I used to work in the private policing of counterfeiting and piracy in behalf of commercial companies. This work involved me in preparing notices for emailing to websites etc requesting them to remove offers for counterfeited and pirated copies of commercial items from public view and grasp.
Whilst I was in this line of work I came across a good quantity of correspondence had between the client companies I had been making the removal notices for; and a number of persons who were in fact informers on others who had been making illegal money in the business of counterfeiting and pirating the client company products and intellectual property.
When I first came across such informers and their written messages I had naively assumed that these informers were “Mr-Average-Concerned-Citizens”; people who had happened across a counterfeiter or a pirate and whose sense of civic duty had urged them to tell the owner-companies about these abuses.
Soon I was disabused of my naivete. Almost to a man – they were mostly men – the informers were a motley crowd of humanity whose motives were far from ‘pure’ for their‘grassing-up’ of their neighbours or of the guy down the road etc.
Almost to a man these informers were seen by me to be motivated by what might be termed low-minded ill-will. The person they were informing on was often disliked by the informant; they were sometimes informed upon so as for the informant to be able to settle a grudge he had against the counterfeiter; sometimes the informant just hated the person he informed on; and sometimes the informant himself was a counterfeiter whom by informing on others was attempting to kill off the competition in counterfeit selling in his own neck of the woods!
Honour among thieves is a fairytale.
Now this was not all. Many of these counterfeiters who had been informed upon eventually were apprehended by the police and brought to a court; usually before magistrate (a sheriff?) although the bigger fish usually found themselves before a judge.
Once caught apprehended charged and haled into court these offenders were almost without exception found guilty as charged. A few with canny lawyers got off – at least for a time because they got off only to go out and assuming their acquittal to be a passport, a carte blanche ticket, to go and continue from where they left off. They resumed selling counterfeits!. No ‘one bitten twice shy’ for them. The weird thing to me, I being I hope a rational sort of person, was that many, many, of these offenders made very little attempt to cover their tracks or to disguise their operations of counterfeiting. Not even after resuming after having been caught once!
Many would load up their vehicles with burnt CDs or memory sticks and travel around their county to the proprietors of businesses in that sector of industry to whom these memory sticks and CDs might present as being tempting to buy; and without a care, without a thought in their heads that it needed just a single upright businessman to ask them for their calling card and then send that calling card to the local police…….. The mind boggles!!
Even the counterfeiter guys who had been to court and had got off with a caution or walked free of charges; even these would not take any care to cover their tracks; not even after having been caught once and thus being now known as counterfeiters to the police!
In court however these guys would be astoundingly slippery. A guy in court for counterfeiting would quite often – usually at the behest of his lawyer – have gotten together a dossierfull of testimonials which he would submit to the court as ‘mitigations’- to be taken into consideration when he had been found guilty of his crimes and the sentence was awaiting to be weighed.
Now in the UK the law here allows a maximum sentence of ten years jail for intellectual property crime; the area of criminal law under which counterfeiting falls. This said, very very few counterfeiting offenders – I know of none – have gone to jail for anything like ten years – even the biggest fish caught.
Most guys found guilty of counterfeiting pay a fine and some reparations; maybe sometimes damages; and a few get nine months or at very most two years jail. Even the two years jail is over in ten or twelve months for an offender, when a prisoner ticks the right boxes for ‘good behaviour’ and for ‘showing remorse and reparations’.
These dossiers which the counterfeiters in court would have had compiled and at the behest of their lawyers to have filled them with testimonials to be taken into account as mitigation for the sentences to be passed on them; these dossiers would be dossiers carrying information such as: – the defendant has an elderly parent whom he cares for; or he has a chronically sick child whom he needs to be with; or he has recently lost his job and was at the time without other means to live; or he himself is chronically ill and so on and so on…..
The mitigations were most often extensive and voluminous for nearly every defendant; as if it were only that section of the British nation which has had the very worst luck in the world; or his family has; who go out and counterfeit and who get caught counterfeiting?
Thus are most counterfeiter criminals’ prison sentences not given. Sometimes even fines are waived or diminished to very little. Sometimes a guy would get a caution or otherwise be discharged of the offences altogether.
