Thursday, January 10, 2008
Anarchism & Murder (3)
Murder Most Foul!
Healing after Homicide
The best bit of perspective I ever received concerning anarchism and the problem of murder came from, ironically enough, a Denver circuit-court judge.
I was awaiting arraignment some years ago, sitting in my pew (those benches are rather pew-like, don't you think?), not paying too much attention to much of anything, when I clued into the fact that the current defendant's explanation of his actions was well beyond the grasp of reason. I tensed up, fearing that the judge would come down harshly on his paranoid and anxiety riddled recounting of the path that had led him to court that day (which, although this is beyond the point, but for those who are curious, had something to do with an evil twin on a crime spree). I hate watching others humiliated, or squirm, or end up embarrassed, so I prepared myself for the blow, figuring, no way in hell is this judge going to put up with this level of ridiculousness in her court room.
But, I was in luck. Instead of puffing up and delivering some sort of version of "Order in the Court!" this particular lady justice gave a rather eloquent speech that came to an indictment of the ludicrous amount of resources allocated to the incarceration rehabilitation system, which does anything but rehabilitate. She posited that we should instead expend our energies on therapeutic means and mental health resources. It's not that I hadn't thought that mental health care was a key component when confronting transgression; it's just that I hadn't heard this path endorsed by someone who watches the machinations of the law every day. Circuit court judges probably don't think the way I do, or believe what I do, but they have done a lot of field work. It was so encouraging to know that a woman who works with 'crime' on a consistent basis can believe in therapy over isolation, in care over condemnation, in people before prisons.
While it's worth noting that I'm of the camp that believes the ravages of violence meted out in our culture are largely due to coercive and oppressive social structures, and that an anarchist approach to those structures would alleviate much of our suffering, it's best not to pretend that violence can be ever-eradicated. And, since my totally incongruous Aha! moment, the solutions for an anti-authoritarian approach to coercive violence and homicide have begun to flesh out.
I see communities who meet murder and violence with discussion, therapy, and reparations. We can come to anarchist therapies that let the recipients maintain dignity, while addressing root causes of violence. We can address the deficits of violence and murder as communities and heal through communication. We can arrange reparations for the victims of violence whereby an offender will compensate for the human loss incurred. We can do so much.
An ethical, anarchist, way towards dealing with violence and murder exists. That way is through compassion, patience, and ingenuity. It comes to this: Locking down a human creature for the rest of its existence may well be the worst kind of torture, rarely is violence solved with violence. Anarchist mental health therapies is a way past that. It's time that we stop blaming things on our evil twins and recognize that might, truly, never makes right…