words among

Thursday, May 24, 2007

There is no hard distinction between us and animals. I know a lot of people think it's ok to deny that evolution happened. But you're not just ignoring a humongous accumulation of scientific evidence. The evidence is right in front of your eyes almost everywhere you look. It's really not feasible to pretend there's some scientific conspiracy - because after being exposed to the theory, you can validate it a hundred times without doing a single experiment.

I think the main motivation for pretending that humans are different from animals is to preserve the concept of evil. I believe that the thing people have in mind when they speak of evil is a phantom that does not exist. But I understand why it seems so useful to generalize in this way. Everything has consequences, and some of them annoy or upset us. That's true enough, but it's not an excuse to lie. And simplifying to the point of claiming that a certain deed's consequences make it 'evil' is lying to yourself.

This reflects a habit that I think we picked up from reporters. They want to dramatize events by imagining that consequences are caused by one thing. That one person is to blame when something goes wrong, and it's their job to just figure out who. This is preposterous. The responsibility and blame for any given event would be more accurately assigned to a large number of individual actors, in almost any case. Yes, it might not have happened without person X, but that's no reason to ignore the rest of the information that can be seen as relevant to the fact. If investigators truly cared about learning something they can apply in the future, my advice is to not use arbitrary constraints and assumptions about who's culpable, and who should have known better.

Another reason this mythology persists is because certain bitter white folks just have an insatiable desire to punish people and dream that it will help something. They are just addicted to torturing people and getting away with it. They always try to make it seem like punishment is the most important shit that can happen. My version of what's up? Punishment does nothing important - it only teaches more people how to do more horrible things. The only thing to do about crime and misbehavior is to prevent it, and once you're at the punishment stage it's already been not prevented. There's no more opportunity to prevent it, contrary to the desperate wishes of white fools (and some hispanic ones as well).

We have the opportunity to prevent future antisocial moves, yes. And this is why an otherwise clever guy might think that incarceration makes some sense. But we have hundreds of strategies we could employ to prevent antisocial behavior, and we don't have the compunction to use almost any of them. Prison is perhaps the most anti-social construction we could have envisioned, bringing together many of those desperate enough to devalue their reluctance to hurt people. Brains learn by seeing, repeating, and doing. And I think its pretty clear that the consequences of incarceration are overwhelmingly and pitifully negative.

Apologists will see a way out in scoffing at my suggestion that turning the other cheek is a smarter way to prevent future offenses. But a lot of the people who really know what's up in terms of taking responsibility for actions have known this for thousands of years. We're just less responsible than them, but I'm telling us, our alternative sucks.

Another reason a lot of fools 'put up with' prison is because they 'like their markets to be free'. But our markets are not free, and this is another case where pretending can get us into trouble. You need to spend money to make money, and in a society populated in the millions, no individuals will step forward to spend, to make those needed investments. Look at how we've failed to invest in our people, our urban spaces, our futures, our education. Econ majors tricked many of into thinking that we can get by without investing in ourselves, we can 'make money'. But we haven't made anything, we've just sold everything we had that was worth something. Our potential. Our happiness. Our society.

So please come to grips with the disappointing and counterintuitive fact that our prison system causes way more problems than it solves. If you have trouble, focus on the word 'antisocial'. You've learned from your experience that treating people like garbage doesn't have good results. Treat people well and much happier days come to pass.

Despite whatever statistics say about reductions in crime, or any purported success of incarceratory policies, they have created an intensely antisocial society that I regret growing up in. Sure, we're relatively safe from property crime and violence. But we are hostage to racist stereotypes that define the range of acceptable behavior and fill us with pointless fear. We are not able to use our minds because we are constantly distracted by shitty concepts of what's legal, written by cowards who vainly decided to try for an easy way out. Well guess what, it's time to admit failure or get ready for totalitarian, third world status. Not third by standards of wealth or how happy people SAY they are. But in terms of real joy, real opportunity, the US has very little to look forward to right now because we've recently cashed out all our investments. Except our investments in terror and urban chaos.