Girly Thoughts

April 12, 2008

bad assumptions people make in deciding what’s fair

Filed under: prison,privilege — judgesnineteen @ 1:18 pm

I just read a thread on Feministing in which one commenter said that if a woman falsely accuses a man of domestic violence, she needs counseling, not jail, and another commenter replied that if the falsely accused was the first commenter’s son or friend, the first commenter would feel differently.

It reminds me of when I asked someone what she thought of the death penalty and she said she was against it until she had kids.  Thinking about how she would feel if someone killed or tried to kill one of her kids, she decided she was for the death penalty.

Arguments like these are treated as valid.  But they’re only valid if you assume that punishment should be commensurate with the anger the victimized person or their relatives feel.  In other words, they rely on the assumption that the purpose of the criminal justice system is for the state to carry out revenge on criminals.  A lot of people accept that assumption.  But if you accept that assumption, you have to give up on the idea of inalienable rights.  Personally, I’m kind of attached to those.

I’m basically just rehashing my prison rape post from a different angle, but so many people act this way and it’s so counter-productive and destructive that I have no problem saying it once a week until someone happens across my blog and changes their mind.

You can’t have your revenge and a safe, fair society, too.  You can take out your (totally justified) anger on someone, but then you have to acknowledge that you’re contributing to the cycle of crime and weakening the human rights arguments that can be used to keep more people safe.  Because revenge is not conducive to rehabilitation, and it often involves at least an implicit violation of human rights.  If you give the gov’t the power to suspend human rights, you’ve given the gov’t the power to suspend human rights.  Your argument that they’re unconditional is GONE.  Only good people get protection, and good is defined by the government, which, last time I checked, isn’t free of bias or corruption (any government).

So which is more important to you?

I also have a theory that people don’t worry much about things they think couldn’t possibly hurt them.  By not worrying about it, I mean they don’t mind if it will hurt other people; it’s easier for them to be callous.


The person who thinks he or she will be abstinent until marriage who opposes legal abortion and/or accessible birth control and/or comprehensive sex ed.

The US citizen who’s ok with human rights violations of immigrants.

The modern person who doesn’t think the genocide and rape in the Bible was that bad because it happened so long ago and that’s just the way things were then.

I personally think it’s only fair to judge these things from the point of view, as closely as we can approximate it, of the people who are at risk in these situations.  It could have been you.  It’s not, but it could have been, and if it were, would you mind?  Would it hurt?  What makes you think those people have less feelings than you, need less than you?

This is closely related to the idea of privilege.  I’m working on a draft on that.

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