Pork and Beans and Honour Killing

When I was a kid, people ate something called Pork and Beans.  It came in a can and was basically baked beans with a couple of teeny tiny pieces of…meat?… which may have originally come from a pig.  In a time before Fast Food, it was a quick and easy meal – right up there with Kraft Dinner™.  As far as I know, people had been eating Pork and Beans ever since Napoleon figured out his army marched on its stomach and served up the first MREs, sealed in champagne bottles.  Regardless, a lot of people ate Pork and Beans back in the day.

Then a curious thing happened.  A nameless Canadian bureaucrat was sitting around, picking his orifice one day, when, for some unknown reason, he took a look at the contents of the Pork and Beans can.  He discovered what everybody else on the planet had known for a hundred years: Pork and Beans was actually a whole lot of beans and not very much pork.  According to our boy, though, this was clearly a case of consumer fraud.  Canadians (at least those with the IQ of a blueberry) needed to be protected from corporate treachery and lies; otherwise, they might think they were buying a can of pork with some beans in it.  I’m not making this up, by the way: it’s a fictional depiction of a series of real events.  Anyway, the name was changed from Pork and Beans to “Beans with Pork” — to reflect the actual contents of the can.  It was our government hard at work and a presumed victory for consumer rights.  That was sometime back in the 60s, and I’m sure the nameless bureaucrat has long since received his heavenly reward.  He’s probably lounging through eternity right now, counting harp strings or divvying up the haloes.  However, I think we need to resurrect his kinda diligence these days and get a couple of things straight.

First of all, for the last two or three decades, some people have been wrapping themselves in explosives sprinkled with metal shards, ball bearings, marbles or what-have-you.  They wander into crowded public places, push the detonator, and ka-boom.  Everything (and everybody) within shouting distance is torn to ribbons.  It’s a disturbing trend.  We call such people “suicide bombers.”  What a deceit!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Those people who just got killed in the shock and awe of intimate acquaintance with plastic explosives did not, I repeat NOT, commit suicide.  They were murdered!  And the person who pushed the button is the murderer!  There’s no other name for it.  The only way the button pusher can be called a suicide bomber is if he blew himself to smithereens in the privacy of his own home: then, he might have an argument.  However, the minute he involves other people, he (or she) becomes a murderer – full stop – and a premeditated murderer, at that!  After all, it takes a bit of doing, even in a war zone, to get your mitts on explosives, learn how to use them properly and scope out a location for maximum damage.  These might be crimes of passion, but they certainly don’t happen on the spur of the moment.  And speaking of passion, I have the feeling homicide bombers (note the more inclusive name) may be committing a hate crime as defined by Canadian law.  You really have to hate somebody a lot to blow your own guts out just to get at them.  I don’t hate anybody that much.  In fact, I don’t even know anybody who hates anybody that much.

For my money, the PR Company who thought up “suicide bomber” as the accepted term for a person who deliberately goes out and murders complete strangers should get a Clio Lifetime Achievement Award.  This is one primo euphemism that puts anything the US government ever thought of to shame.  Adbusters, where are you now?

However, if you want to talk about euphemisms, the granddaddy of them all is “honour killing.”  If you’ve been in a monastery for the last ten years, understand that honour killing is the growing tendency whereby male members of a family get pissed off with one or more female members of the family and, instead of arguing about it, they simply kill them.  Honour killing?  What an oxymoron!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say there is no honour in killing people.  It’s not an honourable practice.  The only time it’s ever even condoned — and then with mucho caveats — is during times of war or in situations of extreme self defence.  That’s it!  It’s the big crime!  There’s nothing worse!  So why have journalists, social commentators and the judicial system decided that when it comes to slaughtering members of your own family, that’s somehow tangled up with familial honour?  What social faux pas could be so heinous that it deserves the death penalty?  They didn’t execute Jeffrey Dahmer for God’s sake — and he ate people!  If your wife or daughter is eating people, you might have a case, but otherwise….   Actually it should be called “really, really bad killing” for the simple reason that (at the risk of sounding a little too insensitive for the 21st century) it’s actually a worse crime than killing a stranger.  I’m not downgrading the importance of strangers, but objectively you have no serious emotional attachment to people you’ve never met.  Whereas, if you’ve held some baby in your arms, helped her take her first step, taught her to read and watched her grow, you’ve got to be one cold cowboy to murder her.  And, at the end of the day, that’s what it is – murder.

However, here’s the one that gets me, and I do not understand why every advocacy group in this country from The National Action Committee on the Status of Women all the way down to the Girl Guides isn’t boiling over with rage about this.  I find it terribly disturbing that this happens so frequently that we have a name for it.

