Mark Duggan and Moral Bankruptcy

January 13, 2014 2:10 pm


mark dugganFor our non-UK readers, or for our UK readers who are not aware of the Mark Duggan case, here is the summary:

On the fourth of August, 2011 – 29 year old Mark Duggan was shot dead by the Metropolitan Police in Tottenham, London. Fifteen minutes before he was shot dead, Mark was in possession of a blank-firing gun that had been converted  to fire live rounds.

The police stopped a cab that Mark was using. What happens next becomes confusing due to the conflicting reports. It started off with the police claiming that he had pulled a gun out from his waistband, but it was eventually concluded that he threw his gun over a fence when he ran away to try and get rid of the evidence, and was then shot dead. There were a lot of conflicting reports, and incidences where police officers gave statements and then retracted them.

However, in a recent trial attended by a jury, it was determined that Mark Duggan was lawfully killed. His family were of course devastated, and the community he was part of saw it as an injustice – stating “no justice, no peace.”

*Just to clarify, I am not debating the court’s decision in this article, but rather focusing on some people’s reaction to the incident and the ruling. After all, the decision was reached by a randomly selected jury who probably know more than most of us ever could about this incident. *

The problem 

Friends and relatives "salute" at Duggan's funeral

Friends and relatives “salute” at Duggan’s funeral

As I was  reading the news from various papers, I was alarmed at people’s reaction to this whole event. Looking at the comments (and I won’t quote anyone directly), the basic sentiment was that “being a gangster, he had it coming”. More importantly, the Daily Mail, took a provocative angle towards the case – headlining the story as “Mark Duggan, the man who lived by the gun: Arms draped  around two violent gangsters, the thug whose death sparked riots – but who his family insist was a peacemaker.”

The sub heading of the article also listed his criminal past, however true it was. Stating that he was one of the most violent gangsters in Europe and that he had been linked to ten shootings and two murders.

So the basic discourse from the Daily Mail and others who support it is that Mark deserved everything he got, and that him being shot dead in the street is a good thing.

And yet, despite the supporters of such a sentiment displaying an utter revulsion at gang culture, gangs and organized crime, the most curious thing is that it just stops there. And that is a big mistake. They do not ask why these gangs exist and why people get involved in organized crime. Let us say, for argument’s sake, that Mark Duggan was indeed a top criminal – why should we not wonder what drove him and thousands  more in London alone towards a life of crime? The most basic guess I can give are two – economic desperation and a materialistic society that worships money; encouraging people to seek their fortune at whatever cost.

mark duggan verdictEven stranger is that some of these people who are repulsed by organized crime and gang culture, and who seem to make judgements without investigation, say that his death is a good thing. Now organized crime is bad because of loss it creates, and the biggest loss of all is that of human life; whether someone is killed or dies because of a drug addiction. So it should be clear that death is a bad thing. Yet when we encounter criminals, a moral bankruptcy seems to take over some of us and we become illogical. If, as it was accepted in the recent ruling of Mr. Duggan’s death, he did throw the gun over the fence then there might have been a chance that the police could have arrested him instead of killed him. In light of that, what is tragic and hard to understand is that someone could celebrate his death and say that he deserved it.

Why am I writing this? Because I believe that the most important part of being a moral society is being morally consistent. And the most important time to be morally consistent is when we are faced with cases like this. Even when we look at the life of someone who could have been a criminal, and who could have done a lot of wrong in his past, we must not allow ourselves to react so that we become morally bankrupt ourselves. Otherwise, what is the point?

We should be beyond knee-jerk reactions. And if we truly want to make things better, then we should not just say “I don’t like this”, but also ask ourselves, “why is it happening?”

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