“Noble revenge” as pretext for atrocities. [part 2/2]

Perhaps the most powerful indictment of punishment is how it exploits people’s impulse to control others and turns ordinary people to a career entirely devoted to that control, with all the immoralities, abuses and corruption of the mind that ensues. Its logical result is to create an environment of extreme hierarchical control, both in the courtroom and in the prison. It turns everyone (everyone who is not the ruling class, anyway) into victims: the actual victims of the crime, the criminal, the jailers, and society at large. It must be rejected wholesale, and its apparatus and institutions must be entirely rejected from any sane society.

To this, the statist may reply: “so you want to just let criminals go free?” If by “go free,” he means that we do not wish to exert total control and put into bondage people who disagree with our values, then the answer is yes, yes, yes! In the name of all that is good, yes!

To the statist faggot, talk of freedom for all and not wanting to control others is juvenile drivel. He wants to see action. He wants to pound some heads or see some heads being pounded. He wants a fight. Well, by all means they should all go live on an island somewhere where they can pound on each other’s heads all day for more and more crimes, with the same glee as the Sharia-worshipping Islamist chops people’s heads, until they are all dead and buried. This would be a wonderful object-lesson of the logical consequence of the punishment drive taken to its extreme.

What sort of ethics should an Anarchist society consider adopting as regards to crimes, real crimes? First, it should permit self-defense and self-protection, to the fullest extent. Second, it should permit individuals to associate to defend and protect themselves, to the fullest extent. Note that I say “defend” as well as “protect”: the police does not defend anyone and has never defended anyone. They do arrest “criminals” after the fact so they do protect society at large in that sense, but they do not defend anyone from any “criminal” action. The individual in our current society is made defenseless by law, and therefore is utterly dependent on the police, by design.

As for the issue of judgment and consequences, there are many different approaches we can examine from the literature as well as history. Individualist Anarchist Lysander Spooner proposes a detailed one in his book Trial By Jury, which advocates a return to the Magna Carta system, of which our justice system today is a major degeneration, and bases his conception of justice on our innate morality. As for what consequences should be attributed to crimes, he remains mostly silent, but the alternatives are many: arbitrated restitution, restitutive fixed fines, social sanctions, and for the grave cases, ostracism and exile. In the most grave cases, where there is a fundamental disagreement between two parties, there must be dissociation. This is, in my opinion, a basic principle of Anarchist structuring.

The Anarchist, in order to eradicate crime, must look at the conditions that give rise to crime. An Anarchist society would not only eliminate all public crime (as well as so-called “non-violent crimes” and the crimes created by legislation, such as mafia and gang violence), but also mitigate the conditions that give rise to actual private crime: poverty, unemployment, inequality, bad child-raising, overexposure to criminal ideologies (religion, television shows, tradition, etc), the unavailability of self-defense, and the statist justice system that trashes people’s lives and pushes them to perpetuate criminal intents.

Obviously, we cannot expect all crime, properly defined, to be eliminated by a society moved by Anarchist principles. Criminal ideologies will continue to exist for a long time after their supports have been destroyed. Child-raising will continue to be mind-warping and authoritarian until a mutualist solution gains wide-spread support. So people will still be killing and defrauding each other, albeit at a much lower rate. Even right now there are populated statist areas with extremely low crime rates (compare for instance Hong Kong at 0.63 homicides per 100,000 or Austria at 0.81 versus the United States at 5.6, or the 1.8%/yr robbery rate in Poland versus 0.1%/yr in Japan and Northern Ireland). I am not claiming that the causes of these real-life rates will be duplicated in an Anarchist society, but they do at least give us an idea of what is possible.

There are also undesirable actions that are not crimes, such as breaking the rules of a specific organization or society. Those actions must also be dealt with by that organization or society as a whole. If I have to pay a certain amount to participate in an organization because its goals require resources, then being a freeloader and getting its benefits without paying is undesirable to that organization. In saying this, I am putting aside the issues of money, land monopolies, and so on, which are legitimate Anarchist concerns, but rather talking about legitimate organizations within Anarchist society. Even if an organization can occupy land without paying rent or taxes, resources are still needed to keep everything going. People will also desire to live their lives in accordance with this or that model, and implement rules aiming to concretize those models. We should not shun this tendency, but rather welcome it as true pluralism.

The core issue is that people believe they can judge other people’s values in the same way as they would their own. But this is a misguided principle, in that it assumes that everyone’s context of knowledge is the same, an assumption which is always unwarranted. The Anarchist must necessarily accept moral pluralism, while at the same time maintaining his right to live the way he wants to, as well as everyone else’s right to do the same, regardless of opposition. In this view, the treatment of crime is not the treatment of deviancy, but rather the treatment of a basic disagreement in values.

13 thoughts on ““Noble revenge” as pretext for atrocities. [part 2/2]

  1. Alderson Warm-Fork June 22, 2009 at 11:02

    “As for what consequences should be attributed to crimes, he remains mostly silent, but the alternatives are many: arbitrated restitution, restitutive fixed fines, social sanctions, and for the grave cases, ostracism and exile.”

