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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cops and Numbers

This number is brought to you by an unknown French cop, and courtesy of my devotion to doing an unpaid translation...

If the Numbers were not an abstraction, there would be a statue in its likeness in every commissariat (police station). Or ITS portrait hanging in a gold filigreed frame, next to the one of the head of State.
The Numbers is an omnipresent and authoritarian entity that hovers over every police department. Every chief invokes it in consecrated incantations.
"Numbers". "I want Numbers. Bring me back Numbers".
Every cop needs to remember that he exists above all for the Numbers. Nobody asks him to have faith in the Numbers, only to go through the motions on a daily basis. Without asking any questions. And with devotion whenever possible.
The Numbers is very important, because thanks to It, policies and opinions are made. The Numbers does NOT create security... or we would have already noticed.
The Numbers is greedy, but it isn't picky about the quality of what makes it get bigger. It is not a fine gourmet, it is piggy. It cares diddly shit about the delinquance that is offered up to it in sacrifice, It can even feed on hot air.
The Numbers can become an illness. Some cops think that they are doing RIGHT by dedicating their careers (contrary to all common sense) to the Numbers. They become what we call scribblers or hunters, and end up doing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, no holds barred. They see bad guys everywhere. An overdose of the Numbers can produce hallucinations, even delusions of persecution in those who are in the terminal phase of an addiction to the Numbers. The IGS (My ignorance, I don't know what this is, those darned acronyms...) sometimes gets patients who, as a result of their blindness have got tripped up in the law.
Other colleagues who have developed immunity against the Numbers prefer working for days on end, if necessary, to catch a REAL bandit, just ONE, but who will go to prison without passing GO. Those colleagues insult the Numbers, which makes no distinction between a dangerous delinquant and a little schmuck, and remains hungry.
Police commissioners, the high priests of the Numbers before the Eternal, get together in high masses and compare the size of their Numbers. The one with the BIGGEST is considered to be the best policeman-troop manager, and this will enter into consideration in his career plan.
But.. to be in the service of the Numbers is not the same thing as being in the service of the public. Security is not quantifiable. It isn't an equilibrium of Numbers either, and all forms of suffering can not be measured.
The Numbers is mathematical, but It is not the answer/solution to the problem.
Bad deal. It is... a false friend (faux ami) like in grammar.
The enemies of the Numbers are free will and intellectual discipline, the true discipline, the one that engages consciousness/the conscience. And deontology.
The Numbers is... the opium of the Police.

(A little translation thingey. In French, the word that I have translated as the Numbers is "Le Chiffre". Not "les chiffres", which is the plural. No, "Le Chiffre", which is a GIANT ABSTRACTION, you know, like that GIANTEST OF ALL ABSTRACTIONS ??
So, I hesitate in this translation. How to deal with "LE chiffre" ? "Numbers" doesn't do the trick, and The Number doesn't quite do it either...
Ah... those continents...)


Dink said...

You have mentioned numerous times that you and I are very different. And we've had our snarls. There is a part of me that is mature enough to tell myself "stop it; ignore or humor an perceived provocations; no good leads down that path".

There is also a part of me that is just plain curious. What is the difference between these two Wall-Es and why/how. So:

"Yeah, I know, I can be a pill. It started early. My FATHER discovered this when I was an adolescent...))"

So how do you define "pill"? What are the benefits/drawbacks? Name some people you admire and their defining characteristics. Or do the same for people you loathe.

Think of me as an anthropologist trying to gather data to understand a foreign culture instead of a missionary trying to convert you to anything.

Debra said...

