[Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Why Crime Exists - Models of Justice Discussion

From: Phil Osborn <philosborn2001_at_yahoo.com>
Date: Thu May 18 23:48:00 2006

I think that a couple of side discussions may be in
order here.

The first has to do the motivations NOT to be a

The second has to do with the reasons why people DO
become criminals.

I wish I could access my blog for some references, but
unfortunately JoeUser.com has been down increasingly
of late. I'm trying to move over to MySpace, but one
of my posts from JoeUser was truncated there as well
when I copied it over. I suppose that what I really
should do is surf instead of write.

Anyway, to get to my major article on anarchist
justice, you might try going to
http://www.myspace.com/philosborn. I just copied it
over. So far, so good.

1. Ok, why not to be a criminal: Consider all the
things that make life worthwhile. A lot of them -
most of them, for most of us - involve our
relationship to other people.

It really doesn't take that much work to simply
survive, for most people in most real situations. We
humans are natural survivors. Four billion years of
evolution bears it out.

But we are not content to merely survive. Our own
minds and personalities also evolved, from finger
touching thumb in the womb, via feedback. Those parts
of our minds that were able to engage the real world
and get a consistent signal back naturally became who
we are today. Confused solipsistic neural/mental
paths that simply fed back on themselves could not
stay oriented, and lost out.

Our minds are feedback systems par excellance. We
don't sit listlessly in a cave until our stomachs hurt
enough to impell us to find whatever food is easiest
to grab. Instead, we build and create things, do art,
compose music, dances, farm, build, explore,
constantly push our selves to be more, because that's
what we are, that's how we individually, personally

In a nutshell, we percieve, validate and regenerate
our selfs through the feedback loop of seeing our
ideas take form in reality. We humans do it, and so
do less cerebrally gifted animals. However, we humans
- so far as we know - have by far the most advanced
mental processors, capable of effectively infinite

WE think conceptually, ABOUT concepts, in long complex
cognitive chains. And while perception simply IS,
conceptual thinking is about drawing patterns and
commonalities and creating mental classes and symbols
to point to the classes, so that we can use the
symbolic shorthand combined with logic to vastly
enhance our cognitive power.

We are pattern-recognition machines. The problem is
that we jump the gun. We cannot wait until we have
absolute certainty before we act, so we make a lot of
approximations and guesses, and try to test them on
the fly. What keeps us sane and happy both is the
fact that we CAN reaffirm our concepts via experiences
in the real world.

Sometimes - often, in fact - we engage the real world
simply for the purpose of seeing what is in our head
made real. We build and create largely for that
purpose. We value art and music because they present
us with idealized imagery that makes abstractions like
love and justice concrete with all extraneous noise

But while we can validate our concepts of physics or
engineering through building a rocket, we have no
mirror in the non-sentient world for our souls. (as
an atheist, I use the term loosely to refer to the
elements of personality and intentionality that define
us as persons and continue through time and
circumstance.) How do we see our most personal selves
in reality.

Our concepts can always be wrong. We know that for
sure. So we could be wrong about the Sun going around
the Earth (Sure looks that way, at first notice,
though...) and we could be wrong about our selves.
Maybe we have too high an opinion of ourself. Maybe
we lack self-esteem because we believe what some
destructive person feeds us. Maybe we have feelings
that are so deep that we feel like we are going to

That's where other people - or other animals capable
of perceiving our feelings - come in. We don't value
other people primarily because they make life safer or
easier. We value others because they embody in
themselves what we find important and worthwhile and
essential in our selves, and thus, being able to
empathize with us and percieve and respond to our
feelings, we can see ourselves mirrored in their
consciousness. Note how much of human effort is
expended just on love and relationships.

So, if you're a criminal, you have a problem. If you
let people know who you really are - a predator on
other people, then they won't feel safe to be really
emotionally open to you, and may choose not to deal
with you at all, while if you monitor your feelings,
checking them to make sure that they DON'T pick up on
who you really are, then what real interaction and
visibility is possible? You aren't dealing with
reality, but rather with a little play about how you
would like things to be.

Thus, the criminal is locked out of the most important
and satisfying aspects of life.

(For an interesting discussion of this issue by the
man who first identified the principle, please take a
look at Nathaniel Branden's "The Psychology of Self
Esteem." Or, check out this site:

2. So, why do people become criminals, given the
terrible downside?

There are a number of common reasons. Psychologists
estimate that about one out of 30 people should be
classified as a "sociopath." These are people who
have blocked off natural feeling, which terrifies
them, and derive a feeling of pseudo-self-esteem from
being in CONTROL - meaning of others.

Branden goes into considerable detail in several of
his books on just how this can happen, usually
involving some really bad parenting in which a child's
natural expression of who they really are is punished
or suppressed. The child learns from the repressive
parents that only certain feelings can be allowed.
But feelings are natural and automatic, so what they
really learn is how to automatically turn their
attention to something else whenever their feelings
are about to burst out. This is called "repression."