When I make out a grocery list, I still write Pork and Beans.  I buy them and eat them even though there’s enough sodium in there to kill me.  I know what they are, regardless of what we call them.  The problem with linguistic gymnastics, though, is it tends to soften the blow.  It dilutes the language so offensive things are more palatable.  However, sometimes we need to be offended; we need to be shocked.  We need to call things what they are in order to recognize them and put a stop to them.  Sometimes, the sound byte should say, “Wife and three daughters killed in an alleged Cold Bloody Murder.”

Canadian Justice: The Emperor has No Clothes

When I was a kid, I loved the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  I thought it was one of the coolest cons around.  If you don‘t know the tale, here’s the Parables for Dummies version.  The best part is at the end when the bratty little kid blows the thing out of the water and the tailors are caught and executed.  Obviously, I pre-date the uber-nice fairytales we feed our children these days.  In my day, there were real consequences for con jobs and other misdemeanours.  The neat thing about it, though, was I learned that when things look stupid, chances are good they are stupid.  More importantly, I learned that there’s always somebody somewhere willing to point this out, even if I wasn’t brave enough to do it myself.  As a child, this gave me tons of faith that I wasn’t the only one watching my back, and sometimes perfect strangers would take care of things for me.  It’s a little thing, but when you’re powerless kid in a powerful world, it means a lot.  This feeling lasted until I became an adult.

As an adult, I discovered that our world has armies of Emperors and they all have new clothes.  The difference is, as they parade around the streets proud of their attire there isn’t just one little kid laughing at them.  Everybody is – but it never ever stops them.  For example, just ask anybody about our Justice System; everybody from grandmas to grandchildren will tell you it’s so messed up Solomon is spinning in his grave.  There are stray dogs in this town rolling in the weeds, laughing at how we administer justice.  But it never changes.  We all know this particular Emperor has no clothes, but he’s never embarrassed about it; he just keeps prancing along.  The really funny thing is we still trust him to be our Emperor — even as we’re laughing our asses off.

So much for speaking in parables; let me be blunt.  Exactly two months ago, a mob of over-privileged young people rampaged through the streets of Vancouver.  They tore the still-beating heart out of our world-renown reputation and stomped the life out of it.  They burned and smashed like a tribe of Visigoths at a Pillagers’ Convention.  There was millions of dollars in damage.  The next day, the wheels of justice were set in motion.  Everybody from Premier Clark to Mayor Robertson swore up/down and sideways that they would track down the perpetrators of these dastardly crimes with the tenacity of Dudley Do-Right and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.  Justice would be swift and painful.  The criminals were caught in a hail of cliches.

Like hell!  Two months later, despite mountains of video evidence, face recognition software, thousands of photographs, Facebook shaming, eye-witness accounts and several people actually walking into the police station, throwing themselves on the mercy of the courts, and confessing, not one person has been prosecuted – not one.  Not even the guy who confessed on the National News.  What is this — a comedy club?  We should just change our name to Monty Pythonville and get it over with.

Here’s another one.  In 2000, a couple of guys were street-racing in Vancouver.  One of them lost control of his car and killed a woman out for a pleasant evening stroll.  It took the justice system three years to convict them and sentence them to (this is true) two years less a day house arrest and a five year driving ban.  Glaciers move faster than that, and with better results.  The sentence was a year less than the court case!  But wait — there’s more.  Since these wannabe Fast and Furious co-stars were not citizens of Canada, it took the Federales another two and six years respectively to deport them.  Do the math: a total of nine years to see justice (smirk, smirk) done.

These are just two minor examples of the Comedy of Errors our Justice System has become.  It gets a lot more serious.  Since the days of Bindy Johal’s murderous battle with the Dojanjh Brothers in the mid 90s, well-known and often convicted criminals have been play tag with each other, all over metropolitan Vancouver — using live ammunition.  These are not crooks on the run but people who are “known to police.” Armed bandits are roaming our streets, many with enough convictions to make John Dillinger blush.  Everybody knows it and nobody can do a thing about it?  It beggars the imagination.  If the Justice System actually was an Emperor, these guys would steal his clothes.  It’s like we’re living in an episode of Mad TV.

However, here’s how the Ship of Fools system actually does work when it gets rolling.  In March, 2005, a drunken sixteen-year-old did a gas-and-dash for 12 bucks at a Maple Ridge gas bar.  The attendant gave chase and was somehow caught underneath the car and dragged for several kilometres.  He died of his injuries.  Instead of dealing with the criminal and the crime (which, by the way, was never considered murder) the provincial government decided it would be better to change the habits of every single citizen in British Columbia.  They enacted a law (it took them three years to do it) that required everybody to pay for their gas before they pumped it.  People who were nowhere near Maple Ridge that night and all other law-abiding citizens were now subjected by law to the consequences of that crime.  Gas-and-dash was no longer an option, and no other drunken 16-year-olds were tempted to commit murder for $12.00.  Problem solved.  I hate to be sarcastic, but given this logic, the way to prevent robbery is to make it illegal to carry money.  And in an even darker vein, apparently that old platitude “One person can make a difference” is true: this guy certainly changed society.

