I’ve only got two hands


“Now you make me feel so ashamed because I’ve only got two hands” sang Morrisey in the song What difference does it make?

It’s a funny line and at first I thought it was funny because we don’t usually feel ashamed about things we can’t help. It would be silly to feel ashamed about not being able to fly.

Yet after thinking about it I decided that wasn’t right. We often do feel ashamed about things we can’t help, like being short, bald, ugly, stupid, poor or deformed or a million other things.

I finally decided that the line was funny, not because we can’t help only having two hands, but because it is perfectly normal to only have two. That’s why it’s funny. We generally feel ashamed about our abnormalities, not things that make us normal.

I remember how good I felt when I first went to a football match in Spain and could actually see the game without craning my neck or jumping up. I am short and there were lots of short old Spanish men in front of me and I felt wonderfully normal. Once being short was normal it didn’t seem at all bad.

So perhaps all you need to do is surround yourself with people who look and behave like you. Then you never need feel embarrassed or ashamed again. Maybe this is why people invariably seek out the company of people similar to themselves.

I then started thinking about crime. Perhaps the only way you could effectively stop crime is by making criminals feel that what they are doing isn’t normal. The threat of punishment just doesn’t seem to work.

To make criminals feel ashamed of their actions they would need to be surrounded by law-abiding people. Of course I’m not advocating placing criminals in my own neighbourhood. This is just a thought experiment.

So are criminals more likely to commit crimes when surrounded by like-minded people who think of crime as normal? I’m sure they are since when everyone around you is robbing, stealing, mugging, raping and murdering, what is there to be ashamed of when you also indulge?

So perhaps one way of trying to reduce crime is to accentuate the abnormality of it rather than the evil. I don’t hold out much hope but it might be worth a try.


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