David Chart's Japan Diary

November 10th 2005

My apologies for being a bit late updating this week. I've just finished a writing project, and I wanted to actually get it finished before writing the diary entry. I was hoping to finish and have time to do this yesterday, but that didn't quite happen, because yesterday morning I got an email from another company asking me to do a small job to finish an older project. Since the company in question are offering me more work, I was in favour of keeping them happy.

Talking of which, I have another book out. This one is only partially by me; it's Invictus, for Vampire: the Requiem. I'll put it on my books page in the near future, once I've sorted out an image. It seems that the fans of the game particularly like one of my contributions (the Spina, if people have the book). Naturally, this is not the bit I thought was the best. Mind you, I didn't think it was bad; I just wouldn't have singled it out. That seems to happen quite a lot to creative types, and it isn't really surprising, if you think about it. The part that most appeals to the audience depends on their other interests and concerns, and they are unlikely to be exactly the same as the creator's. I'm still waiting for my complimentary copies of the book, of course. This is the consistent downside of living on a different continent from the publisher.

The Forest Park A bit of the forest park.

There isn't really a great deal to report apart from that. Writing has been going consistently well since the last diary entry, and now I get a short break from it, which is nice. Last Thursday was a public holiday here, so Yuriko had the day off. I couldn't take the whole day off, but we took the morning together, and went to the forest park down the road. It was very nice indeed. It's a bit more managed than the forest parks around Thetford, but it's still a good size, with lots of hills and streams, and plenty of trees. I'm looking forward to showing it to family members.

I see from the news that the 90-day detention clause was defeated in the UK parliament. I have to say I think this was the right decision. I'm not particularly concerned about the human rights of terrorists; I'm much more concerned about the human rights of people with brown skin, big beards, and bad attitudes. I think the police should have to provide significant evidence that someone actually is a terrorist much sooner than 90 days. It's not like they need to get a conviction; they just need to charge them. If there isn't even enough evidence for that, I strongly believe that they shouldn't be keeping the person locked up in the first place. 'The police think you're dodgy' should not be sufficient reason for prolonged confinement.

The rhetoric around these situations is always interesting. People in favour of attacks on civil liberties always ask why we need to respect the rights of criminals or terrorists, and what about the rights of their victims? The people on the other side rarely seem to challenge this head-on. In part, I suspect this is because most of them, like me, think that we should respect the rights of terrorists. In the starkest terms, they are terrorists and we are not because we respect their rights and they do not respect ours. However, this appears to be a subtle argument, and one that is hard to get across.

The strongest reason for wanting civil liberties restrictions on police powers, however, is to protect the rights of innocent people. That is, victims of crime. Normal, law-abiding, patriotic citizens. Being a Muslim, even being a fervently religious Muslim strongly opposed to the British presence in Iraq, should not justify being locked up for ninety days. Even if one of the other people in your prayer group tried to blow up a train. Under those circumstances, I'm afraid that I can see justification for locking you up for a while. It is unfair and unpleasant, but there really are trade-offs to be made. 90 days is excessive.

There are similar reasons for not using torture. The police arrest the wrong people. They do it lots. Not most of the time, but often enough. If the police are allowed to torture suspects, they will torture lots of innocent people. The benefits do not justify that, so torture should be forbidden. Even worse, the innocent are likely to suffer more than the guilty, because the innocent cannot break down and give useful information; they really don't know anything.

I wonder why this perspective is not more widespread. In one internet debate about capital punishment, I actually saw someone respond to the argument that capital punishment is wrong because the wrong people get convicted by saying that, as he didn't plan to commit murder, he wasn't concerned. Thus failing to notice that the problem is that the system kills people who had not committed murder; or, indeed, any crime at all.

I occasionally think it would be salutary to have one of these laws passed, and then lock up the more vocal proponents for ninety days (or whatever). That wouldn't really solve anything, of course, but it still astounds me that so many people don't realise that giving the police the power to lock up anyone they don't like the look of means giving the police the power to do it to them.

While one can only expect people to use the strongest rhetoric available to strengthen their position and undermine their opponents', it would be nice to see the liberal side actually harping on the stronger arguments rather more.