    While I largely agree with this, my suspicion is that in a modern society exile makes a lot less sense – communities can’t just say ‘you’ve killed several children, get out of here and we’ll forget you ever existed’, because they’ll get a message the next day from the neighbouring community saying ‘why have you sent us a child murder?’

    I think it’s perfectly consistent to support something very roughly falling under the label ‘imprisonment’, in the sense of restrictions on movement, confining someone to certain areas where others can be kept safe from them, as part of dealing with persistent violent offenders – differing a lot of major ways from prisons as we know them, certainly. I’m wondering why you don’t say this – if self-defense is acceptable, why not allow for collective self-defense in this way? And if you can deprive someone of freedom of movement by exile, why not by confinement?

  2. Francois Tremblay June 22, 2009 at 16:32

    If we define that area as being one where only other ostracized people are kept, isn’t what you describe basically a technologically-advanced concept of exile?

  3. Alderson Warm-Fork June 23, 2009 at 07:58

    I suppose so, but – well, firstly I think the meaning of the word is stretched too far by saying ‘we exile you from all of the earth except for this compound here’, and secondly, exile suggests that the exiling community exerts no power or regulation in that area, which actually strikes me as somewhat inhumane, given that this puts the weaker offenders at the mercy of the stronger. If part of the goal is to rehabilitate people and help them to live lives without violence and abuse, surrounding them with the most violent and abusive individuals around seems a bad method.

  4. Francois Tremblay June 23, 2009 at 15:39

    “If part of the goal is to rehabilitate people and help them to live lives without violence and abuse, surrounding them with the most violent and abusive individuals around seems a bad method.”

    … and yet you advocate confinement?

  5. David Gendron June 23, 2009 at 16:54

    Very interesting posts! Both!

    You made a great point about dealing with criminals.

  6. David Gendron June 23, 2009 at 16:55

    You made a great point about dealing with criminals AND crime!

  7. Anonymous June 24, 2009 at 06:41

    Yes, I do, because I don’t see a better solution. I think we need to find a middle way between leaving disturbed and dangerous people to work out their issues themselves, possibly by murdering more children, or cutting open their faces, or something, and the sort of aggressive punitive make-them-suffer endeavour that you discuss. The best middle way I can see is rehabilitative confinement of some sort. I’d love to hear a better solution for extreme cases.

  8. Alderson Warm-Fork June 24, 2009 at 09:33

    Yes, I advocate confinement because I don’t see a better alternative, and exile doesn’t seem like one. I think there’s a need to avoid the sort of agressive, punitive ‘we will grind you down and make you admit what a worm you are’ approach that you attack here, but there also needs to be a middle way between that and just washing our hands of individuals who are disturbed and dangerous and who give good indications of being a threat to others. I can’t see a better sort of middle way than rehabilitative confinement of some sort.

  9. Francois Tremblay June 24, 2009 at 16:47

    “Yes, I advocate confinement”

    So you admit to being illogical. On the one hand, you think confining people with each other is a bad method (interestingly, you don’t talk at all about the fact that it’s basically slavery). On the other hand, you advocate this bad method because you want to punish the “disturbed and dangerous.”

    You think people being confined together means they are a “bad influence” towards each other, so you only want to confine the “worst influences.”

    Doesn’t make much logical sense now does it.

  10. Alderson Warm-Fork June 25, 2009 at 14:15

    I’ll admit to being illogical when you admit to being very frustrating to argue with.

    I’m not advocating putting two convicted serial killers in a cage together so that they can discuss politely which will be the other’s bitch, which is to some extent the current system. I’m advocating having each serial killer kept both away from other serial killers and away from people they might kill, subjecting them to whatever measures you think best serve to heal psychological injuries.

    You at first seemed to advocate just exiling serial killers, which is stupid because it means there’s nothing to stop them killing three people in each community, agreeing to be exiled, killing three people in the next one, etc.

    Then you seemed to suggest ‘exiling’ them into a sort of compound which is the last remaining ‘outside’ of all human habitation. I objected that this seems like a recipe for the weakest of them being tortured, raped, or killed by the others (or by inhospitable weather, wild animals, etc.)

    So far, my suggestion of confining people, not with other ‘criminals’ but under therapeutic conditions, though not perfect, seems to be the only one that doesn’t lead to more murders, rapes, and tortures. Hence I support it.

  11. Francois Tremblay June 25, 2009 at 15:07

    “I’m advocating having each serial killer kept both away from other serial killers and away from people they might kill”

    So you support not only confining people who disagree with your moral standards, but now you want to put them in solitary for the rest of their lives?

    On your next comment, you’re gonna start advocating the death penalty. I’m just waiting for it…

  12. Alderson Warm-Fork June 25, 2009 at 17:54

    I never said solitary confinement, I said neither locked in a cage or a wilderness with other serial killers, nor wandering through the playgrounds. Obviously having contact with other people, but under supervision, not with either vulnerable or dangerous people. I also never said life-long.

    I don’t see why I should keep defending what I said, why don’t you explain what you envisage your exiled serial killers doing.

  13. […] Continue to part 2. […]

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