Born bad. Or weird. Or both

22Feb11

Want to know anything about genocide? Well, it’s not the same as mass slaughter, for a start, and as soon as I finish my essay I’ll be able to tell you why. With examples. Oh dear, I have spent the last week in a welter of degradation and disgust, and not surprisingly, some of the filth has stuck to my wellies and I’m treading it into the carpet of my everyday life.

Witness the colleague who made a crack about redheads yesterday and brought at least one horseman of the apocalypse down onto his head. Mind you, when confronted with the theoretical coupling of two frecklers, he had used the terms ‘incest’, ‘potential genetic freak-show’ and ‘ginger mole-children’ in an email of only 46 words.

Thanks to my current reading, I am a little sensitive to ideas of genetic determinism. That your genes carry some sort of essential characteristics that are a) common to everyone of similar appearance or fellow members of the notional ‘group’, and b) different from everyone else. That people who carry these characteristics are programmed to behave a certain way and that these are ineradicable.

Fortunately for Dave, my flabby imprecision (‘It’s a bit more complicated than that, you essentialist moron’) has been dealt a blow by some new sciencey stuff that you can read here. No warning bells are ringing at all.

I’m particularly keen on phrases like ‘The seeds of sin …’ when uttered by a scientist. It seems that six-month-old babies carry in their brains a trackable predictor of potential criminality (the little bastards). The ‘former Home Office scientist’ (why ‘former’? Was he fired?) goes on ‘The time is going to come when we are going to be able to predict reasonably well [‘reasonably’? On what scale?] which individuals… are predicated to become criminal offenders.’ Doctor Scary isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade ‘It’s very simple – bad brain, bad behaviour’. [Simple? Behaviour? Are you sure?]

So what should we do, faced with this understanding? ‘The point is going to come when we have to decide [oh good, I love a binary opposition in matters of ethically perilous complexity]; are we going to intervene at an early age even though the prediction will never ever be perfect and we’ll always make mistakes.’

Well, it kind of depends on the nature of the intervention, doesn’t it? Mentoring, educational input, social support, bit of fish oil: lovely. Notes on your file, nano-tagging, pre-emptive segregation and a mug-shot in the local paper (‘The monsters in our midst’): not so great. But hell, I would say that. I’m a ginger mole-child with a chip on my freckled shoulder.

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2 Responses to “Born bad. Or weird. Or both”

  1. 1 Sonia Evans

    My wife is a red head too, I’ve learnt over the years that you really can’t beat a ginger personality (not even in self defense…).

    I read the “criminal traits in babies brains” article in no less a medical journal than The Metro, so I believe the findings to be absolutely true…..or, possibly a complete load of horlicks..

    • 2 vanessaharriss

      Well, we do all share one personality. And certainly Dave found that the reputational hot temper is completely untrue.


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