Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"It was the drugs"

Graeme Burton was a gentle child who used to draw charcoal etchings of birds on his mother's birthday cards. He had a good upbringing and did not go off the rails till he left school when he was 15 to work at a menswear store where he found (drum roll, please) drugs.

"It was the drugs. Up till then he was a normal child," said Glenyss Buchanan, a family friend.

The drugs... well, perhaps. But which ones? Bad ones, obviously.

I have a better explanation. One which explains both why Burton went to jail in the first place, and why he was (tragically) let out.

He's a psychopath. Check out Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). You'll recognise Graeme Burton immediately, no trouble at all. Hare describes psychopaths as "intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they cold-bloodedly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret."

Of particular interest, in light of Burton's behaviour over the past few days, are these two criteria from the DSM-IV
  • impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • reckless disregard for safety of self or others
Burton is now in hospital where doctors have amputated his leg above the knee. He's lucky. In other jurisdictions, they would have amputated his head above the neck.


At 2:14 pm, Blogger Blair Anderson said...

I concur with the psychopath assesment. Bad people do bad things. Burton's relationship with (any) drug and his behavour is as tenuous as wether he scrunched his weetbix before adding milk. The drug behavour connection is made by prohibitors whose policies have failed them. There is little evidence in the literature that the pharmacology of a drug is inherently 'culpable' of creating the monsterous outcomes being attributed to them. They are not inherently evil (as portayed by populist MP's like Czar Jim). Not withstanding that Burton wasnt under the "influence of something" the question remains, if it were drugs - how did prohibition help?

How much might the scenario have changed if Burton had been able to legally visit a doctor for medication and a chat - or gawd forbid, visit a Amsterdam styled coffee shop...

One can only wonder 'what outcomes' if the renowned empathogenic qualities of MDMA might have been available as part of his post prison management regime.

There is more commonsense in the latter than the promulgated suspicion that "he must have been on P" heard so often on talkback and regretably, from people who should have known better.

Just becausee it was sterotype to the myths is not a good enough reason to continue to delude people. Alcohol's profile is a more likley fit 'impulsivity, irrationality, reckless disregard etc' being well known and accepted, quality's.

Precription drugs, freely dispensed and consumed in increasing frequency by NZ'ers create and have contra-indications that just as likely 'fit' the outcomes, given the set and setting Burton's mind was in...

Stereotyping is usually a cover for the 'simplest explaination' because to think further may have legislative implications.

Burton is a product of who we have become as a society. A signal we should all note.

At 4:21 pm, Blogger Rich said...

I think you get psychopaths in every society. Victorian Britain had Jack the Ripper, amongst others. Tsarist Russia produced Stalin.

At 10:22 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you even met Graeme Burton? Because the Hare test is done by those who do, and I guarantee that he has already taken it. Not long ago.

Having said that, I would never say this hasn't been a tragedy, because it has. For everyone. Or that it isn't irrevocable Graeme's fault. But take the drugs out of this situation and maybe it could have been different. Not a monster, just tragedy waiting to happen.

As a side-note, have you ever seen someone on P? It's terrifying.

And if you don't like the system, invent a better one. There is no justice system that has no flaws, people seem to forget this. They cry for the death penalty but forget why we got rid of it.


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