The parables of my youth were trite, even in my day.  However, tales like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” taught us that scoundrels do exist in the world, but eventually somebody has to say, “Hey! Wait a minute!  That guy’s naked.”  The unfortunate thing is nowadays we’re all screaming it at the top of our lungs, and it’s not doing any good.

Jack the Ripper (II)

Call me Jack the Ripper

When evil comes calling in the night, it comes quietly.  It’s a rustle of dry leaves, a scratch at the window, a creak on the stairs in the dark.  We stay still and hold our breath and hope it doesn’t find us.  But, the next day, in the sunlight, we laugh louder and make jokes and juggle our fear, more curious than cautious.  This was London in 1888.  Ordinary people held captive by the horror of grisly, unstoppable murder, lost their sense of perspective.  There was gossip and innuendo and even physical violence.  There were wild accusations — against immigrants, butchers — the Jews.    And there were letters – hundreds of letters.  Some were written with good intentions, some as jokes, some by unbalanced minds, frightened and confused.  Some were even written by journalists looking to ramp up a good story.  Most of them were fakes.  It’s generally agreed, however, that three were not.

On September 27th, the Central News Agency received one of these letters.  Although, at first, they thought it might be just another hoax, they passed it on to the police. It read:

Dear Boss,
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck.Yours truly
Jack the Ripper

Dont mind me giving the trade name

PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha

Whole libraries have been written about the motivations for murder.  There are more theories than there are victims.  We do not know with any certainty why people kill randomly and without reason.  In Victorian England, the study of psychoanalysis was just beginning.  Very few people understood the workings of the human mind nor how easily it could be broken.  To the average person on the London streets, the man who called himself Jack the Ripper was an unholy horror.  He needed to be hunted down and killed before he killed again.  But he did kill again.

On Sunday, September 30th, at about 1:00 am, Louis Diemschutz, a trader in cheap jewellery and steward of the International Worker’s Club at 34 Berner Street was returning to the club.  When he opened the gate for his pony, it shied away from the entrance.  Diemschutz could see there was something lying by the gate, but it was too dark to see anything else.  He went into the club to get a light and some help.  He wasn’t gone more than a minute or two.  When he and two friends returned with a lantern they discovered the body of a dead woman.  Her throat had been cut from left to right.  She was still warm and the blood was still flowing.  She was Elizabeth Stride – Jack the Ripper’s third victim.

At approximately the same time, Catherine Eddowes left the Bishopsgate Police station.  She had been jailed earlier that evening for drunkenness but was now relatively sober, and so she was released.  When she left Bishopsgate, she gave her name as Mary Ann Kelly and gave her address as #8 Fashion Street.  When Eddowes left the station, she walked away in the opposite direction to that of Cooney’s Lodgings, where she was staying.  Instead, she went down Houndsditch, probably to Duke Street and through Church Passage to Mitre Square.  It would have taken her 10 to 15 minutes to reach Mitre Square.  At approximately 1:30 am, Eddowes was seen at the corner of Duke Street and Church passage — by three witnesses — talking to a man.  At about the same time, Constable Edward Watkins passed through Mitre Square on his rounds.  At 1:45 am, Watkins came back through Mitre Square and discovered the body of Catherine Eddowes.  Her throat has been cut from left to right, and her body had been mutilated but not slashed.  The bottom of her right ear had been cut off and left at the scene, and some of her internal organs were missing — notably her left kidney.

On the darkened streets of Whitechapel, two murders in less than one hour – two victims and no suspects.  Obviously, Diemschutz disturbed the murderer on Berner Street and he may have still been there when the pedlar went into the Club to get help.  Then a second murder some distance away.  Was it just crime of opportunity?  Or was the blood lust so powerful it could not be ignored?  But why didn’t Catherine Eddowes go back to Cooney’s Lodgings?  And why did she call herself Mary Ann Kelly? 

On October 1st, the Central News Agency received a postcard which they immediately sent on to the police.  It read.

I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you’ll hear about Saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off. ha not the time to get ears for police. thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.

Jack the Ripper

This postcard makes direct references to both the murders of the previous night and to the earlier unpublished “Dear Boss” letter before they were known to the general public.  All the evidence says that these are the words of Jack the Ripper.  And he wasn’t finished.  On October 16th a package was delivered to Mr. George Lusk, chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilante Committee, which had been organized to patrol the East End streets after Ann Chapman’s murder.  It read:

From hell.
Mr Lusk,
I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman and prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer

Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk

Inside the package, preserved in wine, was part of Catherine Eddowes’ left kidney.

Friday: From Hell: Why We Remember Jack the Ripper