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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Insane or stupid or both?


Being stupid is not a crime. I’ve heard that quoted several times, in movies or books, and I’ve even used it myself on occasion. Being stupid is not a crime, but maybe it should be.
My line of thinking in this regard was prompted by the results in the Norway case. Everyone remembers the nutbar Anders Breivik who went to an island youth camp and started shooting. His motive had something to do with teaching liberals a lesson, and maybe immigrants, too. Ultimately, his motives are irrelevant, because he butchered 77 people and wounded 151 more. I say his motives are irrelevant, because nothing can justify what he did. Is it any surprise at all that the psychiatrists involved are saying he was psychotic at the time of the assault? Really, psychotic? You don’t say. How many years of med school does it take to draw that conclusion? Because I figured that out the second I heard about the horrific attack. So did everyone else.
Nobody thought, “Hey, that Anders guy… he’s got a point. That’s a helluva argument he presents there.” At least, nobody rational would think that. And that’s the key word here: rational.
Criminals aren’t rational. They have a grossly distorted sense of cost/benefit assessment. They have the kind of brain that says, “The two hundred bucks and three cartons of smokes I’ll get from this gas station robbery is absolutely worth the chance of 2 years in jail. Time to play Cops and Robbers for realsies!” Or it’s a crime of passion, where they catch their old lady in bed with some other biker, and they just “gots’ta teach ‘em a lesson!” By definition, a crime of passion is one without reason, where your ability (no matter how stunted) to think rationally is overwhelmed by your emotional parts. Whether they can’t think deeply enough, or whether they consciously decide prison is worth the risk of the crime is irrelevant. The bottom line is, criminals aren’t in their right minds.
I wouldn't risk prison and a criminal record for a lifetime supply of money, and I don't know anyone more reasonable than me (others may argue). Criminals risk that much or more for a lot less. They aren’t, to use the legal term, “reasonable” people. So why do we have this division between criminals and insane who commit criminal acts?

“Oh, well, the insane aren’t themselves when they do these things. They can’t stop themselves.” Neither could the ordinary criminals, or they WOULD HAVE stopped themselves. Deliberating doing something stupid, knowing that it’s stupid, is even MORE insane than doing something stupid because you don’t know any better. Stamp the whole bunch of them with the INSANE label and move on.
Move on to where? To curing them, of course. Isn’t that what you do with insane people? You try to make them better. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t, but with the proper application of therapy and/or medications, you can get a helluva lot further than you can with the alternative (namely, nothing). Teach them to think clearly, think skeptically, think rationally (and while you're at it, teach everyone else, too).
Some of the hard-liners on the right side of the political fence have a problem with a soft-handed approach. I get it. You want wrong-doers punished and kept away from you. Making them productive members of society isn’t your priority. These are the kind of people that say things like “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.” They cheer the death penalty as a “Final Solution.” Certainly killing everyone who breaks the law does solve the problem of overcrowded jails. No one would accuse you of being soft on crime.
But what kind of person wants to kill someone just because they’re insane? You’d call someone like that a murderer. Probably you could even say they aren’t entirely rational. If they’re not rational, they’re nuts, and that means they get lined up to get those lethal injections they love to promote so strongly. I’m not sure who’s going to be left, but I hope I’m one of the lucky ones.
I have, after all, been practicing my Vulcan-esque logic since I was a boy.

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