Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Adam McIntyre | Let’s all be criminals for a day

Published:Tuesday | July 26, 2016 | 7:00 AMAdam McIntyre

First, let's ambush and mercilessly murder every vile attitude that leads to self-destructive behaviour, and then launch an assault on the immoral, invading forces that threaten to destroy our youth.

Then let's go on the prowl in camouflage outfits and besiege the heavily fortified compound of our pretences, and, like rebellious insurgents, let us capture society's hardened, wayward conscience, torturing and holding it in custody until it confesses that it has failed to care and protect its fellowman.

Let's become common thieves and burglarise the high-tech, securely guarded premises in which our intellectually malnourished 'screenagers' wantonly feast on the electronic diet of decadence, and like innovative drug dealers, let us smuggle some fresh, productive ideas into their heads and expose them to the biological weapon of critical thinking and watch them as they become lifelong addicts to success.

Let's form a gang and equip ourselves with the sharp weapon of wisdom to protect our children from abuse. Let's savagely flog irrational beliefs and chase them into exile - permanently out of the vicinity of our consciousness.

Let's daringly scale the walls and trespass into the criminals' tightly guarded compound and kidnap the three most wanted offenders - Mis-Understanding, Mis-Chief and Mis-Hap, and hold them hostage until our children are safe and their noblest dreams are fulfilled.

Armed with the double-barrel shotgun of determination and courage, let's target and shoot with intent at the stubborn, divisive, partisan obstacles that impede our progress.

Let us conspire with honesty to scam corrupt citizens of their huge, illicit profits, causing them to dismantle their operation because of bankruptcy.

Finally, after our ruthless rampage, let's turn ourselves into the authorities so that we can be placed in the safe custody of reason - and hope to get a life sentence.

Although we rightfully despise criminals and condemn their heartless acts, some of us have more in common with them than we would care to admit. If the criminal seems much like us, it is because he is.

Generally, we see offenders as social undesirables with depredatory tendencies, void of morals, recklessly violating society's mores. We certainly don't see much similarity between them and us, and we are keen to extend and highlight the social distance that signals that distinction, but law-respecting members of mainstream society have a more symbiotic relationship with the criminal than is often admitted.

 

FEAR OF PUNISHMENT

 

Moreover, it is only for fear of punishment that mainstream society obeys many of the laws. In fact, privately, people might vehemently be opposed to a particular law because it squats menacingly in their path, preventing the fulfilment of some of their most cherished desires, but will still dutifully observe it, though unconvinced of its utility. To others, the law, in its mischievously myriad, multi-pronged manifestations, is disdainfully detested.

Let's remember that becoming a criminal is a process, starting long before the first seeds of deviance begin to sprout - a process to which all of us unwittingly contribute in one way or another. Many parents, friends, and spouses knowingly accept the economic gains from perpetrators while openly denouncing and distancing themselves from their illegitimate actions. In the book Deviant Behavior, Erich Goode believes: "Committing a deviant act almost always involves direct interaction with another person. Even committing a deviant act totally in secret involves logistical operations that entail working out a modus operandi to which conventional people respond ... . The responses of others sharply influence and determine the fate of the outcome." (Goode, 2004)

Criminals like to offer expensive gifts that are gratefully enjoyed by family and friends. The offenders' ability to provide for significant others, even during imprisonment, gives an invigorating boost to their emaciated self-image - the first casualty of their incarceration. Having lost their personal authority and identity, adoration and acknowledgement can neutralise the severity of the harshest punishment and provide the motivation for further deviance. We should remember that the society is sometimes the cause but always the victim of crime.

- Adam McIntyre is the author of Understanding the Criminal: Exploring the Nature and Consequences of Imprisonment. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and adam.mcintyre96@yahoo.com.