Pill= pain in the ass
The benefits from being a pill ?
Not many. Mabe none, in fact. The drawbacks ? Tons. Like your reaction.
I admire the cop that wrote that piece. For his wit. His talent. His intelligence. His courage, particularly, when you think about it.
I admire Matthew Arnold. For writing "Dover Beach". And Shelley. And Shakespeare.
I admire Gerard Manley Hopkins for writing beautiful poems that make my world bearable.
I admire Rousseau, for "Emile", although I certainly don't agree with everything he wrote, and he is an even bigger pill than I am. He has a curious mind, and he tries honestly to put aside his prejudices.
I admire my husband. For his patience.
My 19 year old daughter for her already breathtaking maturity WHICH WILL NOT MAKE HER HAPPY IN THIS WORLD.
I can't think of anyone I loathe. No one.
One woman ex on my loony forum who set the whole thing on fire, and made it explode. She was the kind of person who, when she passed through a place, no one was left standing.
I am not that kind of person. Even if I AM a pill.
But I don't loathe her.
You may not be a missionary, but I am.
I'm not looking to convert you to any religion though.
It's good that you are trying to gather data on a foreign culture. I AM a foreign culture. WE are a foreign culture, should I say, because you seem to be as far away from me as I am from you.
But I have been saying this for quite a long time now. And I was a bit surprised last week when all of a sudden, you seemed to... realize this.
I don't believe in "following" the rules.
Because I like to think that I choose to submit myself to most of them (not all).
But I don't forget that in occupied France, it was the rules to denouce Jews, for example.
Jews who were sent off to those places you must have seen in photographs.
I don't forget that.
And also that if it happened then there is nothing that will stop it from happening now, for example.
Not necessarily, but maybe.

Dink said...

"The benefits from being a pill?Not many. Mabe none, in fact. The drawbacks ? Tons."

Well, I do understand that some things are so important that they are worth sacrificing oneself for. But I do not yet grasp, in terms of your individual culture, 1) what a pill is ("pain in the ass" can be misinterpreted), or 2) why a person should make sacrifices to be one (I could make guesses, but its best for anthropologists to have the subject give the details).

"her already breathtaking maturity WHICH WILL NOT MAKE HER HAPPY IN THIS WORLD."

This seems related; a noble, but tragic cause. Perhaps you could provide a definition of maturity, also?

"I don't believe in "following" the rules.
Because I like to think that I choose to submit myself to most of them (not all)."

I do not understand. I am earnestly curious.

Thai said...


Thai said...

... But that does mean I see your point. This is medicine in a nutshell. ;-)

Debra said...

When you finish your piece on strokes, Thai, I will do a post about how reducing our world to "information" turns homemade foie gras, millésime Bordeaux wine, Tournedos, over 200 varieties of cheese, MacDonald's cheeseburgers, Taco Bell burritos to...ALL "food".
Lots of "information" lost in that... information there.( And it's LANGUAGE that is responsible for that information loss. Not anything to do with energy, as far as I can see.)
"Following" the rules is very much akin to what many Germans in decisional positions did in WW2. It was a... justification that was offered for obeying orders.

Last week in France someone in television repeated the Milgram experiment, using a T.V. reality show as the context, and not a lab experiment, as was originally done by Milgram in the 1960's.
85% of the "subjects" delivered the maximum electrical shock. Now. Just like in 1964, or so.
But just like in ... 1865, if the experiment had been done then. Or in... prehistoric times too.
And this in ALL socioeconomic classes, and with educated and uneducated people.
I'm pretty sure that you can read about Milgram on Wiki, so I'm not going into the details here. The experiment CAN be criticized. Definitely.
But those 85% submission "statistics" remain pretty constant. A good point in favor of humility, right ? AND an excellent critique of that naïve idea that education is going to get rid of prejudice. Maybe some prejudice, but not the most important kind..

