Psychology and “average Joe philosophy” is quite frustrating while at the same time interesting and, to say the least, bewildering. We all have thoughts and convictions that we take for granted are true, and we often react emotionally and with great certainty even though a fraction of a second’s rational thought would prove our reaction dead wrong. Yet a lot of people, if not all, have knee-jerk reactions that are in no way based in rational thought, logic, or even facts. They are nothing but reactions, which seem to hover without being attached to anything of value, floating through space yet being constantly at your service when you need them.
Such a reaction is the terrible yet very common reaction to police brutality. Most people, in this age of dependent – rather than independent – thought, react when they see someone ruthlessly attacked by another person. Even if we do not intervene, we react emotionally internally – we feel disgust, perhaps hatred. Yet this feeling is often dependent on who the perpetrator is. If a person with a badge, let’s call him or her a “police officer,” would ruthlessly attack a stranger most of us would not react.
If a neighbor gets his door broken down and his belongings stolen by someone we feel sorry for him and do what we can to help this poor neighbor. And if we get to see who did it we might react violently. This is not the case if people dressed in fancy militaristic uniforms (costumes?) carrying a badge – they may break into our neighbor’s house, steal his belongings and drag him out in his underwear with arms tied behind his back.
In this situation, the only difference to some other thug attacking someone you know being a badge and a label, how do most people react – “I wonder what he did?”
You might react emotionally to this statement, thinking I’m unfair – and I believe most people reading this blog post would react the same way. You instinctively think it is illegitimate and unfair to compare police officers to any thug breaking down your neighbor’s door in the middle of the night. But why do you react like that? I haven’t said anything to make you believe the situation is different; on the contrary, I’ve described the very same situation and the very same sort of crime. The only difference is who did it.
I claim the action itself, the situation, is what should be morally valued, not “who” did it. Killing a person is wrong no matter who does it, unless perhaps in self-defense, just like stealing is wrong no matter who does it. Or would you say some people have the right to kill, some have the right to steal – while others do not?
I believe you do – I think you condemn some people for carrying out certain actions while you praise others for doing the very same things. I would even be willing to claim most people have come to morally judge people not depending on what they do but depending on who they are. And this is the reason we’re in this unbelievable mess.
Let’s exemplify this thesis, using the same examples as above. Killing and stealing are illegitimate, morally despicable acts – they are simply wrong . Do you agree? I think you do. Then we should morally condemn anyone who kills and steals not depending on who does it, but depending on the act itself and the situation in which the act was carried out. We might have understanding for someone being directly attacked and in desperation and fear for his own life kills the attacker. He is still liable for the act of killing, but his crime was a necessity so we might be willing to let him go – or at least not judge him as hard as if he was the attacker.
The same goes for stealing, where we would consider theft a bad act no matter the situation. We would perhaps be willing to think it okay for someone to “steal back” that which had already been stolen from him. Some would even consider it “okay” for someone starving to steal food or shelter – because of the need in a desperate situation. Along the same lines we would probably be outraged if someone in the middle class would steal from people in the neighborhood, perhaps even more so if it was a rich person.
What if it was systematic theft going on on a day-by-day basis by the richest body of organized crime there is? We would be so mad we wouldn’t be able to sit down. Unless we called that organization a “State.” The same is true for killings – we don’t judge people killing in the name of government the same way we judge others. Some would even go so far as to say people working for the government have a “Right” to kill.
Consider again the thug, or perhaps a gang of thugs, breaking down your neighbor’s door in the middle of the night. They sneak up on your neighbor’s house and smash the door, running in shouting and with guns in their hands. Your neighbor wakes up terrified, reaches for whatever means of protection he has in his bedroom and uses it on the first one to enter the door. The thugs shoot back and literally fill the walls with lead. There isn’t much left of your neighbor.
This would be a terrible crime.
Now imagine the thugs were a lot faster and were able to break into his bedroom and tie him up before he could stop them. He was only able to hurt a couple of them, but didn’t kill anyone. The thugs carry him out in his underwear to their truck and tell all neighbors showing up that there’s “nothing to see” and that there is no need to worry. All they will do is take this neighbor with them and lock him up at their house – they promise he will get “fair” treatment, but since he harmed a couple of them he must be severely punished.
I would say it is. But this is a story that has happened a number of times the last few years in the United States, and every time the neighbors have reacted by thinking their neighbor must have done something wrong and that he “had it coming.” The reason? The thugs were waving badges and calling themselves “police officers.”
The automatic reaction of the neighbors were not “Oh my God! What are they doing!”, which would supposedly be the “normal” reaction, but “I wonder what he did.” The neighbor is not innocent until proven guilty, but rather immediately judged and forgot – by people who have known the person for years. All because the thugs carrying out the break-in were licensed by the State and therefore labeled “police officers.”
In many of these recent cases, which are all available on e.g. YouTube and in the blogosphere, there has been no reason whatsoever for the “police” to storm that specific house. In some of the cases, they have simply misunderstood the address; in others, they had received information from someone saying the person living in the house was committing a crime. In most cases, they suspected the person for having drugs such as marijuana – which obviously is enough reason to break down the door in the middle of the night and attack someone sleeping peacefully in his own bed.
Now you probably wonder what happened to the people involved? In most cases, the person being attacked by the “police” was charged with assaulting police officers, since they were hurt by the person trying to protect himself. The police officers were almost to 100% freed of all charges if they were at all investigated. The only thing we can learn from stories such as these is that the police can do no wrong, not even if they attack you in the middle of the night in your own home without any reason to do so, whereas you are in deep trouble if you try to defend yourself. Next time you are the victim of a burglar (or police officer), make sure to passively accept whatever is coming your way.
Now, this may seem unfair to the “poor” police officers attacking defenseless people in the middle of the night. But this is not an attack on the police or even on any individual police officer. This is an attack on you. The reason these things happen and will go on happening is because people like you react just like you do: when someone is brutally attacked you react in defense of the victim – unless the perpetrator is wearing a uniform.
Murder is wrong and both of us would probably be scared to death seeing a killer on our street, but you would cheer and feel pride if the killer was wearing the State’s uniform. I would not. Assault is wrong and we would be terrified if a gang of thugs would attack us or someone we love or hold dear, and we would take sides with the victim – but you would most likely choose to see the perpetrators as victims if they are wearing uniforms.
What is it with a uniform that makes a vice a virtue? Let me tell you a secret: there is nothing with a uniform that gives you the right to kill, pillage, destroy, and attack. The villain here is not only the person committing the crime – i.e., carrying out the attack – but to a great degree you. You are the problem with this world, for as long as you react not to the crime but what the perpetrator is wearing there is no hope for this world.
As I said, I’m not writing this as an attack on police officers even though they definitely are to blame for a lot of wrongs. This is about you, your crimes, and how your corrupt morality is destroying this world. You are an accomplice to murder, rape, and theft – unless you rethink your morality.