Crime and Punishment

by Nic Olson

Crime is a protest against the abnormality of social order—just that and nothing more, no other causes admitted, and that’s that!

-Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Part 3 Chapter 5, p253

“Place your right index finger on the pad in front of you. Your right. Your index. Ok. Now place your left index finger on the pad in front of you. Ok, good. Welcome to America.”

Crime, in its traditional sense, was evident in Mexico. Crime is easily noticed when it is hitting you over the head with a rock and holding a knife to the back of your friend. Or when it is trying to steal your camera in the middle of a busy street in Mexico City, with onlookers watching Crime trying to intimidate you as you wrestle with it for your camera bag.

Crime is less evident in Chino, California however its presence is not naively denied. It sure seemed like a crime to cross the border from Mexico into the promised land as I was searched, questioned and as our Greyhound was stopped randomly in New Mexico to double check the illegal immigrant inventory on the bus. After three weeks in ‘lawless’ Mexico, arriving stateside makes me more nervous and uncomfortable than I did while being attacked in a country with a different language. Crime that hides is more worrisome to me than crime that sits out in the open.

We are in a time where you can be a criminal for crossing an imaginary line on a map. This solidifies the fact that our form of social order is absurd; that what we have accepted as normal ways of interacting and behaving are not natural. In general, living according to a set of laws and rules created by man is against our nature as humans. Crime, when defined as it is in the quote above, opposing what can be considered as socially normal, is no more than a human acting as a human. When the laws and lawmakers are corrupt and the enforcers of those laws are breaking the laws themselves, then crime cannot be properly defined as what is against the law. Crime is the natural human response to being caught in a system of unnatural social order. If our social order was based on all of us standing in a straight line holding hands, the person that refuses to hold hands or stands ten centimetres ahead, is a criminal.

Crime is more than an action punishable by law. If law didn’t exist, as they say it is in Mexico, crime still would. When social order is based on ‘the facts of society which remain relatively constant over time‘, then we must review what we have allowed to become constant, that is, what our social order is based on. Crime may be a problem, but the greater problem is the need to change the social order so that it becomes less necessary to protest it at all. Like any other type of protest, crime does not have the ability to directly to change anything, but it at least gives us the reminder of the abnormality of social order and our obligation to change it in whatever means possible.

Like a first class criminal, I gave the US Government a copy of my fingerprints for their records. Forever archived. If crime is indeed simply the ‘protest against the abnormality of social order’, then I don’t mind if Border Control considers me armed and dangerous. A clear cut criminal.