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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Willingness To Harm Others

Yesterday in Puget Sound a person with a long criminal history ambushed and killed four police officers in a coffee shop. Had I posted yesterday there would have been wild-eyed ranting about martial law and a truly excessive use of profanity. But the initial biochemical tidal wave has run its course so I feel safer in typing.

Violence is bad (I recognize that I'm not the first to notice this). On one level its bad because making people suffer isn't nice. On another level its bad because the population can't function to its potential.

Like the whole credit fiasco with debt creation where any reasonable person realizes it will never actually be repaid, society has been using temporary measures to stall having to deal with violent crazies. Like the whole credit fiasco, it seems the buffers are just about saturated.

Soooo...double jeopardy? Resentence the already incarcerated using a new legal standard? One metric: have you shown a willingness to harm others? If so, you either need to be kept away from others for the duration of your existance or incapacitated.

I recognize that some defining of "harm" and "incapacitate" is needed, but I think the sentiment is clear.


Thai said...

And the issue gets even more difficult.

For take the issues around justice that such a situation highlights.

If you are going to strip someone of their civil rights, to what standard of proof do we need to reach in order to strip them? And to be fair to the defendant, what kind of trial is required? What kind of legal representation should the defendant get? What kind of judge? What kind of jury, what kind of due process, etc...?

In other words, how many resources should go into the trial, etc...

Now as I said before, I grew up the son of an ACLU civil rights attorney, you can imagine I have a pretty high standard when it comes to "burden of proof".

But we also know that resources are finite, and the conservation of energy says that the energy we put into the trial must come from someone else in the system.

Require more resources for the trial and we must take more resources from somewhere else.

So if the resource requirement needs to be high, and I and most would suggest that it does in order for someone to get a fair trial and that we also not selfishly have to suffer a similar fate of poor legal representation/imprisonment if the same issue ever faces us (say from wrongful accusation). Having now been sued in a medical malpractice case WHICH I WON, I do understand this potential.

But if we take resources to do this, then the very resources we could have used to give to a person who felt they needed to steal/kill in order to get resources is wasted and the problem is made worse.


Of course we could reduce the amount of resources that we put into justice in order to invent new ways of acquiring energy, etc... and once we have that energy, spend a little more on justice.

But what does that do to the very issue of Justice itself, etc...?

Does it make a farce of it?

Cooperation works on so many manifolds, but of course once the spiral starts the other way, then Houston we have a problem.

Maybe it is because no one is taught civics anymore?

Who knows.

Think of it as losing social lubricant and of course when it is lost, vorpal rabbits like me appear. ;-)

Fortunately, the reality is that crime is actually going down. We are getting pessimistic as things are actually getting better.

Dink said...

"you can imagine I have a pretty high standard when it comes to "burden of proof"."

As you should. And I respect much of what the ACLU did/does for fairness. But in a world of DNA testing, cell phone tracking, video recording everywhere, etc., the burden is being met beyond a reasonable doubt.

So proof obtained, lets not spend a lot of time/resources on punishment (I'm still in a foul mood).


Damn straight!! The bastards didn't know who they were messing with.

"Maybe it is because no one is taught civics anymore?"

Actually, my high school didn't have a civics requirement. In hindsight, it would've been nice. Also, I was never required to learn the state capitols which has made me look like a moron a few times. (Did I just spell "capitol" wrong? Capital? CRAP!).

"vorpal rabbits like me appear"

Look at the fangs on it!!! (Is that what Cleese yelled?)

Back on subject, when defining "harm" I mean specifically intentional violence. I'm not so vorpal about the neighbor kid spraypainting a car, etc.

Debra said...

Violent crime has been going down for.... CENTURIES now.
Dinky, I'm going to tell you about Texas's future dangerousness legislation for its death penalty crimes (this may have become obsolete very recently, but VERY recently, if so...)
Psychiatrists were summoned as state witnesses to detail before the jury if a person was a potential danger LATER. You can guess that... EVERYBODY was a potential danger in SOME doctor's books.
And one was so notorious that he was disbarred from practice. That however did NOT stop the state of Texas from continuing to call on him again and again.
I keep saying on this blog that personally I think that devoting mucho everything to justice and punishment is a LOSING investment.
Reparative justice, why not, but... punishment, punishment the way you guys' lights light up, no, in my book this is a waste of resources.
When the money COULD be invested to create those... outlets for violence, which ultimately is an essential part of life, and which is one of the major components that, well directed... allows you to get out of bed in the morning, dink.
No violence, no... LIFE. Right, Thai ;-)

Debra said...

