Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Sense of justice

This week residents of Warsaw witnessed the events which should have prompted them to reconsider what just is and what is not. And it’s not as black or white as it may seem to look.

On Monday (the day before yesterday) two burglars broke into an antiquarian shop in the centre. One of them ran away quickly, frightened, as the shop assistant didn’t give up easily and got into a scrimmage with his companion. During the fight the shop assistant took away a knife from a thief and stabbed him. Both men were taken to hospital where the intruder died.

Soon the readers of TVN Warszawa portal hailed the antiquarian who had put up resistance to burglars as a hero. At this point we begin to draw on our moral principles. Has a man a right to take away his fellow man’s life? According to the Catholic Church teachings (and as the statistics show, over ninety per cent of Poles declare themselves catholic, so they should follow some principles), never. According to the law, he could have killed a robber unintentionally, in self-defence, this has to be investigated.

What caused such a reaction of readers? Firstly they looked up to him for his bravery, secondly, in their sense of justice the burglar was no one else but a pest, which posed a threat to society. The shop assistant has eliminated a human being whose existence was perceived harmful for the rest of society. In this respect, his deed was considered beneficial, for two reasons. Firstly this man will not break into any other shop, will not steal anything, will not do his time in prison, financed by taxpayers, and secondly other thieves will be scared and this accident may put them off trying to steal something.

Since the burglars attempted to break into my house in September I have been thinking about how I would have behaved if my neighbour had not scarred them away. For sure killing anyone, including the worst scoundrel would be out of question, my conscience would not be clear until the end of my days, but I would have to remorse to break his arm or leg? For someone who uses a crowbar to enter someone else’s property it is a well-earned injury.

What happened today casts once again a light on Polish insensitiveness. A lot is spoken that Poles, whenever they see something wrong, turn their heads away, pass by pretending not to see anything. A policeman in civilian clothes who rode a tram in Warsaw this morning had the courage to reproach a hooligan who had thrown a rubbish bin into a tram. A young (18-year-old, inebriated) criminal pulled a knife out of his pocket and stabbed the policeman, who later died in a hospital.

I pay homage to this brave man and like many people wonder what to do with the murderer. Many commentators driven by pristine emotions suggested that he should be executed. Tit-for-tat, the easiest way out. In practise he will appear before court and will be imprisoned for many years. Neither variant solves anything.

I’m not in favour of capital punishment, but it gets my goat whenever I think thousands of prisoners do their time at taxpayers’ cost. Hence, I have two modest, I suppose, proposals.

Criminals who commit petty crimes and those who made illegal or thoughtless things that harmed other people should be FINED severely. The financial disincentive should work very well, after all humans are driven by greed, aren’t they?

But sometimes the convicts have to be isolated from the rest of society. I think privatisation of penitentiary industry would not be a bad idea. The guys who fell foul with law should earn for themselves. The business would be viable, we would have a plenty of cheap labour force utilised for building motorways to move this country forward.


d- said...

no no no! you don't want privatised prisons... it's a market failure. Is the point of prison to keep criminals locked up and then release them, rehabilitated so they don't offend again? If so, it's in a company's interest to fail at rehabilitation. See also: America and its million people behind bars, disproportionately black (both in absolute terms of population, and in the percentage of people accused of crimes.)

student SGH said...

hang on! I don't think they should be locked up, instead of lying in their prison cells and watching TV they should work and through it be brought back to society. Work would rehabilitate them and thus by contributing to general welfare they would atone for their misdeeds.

After all state could run prisons as well and in the way they would be viable.

What's my take on millions of Americans behind bars, mostly Negros? Unnatural inequality leads to increase in criminality. Equal opportunities in America and their "from rags to riches" concept are the thing of the past. Now your parentage only strengthens inequality and hampers social advancement. This engenders frustration and plunge loads of poor, often disadvantaged people into falling foul with law.