Saturday, January 20, 2007

Land of the free...

Chalk one up against good ol' boy justice. Nah, there's negligible police and prosecutorial misconduct, right?

Sometimes I wonder which has cause more harm: evil-doers, or people who believe they are doing the noble thing? I'm confident not a single prosecutor or police officer believed they were convicting an innocent person - they just "bent the rules" a little to better protect the innocent, I'm sure.

It's a cultural epidemic, apparently.

I wonder how they would've felt if the person being convicted were a mountain gorrilla, instead of a (almost invariably) black man?

Empathy and shame are most peculiar things.


Keifus said...

"evil-doers, or people who believe they are doing the noble thing"

Probably the latter, if only because there's more of 'em.


TenaciousK said...

There are run-of-the-mill thugs, and then there are those who are capable of organizing large groups of well-meaning people.

I think there are very few people who consider themselves to be evil, and relatively few who will acknowledge base motives (like, a police officer who admits to himself he coerced a confession because he really wanted to get a promotion, or something).

I think the interplay between the related issues of empathy, kinship and shame are fascinating, in an intellectual sense. More depressing, usually, in an applied sense.

On the plus side, however, somebody out there got these men exonerated, when it would've been easier to pretend like everything was as it should be.

Galatea said...

Hi Kiefus,

Fancy meeting you here :-) I have a friend who is coming by ASAP to help me with my computer glitches I’ve been reading your Dancing the Makaya (also your barber/haircut piece stuck in my head!) Others too, BUT I still can’t comment on your blog because your pop-up option for commenting closes too fast for me to get in…a few times out of frustration I’ve clicked on it repeatedly (a lot!) and it’ll say open but as soon as I do the “letters thing” it pops off…(it’s got to be my computer) Anyway, since I see you here I thought I'd hook you up with a little dance number ~ the beat changes just before the 2 minute mark and the drums come in! ENJOY!

~ Galatea

Galatea said...


I hope this man can now have a good life in his new found freedom and that his prison time hasn’t destroyed a chance of that.

My heart goes out to the men who exonerated him. Too often as you pointed out will people take the easy way and pretend like everything was as it should be. Too often has our justice system failed us with its lack of humanity and thorough investigation of a case. Thank goodness for the breakthroughs in DNA forensics.

[I left you a thank you at my place yesterday and fun hyper link (that worked!) I hope you saw it.]

Thanks to you I left a hot -link for Kiefus here…for you to enjoy too! (again, hand-type job – copy and paste from word was the problem)

~ Galatea

TenaciousK said...

Hi galatea - thanks for coming by (and thanks for the link yesterday).

What I think is more interesting, in a morbid academic or philosophical vein, is the manner in which empathy is blocked by projected shame, or hate.

People will go to great, sometimes horrible lengths to disavow feelings of kinship. That seems to be what gets us into the most trouble, as people.

Gorillas, though, or fluffy kitties - much easier to feel a purer tenderness towards.

It seems people do not have a very clear idea about the nature and origins of their own prejudice - even educated people, who are presumably trying to do the noble thing, and presumably should know better.

PS. About those popup windows...

If you're using Firefox (or, I think, the latest version of IE explorer), you can right click instead of click and tell it to open in a new tab. That also gets around the irritating, non-adjustable prohibitive window size.

obfuscati said...

define evil.

obfuscati said...

the graph at the bottom of this page seems to lend support to your hypothesis. of 74 exonerations, mistaken identification figured in 60 of them, and official misconduct figured in 70 of them. so, the official system does seem to be trying to do what it can to support the victims and stop the bad guys.

accidentally jail a few not-so-bad guys along the way? oops, too bad. probably they were doing something else wrong and we would have eventually caught them anyway. good thing we caught them now. no smoke without fire, y'know.

i'm not sure which cultural epidemic you had in mind, but that last one is the one that scares me.

interesting that the second study didn't include official misconduct among the categories.

Keifus said...

G: Thanks for the props. I haven't the foggiest why you'd have a hard time leaving a comment. Sometimes the word verification takes a couple of iterations, but that seems to be true everywhere...


TenaciousK said...

Evil - is it like art? You know it when you see it? But does that make it a matter of individual taste then?

I am of the opinion there are things that are objectively evil, and I've soume thoughts about it, though I don't know that I can express them very well. I think if you accept the idea that what we do with others has an internal parallel, and that the manner in which we interact with others reflects the manner in which we deal with aspects of ourselves, then evil represents self-betrayal by proxy. I'd like to come up with a more definitive way of expressing that, though. I'll let you know when I come up with something better.

Cultural epidemic: doing the noble-seeming thing because it seems the noble thing to do, not because it is intrinsically desirable. Like, wanting to be an artist because you want to impress people. I used to work with foster parents a lot, some of whom are the most incredible human beings. Some, however, are people who are enamored with the desire to be good, which tends to get very much in the way of their ability to maintain an emotional connection to a troubled (and troubling) child.

A few are in it for the money, which is an entirely different, and more overtly troubling problem.

Some adoptive parents have the same issue. There used to be (maybe still are, I don't know) church groups where congregations were going to places like Romania and adopting orphanage children by the charter jet-load. Sounds very noble, but to say the majority of those adoptions eventually failed underestimates the scope of the catastrophe that subsequently unfolded.

Which seems to say something about the irredeemable nature of Romanian orphanage children, but really says something else about the arrogance of noble intent. The Puritan model of child-rearing falls rather short, when children are not malleable enough to conform to the gravely limited emotional containment afforded by such a rigid values structure.

There are similar problems evident in so many other areas - political figures who will assume the role of champion, but only when politically expedient or desirable, for example. It seems to me there was a time when there was more substance to be found in politics, but maybe that's just a selectively rose-colored view of history. Hard to say, when I wasn't around to see it. Still, it is difficult for me to trust figures who so obviously compromise their ethics, though granted it seems impossible to be elected these days without colluding with a gravely dysfunctional system. The country is parched for inspiration, but I wonder if we've become so distractible we've lost the ability to discriminate between substance and form. The blindest criticisms end up coming across as comparatively brave and sincere, even when inspired by little more than attention-seeking.

Ach - ranting again. I'm on the road again, and off to bed. Probably won't be back much for a couple of days. Thanks, as always, for the comments obfuscati.

Galatea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.