And your ex shrink speaks...
A really good SUBVERSIVE shrink will recognize that someone whose violence is directed OUTSIDE, towards others is in better mental shape than.... someone whose violence is directed INSIDE, towards themselves.
It is evident that subversive shrinks, and individuals do NOT have the same perceptions/interests that the social body, and the State have, right ?

Debra said...

Last (free) comment.
This little story happened to my brother when he was three in our backyard in Philadelphia.
My mother found him one day in the front yard, right next to the busy thoroughfare, in a place where he was NOT SUPPOSED to be. She had told him this many times before. He was SUPPOSED to be in the back, fenced yard.
She brought him back, thumped him on the butt, and patiently reiterated NO.
Ten minutes later she found him again in the front yard. Same program.
The third time she found him, and after the third spanking, she decided to watch what was going on.
What she found : the little next door neighbor boy was opening the gate, leading him through, and then... hanging around for the excitement.
So... the LAST time this happened, she addressed the little boy and said "Do you know what's going to happen the next time I find Johnny in the front yard ?"
His eyes lit up like Christmas ornaments (and like YOURS, you guys, when you talk about punishment...), and he said, with great gratification "yeah, he's gonna get a spanking".
She said "no, he's NOT gonna get a spanking. If I find him out front next time, I'm gonna bring him back, and then I'm gonna pull down YOUR pants, and give you a hiding that you won't forget".
He said :"you wouldn't DARE".
She : "You just TRY ME."
End of story. No repeat.
Be careful when your eyes start lighting up at the promise of punishment.
Talking this way is one of the... LICIT opportunities that society offers for canalizing the VIOLENCE of its... BETTER OFF members.
The less better off rarely have this privilege.

Thai said...

Indeed Deb, I certainly agree that no violence means no life. I think I was making this point before when I commented on how I admired Dink's vegetarianism. Breaking symmetry does seem to be a basic requirement for life.

... This one really bugs me right now and I would sulk in a cave about it if I could.

And re: "Violent crime has been going down for.... CENTURIES now."


Indeed, please forgive my indulging in yet another fractal addiction (another momentary relapse), but the following TED video from my favorite linguistics author Pinker mentions just this point. In fact, as you might have guessed, the reduction in violence follows a fractal phenomena (go to about 2:00 min into the video if you want the cliff note version). ;-)

It is not hard to imagine how the reduction of energy in one manifold allows the creation of energy in another? Got to love them boundary conditions! ;-)

I am not sure I agree with your outward vs. inward violence analogy. I can certainly agree with you if you are saying they both have their disadvantages but I am not sure I could pick a side to say one is worse than the other. I have seen what happens to both groups of people when they cannot and it is not pretty.

Deb, I get NO enjoyment out of the idea of punishment. It is simply one of those: "what will I protect issues".

Dink, spending $ on protecting the rights of the innocent but saving $ on the punishment of the wicked is basically the same conclusion I came to- tough choice however. I do like the idea of finding more energy so we don't have to make this decision too often (Hell's approach) but I don't like the idea of taking it from flipper (also Hell's approach).

You can see why California, unable to reach consensus on how they want to spend their money, spends it on everything and is therefore borrowing like crazy.

People will not lend it as much money any more which means other areas are now getting more energy.

... Or, to be fair to other viewpoints, we could take a more "European" view on issues like sexuality, becoming more lenient on the idea behind what is "normal" so as that we do not need to incarcerate offenders in the first place.

This was SS's point.

These issues go round and round and round and I am not saying one is right. AND we have to draw a line somewhere. If we do not agree, we have a problem.

Dink said...

As if that Coalinga Hospital link wasn't enough to piss me off, today in Puget Sound a Medical Examiner drove drunk, in a county car, to the scene of a drunk driving crash where four people were killed. WTF???

And what is this about SS?

"When the money COULD be invested to create those... outlets for violence, which ultimately is an essential part of life"

Quoi?? How are you using the term "violence"? Any interaction? Positive and negative ions in tension over a membrane? And why am I obligated to create "outlets" for immature a-holes??

Inhale. Exhale.

So here is a new "spychiatric" theory; vaguely based on the Stockholm syndrome:

A coping strategy for the fear of criminals might be pitying them. That way they'll know you've already "submitted" to them and they won't target you. Pitying victims is wasteful since they've already been "dominated" so won't be effective if aggressive.

"as state witnesses to detail before the jury if a person was a potential danger LATER"

Presumably an act so violent was committed that the state wanted to know if it would be repeated. So I would counter that the original act should preclude any future amongst humans so the question is moot. Problem solved ;)

Debra said...

