Human beings seek connection. If we cannot find a way to “belong” in socially acceptable ways, we seek anti-social, also known as “criminal” ways to belong. Our human weaknesses have origins in our biology as social creatures. It is our new brains, however, because they are so easily self deluded ,that cause us to suffer things like crime more than other living things do.
Our identity is something dynamic, constantly changing, and we do not always know where we will end up. Most criminals not only deny they ever set out to become criminals, they would tell you at a rate of about 99 out of 100, that “I am not a criminal.” A criminal, is not how we identify, or see ourselves.
This is obvious from the most petty crime, of say driving slightly over the speed limit, to the most heinous global “war crimes” arena of iron dictators like Hitler or Stalin. They would be absolutely appalled, and in complete denial, at being seen as anything other than heroes. Human beings are complete masters of self delusion and denial.
Young people seek to rebel as a natural form of individuation, and young males, feel they have something to prove about be one of the gang, accepted, or macho, and Bad Ass.
Despite our over full prisons, we in civilized society act as though we can’t “get it.” This is because we are not comfortable thinking criminals are people like us.
We seek to think there is black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. This doesn’t work with the projections into criminality; because no one expects to choose to do what they think is “wrong.” Instead, they just do what they feel they may get away to be cool with their peers, or to do something risky, “just this once,” or due to compulsion, and very often addiction.
Of course there are some in our over-crowded prisons who express repentance. They are willing to “pay the price” for their crimes. Yet, we have yet to hear of a person who fully sees themselves as criminal. There are as many stories as to how I became a criminal as there are individuals. There are reasons of poverty, oppression, and most especially drugs, but most criminals in basic substance are not different from you or me.
Children especially are more vulnerable to become addicted to substances, and even behaviors that take them down a destructive path. Children who are themselves victimized, especially by violent and sexual assaults against them, are much more likely to act out as if those behaviors are unavoidable, or even normal.
It is said that children learn what they live. Even thought the words “Do as I say, not as I do” is so cliche as to be always ignored, people still expect others to not behave as they see them selves behave. Young people are easily lured into wanting to be accepted among peers, and the toughest peers seem to have the most respect. Let us look at various kinds of crime to see who the criminals are among us.
Drug related crime
Some people seeking to either belong, or to kill the pain of not belonging, (rejection) turn to alcohol, medications, smoking, and/or combinations of all of these. When they are no longer in control of the substance, and when the substance controls them, they cross a fine line that leads into criminal behavior. Drunk driving is an excellent example. Other addictions to behaviors such as over-eating, shopping, gambling, sex, extreme preoccupation with any hobby, sport, pornography, and so on, fit into this category. As social creatures we seek to belong. When we do not find acceptance we self medicate.
Fairly soon people will lie, cheat, steal, or engage in activities wherein they do not see themselves “as being the kind of people who do that.” Some people just want to sell drugs to make money. It must be pointed out that they too wish to belong. They wish to be people who have money, respect, wealth, influence, power, or whatever they imagine the money will bring them. Their wish to matter makes them into throwaway people who do not matter.
Sex related crime:
An argument rages over whether prostitution should be legal. Most progressives think it should be legal as regulation would cut down on the violence and abuses involved. But prostitution is a complex kind of crime. Young men and women who become involved do not usually see themselves as promiscuous. They are often victims, and seek to get back some of what society owes them. Other sexual crimes such as pornography and child pornography are hidden. Even with the proliferation of the Internet, most people do not see themselves as pornographers.
In the crime of rape, which is very common in prison, it usually is a form of power play. One person wants to make sure another person knows their place. Their place is to be a sexual servant of the person in power. In the height of the women’s movement, many feminists fought to teach that rape is a form of power crime. This, however, does not take into consideration that people are also driven by sexual desire. Sexuality is yet another way humans seek to belong with other humans.
It is in some cases, but not all. In some cases of rape against both women and men, this is not always the case. In this very common type of rape one party says “no” to the idea of sex, and the other person pushes forward thinking that “She (or she) doesn’t really mean NO.” Again, as in other cases of crime, the perpetrator does not see himself as a “rapist.” Many young women, especially, do not want to face the shame and embarrassment of having gone through with sex, even with their boyfriend whom they love, and so they let it pass. This can lead to a kind of low self esteem that makes them think of themselves as trashy. Then promiscuity and even sexual acting out with strip clubs, prostitution and so on is a consequence of that initial giving in type of behavior.
It is a common joke in Sex for Sale types of industry such as strip clubs, adult films, and prostitution that all the women there were sexually abused. It is one of the cliches that has its basis in sad reality.
Street crime crosses boundaries between drug related, violent, and sex related crime. Aspects of race relations, politics, illegal money laundering and cash flow are also present. Gun violence, theft, robbery, and general mayhem of the hood are rampant in this crime arena. But one aspect that is always present is someones need to assert control of an area, a turf, a hood, or an aspect of who owns this group. As with all other crime, those wishing to be in control have insecurity issues related to their self esteem. They feel a constant need to be proving who is in charge, who is “The Man.” Although there is a fair amount of bravado, most of these individuals see themselves as someone who would have gone straight if only they had the right opportunities. When people do escape this kind of crime treadmill, they are often the biggest advocates for neighborhood rescue anywhere.
White Collar Crime:
This is the kind where power is brokered behind closed doors. Most politicians and most world leaders have to either master this kind of crime, or at least tolerate it. Corporations especially own so much of the world’s resources and wield so much power, that corruption, or at the very least keeping hidden knowledge, is the norm. Toxic pollution is one of the most commonly “hidden” or downplayed crimes.
In a two party system, such as is in place in the United States the political machines runs on lobbying dollars, corporate graft, favors, and a system of arranged compromise. Many third party alternatives rise up, but they quickly fall due to the immensity of the overpowering ruling parties. Politics and progress does occur, but at a very high cost to society, and with a general sense of having to dupe the electorate.
People become cynical and completely apathetic very quickly, because after a while we come to expect no real leader will rise up and lead us all as a complete “US.” Because individual causes will always knock out good intentions, we will again fall into infighting, name calling, and scape-goating. The next guy wanting power will point to what a bad job the last guys have done. In no time, we, the public, eagerly buy the kool aid that the new guy is selling.
Crime is something we shall always have with us until we as educated society learn to admit there are no easy black and white answers. When we are able to see that those of us who become criminals are “criminals”, we may be able to change the constant tide of crime and its inequities to all of us. It is more likely that people will continue to see the criminal as “the other.” We will continue to see the opposing party, or corporation, or any other entity, as the enemy.
We will not likely soon see the enemy as people like us. The continuing lesson of history, is that in our desperation to belong, we will not learn from our history.