Wednesday, January 08, 2014

How should we treat our rogues?

So Ronnie Biggs has just been buried (one of those people you did not realize was still alive). I first heard about him when they showed the weekly kids' half-hour news show "What's New?" which my Grade 5 teacher Mrs. Roblee gave up half an hour of teaching time to show us. Perhaps a small part of me was happy for him for winning a real-life version of 'Cops and Robbers'. It may have been a somewhat popular sentiment off-and-on while I was growing up, but these days we have little tolerance for people like him from reading the 'peanut gallery' in those links.

Just recently, I was reading a story from the book 'My Canada' by Pierre Berton about William 'Bill' Johnstone, the 'Pirate of the St. Lawrence'. He was born in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec in 1782 but grew up to despise Canada and fought for the American cause. He had a few successful raids from which he profited quite handsomely, and the few times he was imprisoned, he was a talented escape artist, and he had friends on the American side who helped to grant him a presidential pardon (by William Henry Harrison, who lasted only a month in office before dying of pneumonia).

Today, there is a famous (at least in Quebec) cricket club called 'The Pirates of the St. Lawrence' presumably in his honour. And they actually made a bronze plaque of him 120 years after he sacked and burned the 'Sir Robert Peel', in the country he despised, in 1958 in Ontario, and his memory was celebrated by local dignitaries at the time. As for Biggs, while it is highly unlikely his life will ever be commemorated in any way (at least not by public officials), what I read in the comments in some articles about his life basically call him a monster, or even a sociopath (that word does tend to get thrown around a lot), and I do not want do excuse or condone anything he did, but I do detect an air of increasing self-righteousness in people. Which may not be a bad thing in itself, but we should try to keep things in their proper perspective. Biggs was a petty criminal, nothing more, nothing less.

No comments:

Blog Archive