But then, dink, maybe you would like to qualify what you mean by "rules" ?
Since my quibble is basically with the idea of "following". (The "rules", now that could take up a year of posts, maybe, but why open that Pandora's box which can be a dry and dusty one ?)
My daughter's maturity ? She sees a lot of things that other people don't bother to see, or take the time to see. It can get lonely from that place, as I've said.
The tragic vision? Yeah. I LIKE the tragic vision. But make no mistake about it, I'm NOT a martyr. I have NO intention of getting crucified for "truth", in all capital letters, neon flashing.
I say I am a pain in the ass. When people in groups are feeling all chummy, and comfy together, I am the one who comes up with something that introduces a little... disorder in all the chumminess.
It is a vocation for me. I really can't help doing it. (Like Rousseau, in fact...) In part, because I am curious, I am an intellectual, and when somebody says "black", I am already looking around for "white". (But then, Thai, IN ALL FAIRNESS, YOU are somewhat this way too...)
Because I like a COMPLEX, NUANCED world.
Make no mistake about it, I don't like JUST ANY form of complexity. Not complexity for complexity either. At a certain level, a certain complexity is a source of.. WEALTH. WEALTH of information, for Thai...And tapping into that wealth of information makes me.. WEALTHY. With no dollar signs, cute, huh ? And more importantly, I don't like prejudice. Mine, or anybody else's...
I am sorry for insisting so much on our DIFFERENCES, dink.
That is really MY MISTAKE.
Because... when we come down to it...
for both of us, when you pinch us, we both say "ouch" (in different languages, maybe, but the gist of it is the same...), when we are hurt, we cry, or feel sadness, we get angry, we feel fear, maybe not in the same situations, but, still we feel the SAME emotions.
Arguing over ideas can obscure our common humanity.
It's so easy, isn't it, to obscure our COMMON humanity ?
For me at least.
Take care.

Debra said...

The difference between "following the rules" and CHOOSING to willingly submit to most of them ?
I will illustrate this.
About ten years ago, a young man on a bike was killed in an intersection in my home town when he entered it and got plowed down by a truck that "ran" the red light at a right angle to him.
That young man was "following the rules".
Because "the rules" say that when the light is green you CAN (that means that you have the right to) enter the intersection.
There is a universe between "having the right to enter that intersection" and "being physically able to enter that intersection". These two "realities" are not at all on the same plane.
That young man had NOT made that critically important distinction that would have saved his life because he was taught to "follow the rules".
No demonizing the guy in the truck, either.
Maybe the driver was going too fast. Maybe.
But maybe not.
And that is NOT REALLY the issue, whether or not the driver was A BAD GUY for running that red light.
The REAL ISSUE is one of personal liberty and responsibility with respect to a consensual, cultural code.
Because... it's not because that light is green that you HAVE TO enter the intersection.
And in certain cases, entering the intersection with a green light CAN BE fatal to you.
Na. A little FAITH here, in the human species.
The rules were NOT designed to be fatal to you.
So... the rules AT ALL TIMES engage your personal responsibility (from which your INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM emerges) to determine YOUR position with respect to them.
And that is why it is best for EVERYONE if there are NOT TOO MANY RULES. (Hint, hint, for our legislators...)
Too many rules is the opium of thought.
It turns off thinking.
Bad deal.
Because that situation where you really have to wake up and THINK, that bicycle/truck situation IS ALWAYS OUT THERE WAITING. (Like... the Milgram experiment, by the way...)
And it may present itself AT ANY TIME.
It's best to be.. AWAKE when it presents itself.

Debra said...

"Choosing to willingly submit to the rules" =
I am going out to vote today. I don't want to, but I'm going to do it...

Dink said...

In a further ironic twist in the anthropology, the interviewer comes from a culture where it is considered proper... in fact, elegant, in heated discussions to compact one's thought's into bare essential statements. The subject comes from a culture where it is apparently proper to express any and all related thoughts.

So the interviewer will need to take a break. They are over-stimulated and are prone to snarkiness. And I sincerely want to not be snarky. I swear.

Debra said...

Remember how much information gets lost when you compact into "bare, essential statements".
A little bit like... popping a food pill when you get hungry... ;-)

OkieLawyer said...

Google translates "le cheffre" as "the figure."

"Figure" is related to "number" but can be more abstract.

Debra said...

Thanks, Okie.
But Google is really rather inadequate IN MY OPINION to get at the really fine distinctions that are important in reading.
And as a lawyer, YOU are very aware of just how important those fine distinctions are, aren't you ? ;-)

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