This subject is actually a delicate one, so I’ll try to work on it gradually. An Austrian dad confined his daughter in a cellar and gave her kids that he confined too, gangs fight in the streets of Paris, teenagers get knifed by their school mates in English schools; those are the news given by daily newspapers. Crime is something that mesmerizes us, it is something that shocks us and we want to be protected from it. But I don’t know if the existence of criminality can ever be erased by fighting it.
To start with, we have to be concerned with the problems of criminality. The first one to my eyes is its representation through news media. Media will report any crime event if a press agency has a good article on it, and if the authorities PRs release enough information about it to make it interesting. This is why, in recent decades, the representation of crime has augmented, while the crime rate has fallen. Of course, we can’t blame it only on the authorities, the media corporations are guiltier. For example, the crimes reported have to be more and more violent, toward a common person and near our place. Media outlets will always try to make us identify with the victims, just like a Stephen King’s book. And the “Daily Mirror” sells more than any book of Stephen King, but it is a distorted mirror. The reality of the crimes is never objectively reported. We can never feel sorry for the criminal, who’s guilty before being proven so. We never hear the criminal’s story, we never know, and don’t want to admit that he is like us, with less chance and was given different choices.
I’m not saying we should automatically feel sorry for him (in the most common case reported, the offender is a young man whose “origins” will always be defined as the country of his grandparents, as if it was the reason of his misbehaviour). So yes, we do receive a bent reality, but mainly because we like to feel as victims of the wicked wrong-doer, it makes us feel like righteous saints.
I often heard the argument that criminality is decreasing, so we do something good enforcing the security of our places, having more C.C.T.V. ( we didn’t learn anything from “ 1984”), being noted that crime exists and is making us paranoid. Well it is true; if crime is decreasing, we must be doing something right. But this again is a simulacrum of reality. Criminality is a number created by the government and the authorities. For example, if crime varies in London, it depends on the chief inspector of Scotland Yard and his policies. If he does not consider soft drug users criminals, the numbers are going down. Another illusion of crime is that it is mainly a statistic that can be shown and used varying on the numbers applied. A right wing party will show that the numbers are really high and we are living in a dangerous society and that security should be one of our rights. But it is only a point of view, and security is only a right if crime exists... It is my next point and might sound weird, so please hang on.
Durkheim explained it before me, crime is vital for our system. Authorities, our modern day Machiavellian Prince, exist to protect us. But we only need to be protected if danger exists. If we postulate that we are wolfs against ourselves, of course we need protection against ourselves. But it is a hypothesis that serves mainly the people in power. And they do know it and use it, unconsciously probably, but it can be observed in history through prohibitions. Prohibitions appeared whenever a government wanted more power and so had to compose a danger within society. The sixties were a booming decade that didn’t have many problems, and then the general crash of the early 70’s caused smaller incomes, so a problem was created: heroin was declared illegal. Anyone going to the hospital before that who suffered was given an addictive substance like heroin, and could ask their doctor to continue to receive it, without it interfering with their daily life.
Once outlawing it, a new crime was running the street, and could be considered as the base for all problems. A dependent part of the population became the victims of an oppressive government and greedy crime syndicates, but they were society’s “enemy” during the eighties, because authorities had to exist to protect us from them. And we started to hear the dramas of heroin addicts, but heroin doesn’t kill; it is the result of greedy drug dealers who want to sell more and thus cut their products with dangerous substances. Authorities created problems to legitimate themselves. If we’d legalize and control what we now consider as criminal activities, wouldn’t we feel more secure and less paranoid?
But crime is not only ruled by organizations, there are thieves and rapists and other horrible persons committing acts that shouldn’t be justified. What I am going to say sounds naive, but every crime is justified. They are all created by our society, or our personal interactions. For example, thieves don’t exist in societies that don’t understand the concept of property, of course they don’t. It is a simple fact that shows perspectives. Thieves don’t exist because they need to steal to survive, we are not in the 17th century anymore, but they exist because self-realization is not our problem. Thieves exist because they are in need of consummation. The objects of robberies change with periods, only because our general consumerist conditioned minds will put more or less value on different objects. A society that would search for self-realization and not wealth wouldn’t have someone stealing.
I know that it is a dream, but theft exists because people think they need to possess to be. But that’s only because we think so too. A beautiful car gives me pleasure, why wouldn’t anyone be jealous of this pleasure, but he can steal it from me because it doesn’t bring me happiness ( first of all because I don’t have my driver’s licence, but also because it is only an induced pleasure). Just like the objectification of the woman kills our empathy towards her, and gives legitimacy to a rapist.
So what about murders? Well for that, I turn to Inspector Barnaby, Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes who surely know that all real murders (not the induced murders that defined the young thug because he wants to be seen as such) are passionate and reveal secret stories. They are private matters and actually, in a way, positive. They show that we are capable of over-passion, we are more than animals. But against those, we can’t do anything, except find the murderer and make him understand his wrong-doing. That is why in my Utopia, I would have only inspectors with a great sense of deductions, and a civil service that would be here only to help and not to check our behaviour, have “Lead by example” as a motto and be educated to do so.