Often you will see people who have trouble expressing
feelings or empathizing with others clenching their
teeth. Often the muscles involved are elsewhere, such
as the belly, and cannot normally be seen. But people
do develop what is called "body armor" and, almost
like a parody of yoga, they turn their attention to
straining some muscles rather than be forced to
confront situations that would make them feel.

In our society, so much based on the Freudian model in
which "civilizing" a child means teaching them to
dissown their selves, denying natural feelings in
favor of "sublimating" them into socially acceptable
channels, perhaps most of us are dealing with problems
of repression that block us from fully interacting
with others beyond a superficial level. Much of the
post-Freudian, "neo-Reichian" psychology deals with
how to bring the unconscious mechanisms of repression
into conscious awareness so that we can end them.

Growing up is about getting control. This poses a
problem. The model of control we are taught by
society is that of repression. Boys become "macho",
crude and mean. Girls become devious and
manipulative. Either way, the participants gain a
feeling of superiority, insulation from consequences,
and the idea that THEY are in the in crowd, whatever
clique or icon they identify with. Youth and
ignorance is a great excuse, but it doesn't solve the

People who DO attempt to be real all the time are
often targetted by those very people who have bought
into the repressive model. They may find themselves
bullied and made the butt of practical jokes. Kids
with Asperger's Syndrome have this problem in spades,
because, due to their limited capacity for empathy,
they can't figure out when someone is manipulating
them - and they can't lie effectively either.

Sociopaths are people who are dedicated to evil,
literally. It doesn't mean that they are incapable of
good occasionally. After all, they have to make a
living and survive and get along with co-workers like
the rest of us. However their motivation and delight
is in causing pain and destruction of other people's
lives and happiness and getting away with it, proving
to them that they are the superior people.

For a sociopath, then, crime is life. That IS how
they experience themselves as being strong and
in-control. However, it really only shows how
thoroughly they have mutilated their own minds, out of
a desperate need which they have completely blocked

Psychopaths carry it to another level. They ARE
desperate for human interaction and feeling, but the
only way that they can feel safe to experience it is
when they have someone else tied up and are torturing
them. The main feeling that they are able to percieve
through the honest reactions of
their helpless victim is that of RAGE, which consumes

However, not all criminals are either sociopaths or
psychopaths. There are plenty of kids who grow up in
gang families and actually have no concept of a
different life. They feel safe to be somewhat honest
with their homies, and everyone else is seen as a mark
- NOT ONE OF US. The gangs all have a philosophy to
justify their lifestyle, which usually places them
squarely in an ethnically or socially disadvantaged
group and pictures them as fighters for justice for
their group or race or nationality or religion or

Gangs know implicitly that there will be a temptation,
especially as a kid grows up and acquires a more
mature view of the world, to leave the gang and
forsake all the need to hide and lie to everyone
outside. So, they employ a "poison pill" option,
which consists of requiring that a newbee do something
so bad that there is no way it can ever be undone,
typically killing someone, often an innocent random

Thus, the gang member feels truly that there is no way
out. Even if somehow they DO leave and disappear, get
a good job, get married, have a family, at some point
they may find that they are mysteriously sucked back
into the gang ways. That's the part of themselves
that they tried to hide breaking free, after years
perhaps of successfully living a lie. The problem is
that they could never quite reach what they aimed for
- real relationships - and so finally they give up,
the hope dies from fatigue.

The life of crime is simply SAD. Criminals play their
little head games to show themselves how "tough" they
are, how they can live a "normal" life, etc., but it
doesn't really work. However, just because someone
commits an offense, or even several offenses, does not
mean that they are a hopeless case.

Even someone who cannot undo all the damage they
caused can often still do SOMETHING to make amends.
And if it's really all they can do, then we can't
really fault them morally at that point. Such a
person, who has chosen NOT to lie anymore, and to face
who they have been, has potentially achieved the
capacity for full human interaction.

So, as I describe in my article on anarchist justice,
in a just society, those people who chose to prey on
others would soon find that life became expensive and
difficult. At the same time, there would be a natural
incentive for specialists in rescuing people from
their mistakes to step in and offer rehabilitation,
which would likely consist of looking for what caused
the problem. I.e., psychotherapy aimed at retrieving
a person's ability and desire to love and feel,
teaching the criminal how to connect that with the
need to be honest.

There is one serious problem, however, that tends to
throw a monkey wrench into such efforts:

Suppose you were a Jew in NAZI Germany in 1942. How
open and honest about who you were could you be and
stay alive? We don't kill people here for being of
the wrong faith, but we have similar laws about what
you can put in your body - YOUR body - or what kinds
of peaceful, voluntary relationships you may enjoy.
The police will KILL you if necessary to prevent you
from using mariuanna or any number of other
substances, in the name of protecting society.

A society which allows people to fully experience
themselves through open, honest relationships with
others must have a very strong respect for individual
rights. If people feel that they have to check their
feelings or ideas for acceptability - or risk death or
other serious consequences - then we are back to
square one. We have criminalized everyone, and people
will behave accordingly.

A lot more could be said, for sure, but I'm out of
time... I look forward to comments and critiques.

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Received on Thu May 18 2006 - 23:47:03 EDT

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