This pattern of events was widespread and frequent – so much so as to have impressed me as being the norm in many instances.
Now I am not concerned here about the law, the legal guilt of the offenders, whether they ought to have gone to prison, whether they got off lightly, or whether their appearances in court made any difference to anybody indeed. I am concerned here with the persons who travel this pattern and with them as being the type of that psyche which applies such a pattern to life in these kinds of instances.
It is the whole pattern I am concerned with here. The whole pattern – from the informing; and the travelling around openly offering for sale illicit goods; of not covering ones tracks; of being almost lame-headed in ones lack of foresight and perspicuity; of the lawyers’ acquiescence in the dossier making etc; and of the use by accused offenders of multiple claims for mitigations; of their often going often straight back out on the streets to do the same crimes in the same ways in the same areas with the same businesses again and again – the whole pattern beggars belief in my eyes.
It seems like something Dante might have recorded in his Inferno? A circle of no hope and of eternal punishment; going round and round and round. As the poet says:
“I see hordes of people going round in a ring.”
This pattern: what does it say to you about the minds, the outlooks, the world-views, the aspirations and the hopes and fears of such people – the counterfeiters? And moreover I fear there are certainly thousands, nay, tens or hundreds of thousands of human souls living in such a universe.
It makes me feel pity; feel angry; feel dismayed; and also a little bit incredulous -and dare I be honest – amused? I am not particularly proud of feeling amused but the pattern I’ve described does seem like it ought ot be fiction – some Samuel Beckett item or other?
My polar response to amusement and which I have sometimes to fight against is despair. That this is the lot – for the justice system and for those hauled before it – and probably extending across petty crime here in UK in general – the courtrooms and the defendants; the lawyers and the mitigations; are all a crushing indictment of how we live our lives today.
The criminality of it, the dreadfulness of it; in it’s totally ‘going nowhere-ness’; no aim, no object; a mere going through the motions; nothing to inspire or to uplift; only a sublime ignorance coming into contact with what appears to be a supreme indifference.
It is as though these people are ‘sleepwalkers’ moving through life; as though they are considered by the authorities ‘no hopers’ and that there is nothing to be done with them but to show them some leniency – for the sake of their ignorance, which is their whole mitigation. The lawyers acquiesce and condone and abet as if they too are ‘sleepwalkers’ to the cashpoints to count there their earnings for such charades. The whole is so very very sad and dispiriting to contemplate.
These offender guys seem generally as if throughout their lives they have been cast off by society; to be borne with and tolerated and just left to their own devices which are nothing substantial. Do the justices be lenient to them out of a sense of sheer guilt towards their defendants’ states of ignorance and entrapped half-lives? Or do they just want to get done and get home to their wives, a double scotch, and a dinner party with The Squires later in the evening?
I accept that our schools here have a tough job; that the home influence for young and growing children almost always, under the way we are doing things now, wins out over and above that ethos attempted to be cultivated at school. All the encouragement in the world, all the fine words and examples of good behaviour; the attempts at inculcating a sense of purpose or of higher thinking etc etc; all this is able to be negated absolutely by a homelife for a child which is abysmally deprived in culture and in nurture and in opportunity.
And this description of mine I fear describes too well too often what is the actual case for too, too, many of our children in Britain. Thus they grow up into effigies, carrying the mores and customs and all the heavy baggage of aimless entrappedness, of their own parents, those parents’ experience and what they are continuing to experience.
For all the talk and shows of concern by governments this has been our situation now throughout my life of over sixty years; an hereditary poverty of soul because of a lack of adequate nourishment for that soul.
But this is not to say things may not be different. There are tested and proven educational strategies which when employed will successfully open out, open up, children’s minds in school; but I fear our rulers see such strategies as too great a risk, too prone to exposing themselves to greater accountability; enabling to show to others the faces of their governors ‘warts and all’. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24110905 and http://www.independent.co.uk/…/from-fail-to-world-s-best-a-…
Most of our politicians to a man and woman send their children unashamedly to a private, expensive, and essential-to high-success education; to schools like Eton and Harrow and Gordonstoune; The Merchant Taylors School; Cheltenham Ladies Colege; Marlborough; and their ilks and lookalikes. Most of our politicians to a man and a woman, and their families, use private healthcare rather than the British National Health Service which is free of charge to allcomers at the point of service. There are no queues when one goes for Private Medicine; and one is able to pay for operations and treatments not available to NHS patients – or else on the NHS one is having to have a huge wait – and often fatal.
