Saturday 19 May 2018

Nuts and Bolts

My daughter recently wrote on Facebook,
“We have the most ridiculous situation in my neighbourhood where a mentally unstable man has taken residence in our local park, where he lights toxic fires that smoke out houses, throws bricks at passing runners and threatened to take my children's eyes out. He is dangerous and destructive, but after months of trying to get him taken into state care, appeals to the police and the ward and the media, he hasn't budged. If it's this hard to deal with one man in a quiet suburb, how hopeless it must be in a crowded township faced with hardened criminals. We need a policing revolution.”
This situation is such a challenge to so many of my dearly held principles.
  • It threatens my family, which I value above everything. 
  • It begs for the initiation of force, which I abhor. 
  • It seeks to deny the freedom of an individual to go where he pleases on public land, and to behave badly, short of actual violence. 
  • It seeks to restrict the freedom of expression (of ravings and threats, but expression nevertheless).
  • Consent seems to be absent on all sides. 
  • It cries out for intervention by the forces of state, authority and crowds, which I hate. Of course, the forces of authority have been predictably useless so far.
I planned to tour Europe later this year, as cheaply as possible. I hope to be able to camp on public spaces, maybe light a small fire, sleep rough in my little tent. I would like to have my sometimes crazy opinions respected. If you threaten me, there is a good chance I might threaten you. I plan to carry a pepper spray, and maybe a stick, for defence. I would really like you to talk to me before attacking me, grabbing my stuff, throwing me out of the park, or whatever. However, I probably don’t speak your language. If you accuse me of violence, or threatening behaviour, or trespassing, I would like my side to be heard in a fair court where I am presumed innocent.

And I am reasonably wealthy, reasonably intelligent, articulate, and not mentally unhinged, at least in my opinion. God help me if I was poor, stupid and slightly nuts.

So what would a good anarcho-libertarian do in this situation? Probably write an article, and post to a blog.

But this is my daughter and my grandchildren who are at risk. It is no laughing matter.

The first thing is to manage and mitigate the risk. Never visit the park alone. Take adequate protection, such as a pepper spray and an audible alarm. Always have a working phone available. Avoid direct contact with the guy.

Try to gather information about him, using local support such as a gardener, maid, friend. What is his name? Where is he from? Why is he in this particular place? Does he have any family? What does he want (food, a place to sleep, money, healthcare, are all pretty obvious. But maybe he wants to be near a family member, or is looking for a job, or is just hopelessly lost.) What would it take to make him go away? Why is he threatening people (almost certainly because he feels threatened, but maybe other reasons)? Get some photos of him, get his ID number if you can.

Meet with him in a neutral and safe location, for both him and you. Bring food, drink and chairs. Bring people sympathetic to him (his race, language, circumstances). Bring people you trust, with adequate backup. Do not bring a hothead likely to get all authoritarian and postal. Eat and drink and make smalltalk, treat him like another human being. Listen to his story. Ask him to listen to yours.
This approach is fraught with difficulties (generations of race hatred, animosity, envy, miscommunication and resentment) and is unlikely to succeed, but at least try.

Establish a communication channel, probably through some willing local. Ensure that the consequences for him of violence and physical harm are clearly understood. Begin to negotiate a solution (stop threatening passers-by, and we won’t threaten you. Camp here, but not there. Here’s some dry wood for your fire, to stop the smoke. Would you like some food and clothes?) Be aware that rewarding bad behaviour invariably produces more bad behaviour, but some things are just charitable.
Possibly you could pay for him to return to his family in a rural area. Perhaps you could contact a relative in a township. Maybe you know of a nicer park you could help him move to.

Investigate local charitable resources and agencies - there are more than you might expect. Maybe they can provide accommodation, or counselling. Be aware that the Gauteng health department allowed more than one hundred mentally challenged patients to die in their care, so they might not be the best choice (depending on your desired outcome).

If there have been actual, verifiable acts of violence (as opposed to rumours and hearsay) involving credible witnesses with real evidence (injuries, photos, dates and times), then bring a charge at the local police station and let the law take its slow and painful course. This may involve more time, frustration and bureaucracy than you expect.

You could also try to scare the shit out of him, raid his camp with half a dozen heavily armed friends in the night, break up his possessions, rough him up a bit. Do this often enough and he will probably move on, or bring charges against you.

This is not the first nutjob you will have to deal with - and given the current state of our nation, he probably won’t be the last. We need to setup a system that leaves our souls intact while dealing with this threat to our families.

Our police are truly compromised and useless, our courts largely hopeless at this level. When faced with this situation in the past we developed responses like NeighbourNet. However I suspect this vagrant is more to be pitied than persecuted. I am just terrified of being proven wrong.

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