crime and punishment

One thing about having read a lot is that one goes through periods where one book or another seems to be leaping into view, and refusing to sit down.   Lately it’s been Dostoyevsky.  Which, really? I can hardly believe I had the concentration to read his novels, much less retain the information.  I continue to be cowed by Moby Dick, but The Idiot and Crime and Punishment are lodged, forever, in my brain.  Weird.

So we were talking the other day about prison, and crime, and private prisons, and how it’s all kind of a tailor made situation, when you think about it,  for a) getting people deemed “undesirable” into confinement and out of general circulation b)which means some people make a lot of money running that confinement scenario, and the confinees find themselves in a condition similar to enslavement and c) there’s a place to funnel lots of people from the military into jobs overseeing the Other Confinees.  All the uncontrollable individuals are handled in one swell foop, with monetization to boot. An obvious oversimplification but then again.  There’s method to this madness.  As a place to put individuals whose “service” to their country has left them profoundly injured even while they still have to make a living, prison employment presents an option.  An out of sight, out of mind option, at that.  Then, there’s this. An overwhelming number of Americans are in prison.  An overwhelming number of those people are in prison for drug issues. ( It could be argued that aside from the burglary and robbery part, who really gets hurt by drugs?  The user.  And those who love that user.  Not something you’d think would call for imprisonment.) An overwhelming number of those people are not white.  An overwhelming number of laws differentiate between things that white people are likely to get arrested for (powder cocaine, let’s say) and black people are likely to get arrested for (crack, let’s say)- and which one has stiffer penalties I will leave to you to divine.  So there’s a mind numbing level of unfairness just built in to the whole system, not to mention the fact that people are being incarcerated for things that are not crimes but reactions to specific sets of circumstances, like poverty and joblessness and all the stuff that gets mentioned in passing as some sort of aberration, for which people are at fault.  Crimes, for which they must be Punished.

How Raskolnikov got jumbled into all this I can’t really say, but suddenly it all made a horrible sense.  Society as it has existed for the past couple of thousand years apparently has to have crime, and police, and lawyers and prisons and judges.  It seems at times that this is because the irrationality of the system itself is what has to be protected and concealed, because really maintaining function and order in society might well not involve incarceration and misery for so many.  The craziness at the top has to be disguised, at the least.  I mean, after all.  If you actually REALIZED the truth about it all, the reality that the controlling powers in the world not only do not have your best interests at heart but actually have nothing but their own hegemony and bank balances in mind, and your annihilation may fit nicely into that, how would that make you feel about the fact that you can’t find work to do?  In truth, your job has been moved away, condensed, disappeared, whatever it takes for profits to increase- it isn’t because “competition”, or because anything other than the greed and self interest of those “in charge”.  The fact that we’re swamped with “information” that is used as a paralyzing pacifier rather than an empowering tool, and part of that information seems to be that these age old paradigms must be maintained no matter what…..it really did make me think of the desperate Raskolnikov- looking for a feeling, an answer, some sense of his own existence and being.  And all he could come up with to do was, basically, take the breath away from someone else to make that happen.  But it didn’t really provide him with any information he could use, in the end.  It seems just like..right Now.

Then, yesterday as I was going to town, a ground squirrel darted in front of the car.  I didn’t want to hit it.  Simultaneously, a woman in a pickup came zooming up the road on the wrong side.  There I was, trying not to squish a squirrel nor get squished myself.  (This made me unaccountably think of Prince Myshkin.) Fortunately all was well, the brainless squirrel lived to dart again, and I managed to restrain myself from any rude gesturing at the other driver.  Which felt like massive progress.

It made me think, though, about how close we all are at every moment to complete and utter change, the unexpected, to death.  Or to grace and goodness, to joy.  It’s kind of, though, about dealing with all of that experience, tumult, whatever it is, without punishment, judgment, imprisonment, denial. It starts on a small, individual level and radiates into the whole of humanity.   It’s about changing the automatic, default setting on yourself to OBSERVE and LEARN from FEAR and REACT.  If I can keep myself from flipping someone off in traffic when they of course so richly deserve it, it’s possible to shift other unproductive actions as well.  A gradual standing up straight, opening of the hand and heart.  The more we hide things away, put people away, refuse to look, the more we are all in prison.  Perhaps it is that quality of vicious, entrapping circle that makes me think of Dostoyevsky’s novels- and the meeting of that quality with Heart and Soul which he did so wonderfully.

 

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by soulspeak2013 on August 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Goosebumps….Brilliant articulated truth…as always….

    Reply

  2. *thunderous applause*

    key words for me: small, individual,gradual. thought: the moby dick theme is kind of an inverted expression of this and that may factor into your thoughts on the protagonist’s efforts (if i recall the story well – geesh, its been a million years to read it!)

    Reply

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