Now; that part of our national government which is formed of elected representatives, which is the House of Commons, the legislative House of Parliament, which carries most of the political power; this body of politicians I believe at present possess more or less zero personal interest or emotional stake in these two great pillars of our society and community; the taxpayer/government funded education system for children; and the taxpayer/government funded NHS (National Health Service).
These politicians’ children take no part in the state run education system; these politicians and their families take no part in being cared for medically by the NHS. Nil, zero, no, personal stakes in these foundational British welfare institutions at all. Yet they govern them both; and are entrusted by us as our elected representatives to maintain them and to make them effective and fit for purpose.
In Ancient Athens, the birthplace of what we so proudly and with so much bad faith wear on our sleeves as the defining badge of our civilisation: our democracy; in Athens were laws which insisted that the Citizens (males only unfortunately) of adult age to attend and to take a full part in civic and political activities and legislative work – i.e. government. Citizens likewise were expected to arm themselves, at their own expense, and to defend their city state from military attack. All without outward force or coercions being applied – but conducted and conduced wholly by cultivation of the ethos of such obligations in the minds of citizens.
That great man Socrates, Athenian citizen par excellence) who was (unjustly) condemned to death by his fellows at a court hearing, was offered by his friends a route to escape the death penalty by him fleeing to a neighbouring City State. His friends would see to it for him. Yet he refused and accepted instead the cup of hemlock to drink which poisoned him at the city’s command. His rationale for accepting death from his fellows and from his native city and its laws, was that Athens had been his protector and provider for all of his seventy years; and that this being so the city had a claim upon him, even unto death. It was in short a reasoned loyalty and an acceptance of a due course of civic action and obligation. Not soppy. Not silly. Not sentimental. Reasoned out as being the proper thing which ought to be done by Socrates.
Now our politicians are not even happy, nor to willing to put their children through the state school system which they are in charge of and manage in our behalves. Nor are they happy to, willing to use the NHS which is in place so as to provide for all citizens and which they are in charge of and so manage in our behalves.
I declare here that I believe that it is right and proper that all members of The House of Commons should by order be obliged to use the state school education system for their children’s education; and that they and their families should by order be obliged to use only the NHS for their health treatments.
There was an old slogan used by the British colonists in America; one which helped lead up to American Independence from Britain. It was a wise and a proper slogan which has endured because of its truth; it says: ‘no taxation without representation.’ Similarly here likewise there should be in regard to their management of the NHS, and of the state school system, here in Britain, by our politicians ‘no representation without participation’ .
How can a bunch of people with zero practical stake in such passionately important things be allowed to run them in others’ behalves? Surely they are laughing up their sleeves. For all the high claims of duty and large compassion and of full engagement of the heart in these affairs which every politician of any colouring will resort to claiming in their defence for themselves; it remains as Shakespeare says: Fine words butter no parsnips’; and it would be absolutely certain there would be more, much nearer to total, engagement with the issues and concern for the problems which the NHS and the state school system are suffering were these politicians’ high-minded compassion tested and proved by an actual and a real practical stake in these institutions’ and their futures.
Is this going to happen? Probably not. The British put up with an Established Church and with a Monarchy; both of which are political props – in every sense of that word – and which serve thoroughly to muddy the waters for church affairs and for political issues here. We are hidebound by tradition; by good form; and by our nebulous ragbag of an unwritten constitution; which is able to and is called upon as an excuse and/or a justification by every and any Tom Dick and Harry in Parliament and used on any issue. Fudge; faze; and procrastinate is our way – because the people here for the most part are being kept in a dark cellar of ignorant cultural deprivation as if they were in a tank ten feet underwater.
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