Dinky, you are NOT a generous person.
And... like so many Americans these days, you do not have the.. empathy to imagine that YOU COULD, one day, be in a very difficult position that society would punish you for.
But... human beings are NOT rational. YOU are not rational, dink. You may THINK you are, but that is not true. And it would be.. presumptuous for you to think so, you know ?
Something tells me that you are a lot younger than I, dink...
As I repeat rather often on this blog, Americans are in the fortunate AND unfortunate position of NOT HAVING BEFORE THEIR EYES the constant physical reminders of widespread human destruction and craziness, the way we do in ... Europe, where French children KNOW that the Vichy regime enthusiastically went on witchhunts to scout out those bothersome Jews EVEN BEFORE the Germans ASKED them to do anything about the situation.
And, dinky, you are definitely NOT living in the Southern United States, where that physical evidence is STILL there, reminding "us" (or it SHOULD remind us, in any case...) that a war was fought on U.S soil in 1864 whose effects STILL cripple and shame the people living in the area.
Washington is a relatively... anhistoric little enclave, dinky. Convenient for forgetting U.S. history.
Convenient for fostering... self righteousness.

Dink said...

"you are NOT a generous person.... you do not have the empathy.... YOU are not rational....."

Quite a bit of contempt for the punisher. Conspicuous omission of contempt for the criminal. I have to admit that it baffles me.

"Convenient for fostering... self righteousness"

Wanting a world without acceptance of violence is self-righteous? Is contemptuous and unethical? Again, baffled.

Thai said...

Dink, I disagree with Deb on the idea that you are not a generous person as I think most people would (including I suspect, Deb herself).

It is true that from the viewpoint of generosity towards the killer, you may not be generous (I tend to get a little frustrated at killers as well), but the 180 degree opposite viewpoint is that you are frustrated with the killer because you are concerned for the victim.

Life is clearly a quantum duality, which we can see if completely removed from the events. But the moment we have to participate in life, we have to chose one side and choosing one always shuts the door on the other.

Be well my friend

Debra said...

I firmly disagree with you on empathy, Thai, and I do NOT see that you, who express so often your enthusiasm for cooperation, do not understand that excluding one party HELPS the other.
And you are not consistent with the.. win/win paradigm that you often talk about here.
There are SOME areas where opening one door closes another, but not all areas work this way.
And the rub is trying to figure out what works this way, and what does not, if not everything does.
Reparative justice works better than punishment paradigms. Sorry.
Dink I am not showing contempt either for punisher or punished IF I SAY THAT PUNISHMENT IS INEFFECTIVE, and that we need to approach the problem from a different angle.
And I don't know whether you're generous or not. You're generous with.. ME and Thai, and probably others who you know, but... how far does your generosity go outside of the people in your immediate vicinity ?
And, no, dink you are NOT rational.
SO... what's the problem with that ? UNLESS... you assume that it's an.. insult to say that you're not rational. But... I made... an observation, and not a judgment.
I am not rational either. Thai is not rational.
We are just not... rational animals.
SHOULD we be ? That's a BIG question.

Debra said...

Amend previous to excluding one party does NOT help the other.

Dink said...

"THAT PUNISHMENT IS INEFFECTIVE, and that we need to approach the problem from a different angle"

Ah, but is there another angle besides the duality of the carrot and the stick?

"You're generous with.. ME and Thai, and probably others who you know, but... how far does your generosity go outside of the people in your immediate vicinity ?"

Well, Thai has mentioned kin circles..... a boundary with conditions if there ever was one ;) Actually, its a really effective visual, yes? I consider my actual (known kin) and potential (people I don't know, but likely meet the parameters) circle to be quite large. Those outside the circle are perhaps a small group, but I'll go vorpal on them (ungenerously so). I've known people who have a much smaller circle (i.e. find very few others tolerable), but don't seem to get worked up hating the non-kin.

This isn't rambling; I have a point and I'm hoping I can express is lucidly...

My parameters are generous (large, tolerant) and my behavior toward kin is generous. But this is at the cost of volcanic emotion for those outside my generous circle boundaries. Perhaps this strategy/paradigm/belief system has the equivalent energy of someone with a smaller circle of kin, but then spreads some of the remaining generosity to those outside their circle. Which seems odd to me, but so be it.

"Be well my friend"

And you as well. Perhaps this is the point in the cussing where the animals collapse back into their chairs and say "anyhoo". Besides, it looks like you two have your hands full with Marcus and Greenie elsewhere ;)

Thai said...

Deb, re: "we are not rational animals"

I think I see what you are getting at- though I readily admit I may not- but at a certain point your view could violate the conservation of energy. At least if you think of probabilities of self survival.

Remember neither Dink nor I are religious. And while I believe I understand/sympathize with many religious viewpoints, still I am not.

