The recent events of the Hillsborough inquiry – more about this later – have lead me to the conclusion that philosophy, like Burger King and the music of George Harrison, is – in my not-so-humble opinion – criminally undervalued.
Because the study, dating back several millenia, helped to form the basis of all rational thought, classification of knowledge and establishment of education for humanity.
Rather important then.
All very noble sounding – but what exactly is philosophy? And what place does it have in modern society?
Stripped bare, I suppose you could call it speculation; the asking of questions to create opinions and ideas, as a way of seeking the truth.
Debate continues as to whether philosophy is an outmoded concept with any place in today’s world.
Through various guises; it’s very much alive and and visibly weaved through the very structures of contemporary and popular society.
Marxist philosophy relates to capitalism; perhaps the most significant catalyst for all human activity in modern age, the pursuit of material wealth.
Law has it’s very foundations rooted in ancient philosophy, the definition of ethics and morality stem from early debate in ancient Greek and Roman times and the justice system is built upon the subsequent ideals. For wrong or right, it’s intentions are simple and based on the execution of the principles of fairness.
This week, the U.K finally saw the disturbing discoveries of an inquiry into the tragic events at Hillsborough in 1989; for anyone unaware of the situation;
On 15 April 1989, at the start of an FA Cup semi-final, a crush on the steel-fenced terraces of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium resulted in the death of 96 Liverpool fans and left hundreds more injured.
The key findings of the report essentially established a number of injustices and unveiled a conspiratorial veneer, lasting nearly a quarter of a century, finally shattered, leaving a trail of destruction in it’s wake.
While the findings were unquestionably welcomed as progress for all affected by the tragedy, the natural evolution into angry questions being asked and accusatory fingers being pointed begs the question; as relevant now, as twenty three years ago, as when initially conceived as a Platonic concept; Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards?
Essentially, in a hierarchial society, order is established by the categorising of its citizens. At the top, we place guards, given the responsibility to oversee the safety and security of the society, ensuring it’s inhabitants are law–abiding and avoiding chaos.
Only what happens, when the guards themselves do not follow the laws, when their actions – intentional or not – instigate the chaos? When those who we look to for protection are the very ones causing us the harm?
In the Hillsborough case specifically, there were several factors to take into consideration when examining the behaviour of the police officers involved, not least the fact that many experienced post-traumatic stress as a result of the horrors that they witnessed that day
If the inclination to follow the in-built moral compass; the natural urge to do what is right and just – were to clash with the instinct for self–preservation; blindly following the orders of superiors for fear of reprisals – a decision between fulfilling the given role of guardian versus application of rational self-interest would have to be made. So, theoretically; the ethics of the guards themselves – if subject to any kind of discipline for actively embodying the required characteristics of their positions – would be compromised.
The philosophical concept – and question – of the guards requiring guarding seems to have found some kind of answer through the implementation of independent panels.
A collection of non-biased individuals who essentially police the police – but who guards them? Are these organisations immune to the temptations of corruption; bribery and preferential treatment? Intimidation tactics?
It would seem the latest findings support the impartiality of the inquiry conducted and it’s believed that the deception uncovered could lead to criminal proceedings.
So will the guards being guarded by the people lead to a safer and more just society for the people being guarded by the guards?
What of the safety of the guards themselves?
The tragic murder of two Manchester police-women earlier this week bore witness to the vulnerability and bravery of those who, for the purest of reasons, choose to dedicate their lives to the preservation of public security and justice.
The legacy left by Hillsborough, unfortunately, casts a shadow over an organisation that, in actuality, is composed almost entirely of honest, well intentioned people.
In the same respect that human nature is more complex than simply right or wrong – the actions of those involved in the incident go deeper than being defined as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – though even the most morally reprehensible would have to agree that police corruption; from the bottom rung to the top food-chain, poisons any hope of a just democratic society.
At last, as the families of the ninety six killed begin the final leg of their epic journey to gain a sense of closure, it seems the holding up of hands indicates that justice – a long time coming, could soon be on the way…