! I was trailing along similar lines of thought myself this morning. It is too easy to dismiss other aspects as 'minority' and focus on what is comfortably referred to as 'majority'.

I shall be giving this subject some extra time in the next day or so. it will be easy to become bogged down in narrow bands. I must remain mindful of that.

I hear today that two appeals relating to the riots, against length of sentence, have been rejected. No names announced this time