Crime and Punishment
April 18, 2014
I’m reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, Crime and Punishment. There’s a part in the book where the protagonist, Raskolnikov (the murderer) debates a police officer over an article he had written in a psychological journal. Raskolnikov asserts there are people who “have the right to commit breaches of morality and crime, and that the law is not for them.” People are divided into two categories, proclaims Raskolnikov – ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary men, he says, live in submission; they are generally law-abiding, live under control and have no right to transgress the law. But extraordinary people have the right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way just because they are extraordinary. They are destroyers and disposed to destruction.
The debate is lengthy and goes on for nearly an entire chapter. They intellectually spar with each other with such complexity that I fear the point that follows may be lost. But I’ll proceed nonetheless. Raskolnikov claims it’s a law of nature and that there are only very few – one in a million – of these extraordinary people born into the world. Another man in the room interjects, “What if one of these ordinary men imagines that he is extraordinary?” Raskolnikov replies, “Society is too well protected by prisons, banishment, criminal investigators, penal servitude. There’s no reason to be uneasy. You have but to catch the thief.”
You have but to catch the thief.
But what if the thief is one who has held complete and total authority over the masses for over five decades? What if the thief denied proper education to these same masses? What if that thief and his cronies – the one for each thousand or million “ordinary folk” in Myanmar – had a heavily armed military at his control? And that heavily armed military imprisoned the “ordinary” civilian for speaking their mind, or refusing slave labor, or refusing to leave their mineral-rich land so the crony can mine it and stuff his bank account with millions of dollars? What if the thief was also the judge, the jury, the police, the law itself!?
Then what do you do with the thief?
The thief then cleverly creates a “democracy” and is applauded by the Greater Democracies around the world – applauded by Great Presidents, Great Secretaries of State, Great Prime Ministers, Great Foreign Secretaries…
He applauds himself for his cleverness.
He removes his military attire, shiny metals and heavily armed escorts and replaces them with silk suits, polished black Mercedes Benz’ and a new vocabulary. He invests his millions of dollars abroad, or stuffs it safely in bank accounts in countries that will accept it. He builds big resorts and lives in million dollar mansions. He plays word games with the international community, now so invested in his country (how clever of the thief!) they’re unable to loosen the noose pulled more tightly around their throat.
The thief is really quite extraordinary in a very ordinary way.
He’s a muscle man, a chameleon.
He’s powerful and he knows it. He’ll sit and listen to you, but that doesn’t mean he’s heard you.
He continues to steal, right in front of the faces of the 55 million people who live in Myanmar and the 7 billion people who populate this earth. But he doesn’t give a shit. He laughs at all of us while he drinks his Black Label whiskey.
He’s in control.
He’s a thief.
But he’s also the judge, the jury, the police, the law itself. There is crime. I see it everywhere I look. But there is no punishment.
Or is there?
All content copyrighted © Stephen Tavella