I most certainly do not relish the idea of punishing anyone and I serious doubt Dink does either (though it is true I do not know this for sure).

I would not jump off a 1000 foot cliff on an act of faith either. It is possible I would survive, but highly improbable. At some point you have to go with the odds.

I am professional/ethically/morally/personally bound to do just that and so I always will.

Dink, I am glad to hear you read the kin boundary analogy. I never seemed to get any traction with it but it is the way I tend to think as well- wide, but not infinite, circle.

Thai said...

And Deb re: "There are SOME areas where opening one door closes another, but not all areas work this way.
And the rub is trying to figure out what works this way, and what does not, if not everything does."

The fascinating thing is I would say exactly the opposite things about some of your statements.

I am not sure if you ever read the following post I wrote but if you did not...

I am the first to say that even cooperation is zero sum.

I do agree there are certain things that represent a line I will not cross/a ship I am willing to go down with- same as Street Dog alluded to earlier.

If these lines are crossed then cooperation is over and it is war- which is why I have said over and over "war is fractal" and begrudgingly admit that cooperation only goes so far.

Indeed, I always assumed this was what SS found so offensive with the idea that the conservation of energy applies to love. Love is not limitless; it too has its own boundary conditions.

And re: your notion that "Reparative justice works better than punishment paradigms."

No Deb, this is false. This too is a zero sum issue.

One can build a similar house of cards with either retributive or reparative justice or any hybrid of the two.

All are equal in the end. It gets back to what viewpoint we personally prefer to think of these issues from.

And as I read this is getting close to one of those lines we will not cross issues, which we all have, I will take this discussion to the boundary and stop there.

I read you prefer one over the other, I respect that. The issue is not as important to me: the idea of truly punishing/killing someone is... "yuck"... I don't even like to think of it.

The idea of harming others as we try to repair another is also "yuck".

How about we call this issue a draw? ;-)

On a less difficult subject, Dink's comments do remind me of Cottonbloggin's fascination with time.

Do you remember how much Cotton was always fascinated with time?

I used to smile when I read this about him.

Please think of the issue of time and the conservation of energy a little more. Especially regarding risk and prediction.

Hint: If we can predict one thing, then we can predict another.

Is time energy? Is it too conserved?

Anyway, time for bed, it has been a long day for me and I need some sleep.

Be well

Debra said...

Thai, I reread YOUR POST, and my comments, and... my comments on this post still hold, WOW, how about that ???
You are right to say that I am making deliberate choices in the face of what you call "constants".
I choose, as much as possible, the.. optimistic vision over the pessimistic one.
A rose by any other name, Thai, remember ??
Despair will get us... NOWHERE in my book.
And despair is a little more subtle than the guy running out to McDo and taking himself and four other people out at the same time.
Yep, more subtle, at times...

Thai said...


Dink said...

"Indeed, I always assumed this was what SS found so offensive with the idea that the conservation of energy applies to love. Love is not limitless; it too has its own boundary conditions."

I have to admit that I've been pondering this whole "boundary conditions as applied to kin circles" concept quite a bit the last day or so. And how a person's behavior/choices can seen inconsistant if you're not aware of the other person's kin circle's line that can't be crossed.

At risk of too much self-disclosure, I went to a marriage counselor a few years back for a couple sessions. The counselor was effective even in the face of my serious doubt. Using different terminology, she basically told me that it would be beneficial to make others aware of my inside/outside thresholds before they crossed them.

Somehow, amazingly to me, she was able to quickly see that I appear "limitless" in my kin circle so others are caught off guard when they inadvertantly cross the limit and suddenly I'm ice cold.

I had been of the opinion that other should "know" what is acceptable and unacceptable. But of course we all have different standards I now realize. Of course, I secretly believe my standands are best ;)

Anyhoo(my word obsession of the week), perhaps we could in the future define how each of us is defining "rational".

But too much thinking gets us out of balance so I end with this.

Debra said...

Funny you should bring up that word rational, dink.
Today I skimmed through a really old German classic that Hell probably knows with a title along the lines of "Protestantism and the spirit of Capitalism". By Max somebody, apparently this book is a reference, so I MAY go through and read it.
The introduction had the word "rational" in every paragraph.
The ideal of "rational" thought is what is peculiarly occidental. In no other civilization has that ideal been so overwhelmingly valued and developed as in OURS.
And it takes quite a bit of... stepping back to realize that rational thought is not the... ONLY type of thought available to human beings, and... not necessarily... the BEST either...
The stupendous rise of rational thought follows the.. vertiginous descent of belief in God, probably.. Remains to be verified.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits