Tag: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment

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.

Assurance in Laughter

The laughter of humans enrages me.

At least certain humans. The forced laughter, which I myself feign too often, is a pitiable thing. Emotionless, needy, facetious; not to mention it rings in the ear like the smash of glass on floor. So I find myself, four weeks into unemployment (and counting), sitting outside in the prairie-mimicking wind, trying to hold down the pages of my borrowed hardcover book, spine digging into the brick, tailbone making its groove in the fibreglass balcony, just to avoid fake laughter.

I would rather a person pretended in any other action of emotion: crying, climaxing, tooth-grinding, yawning. Even a smile, under the same circumstances, lacks the obnoxious nature of laughter. One can laugh falsely to benefit someone putting themselves on the line with a sour joke, or to make themselves more comfortable in an awkward situation, or for attracting attention to themselves for their own benefit; the latter should be avoided more than the former, although all forms are cancerous.

I have long held the belief that people only laugh when there is someone to hear it. Tree in the forest logic, I guess. Or, ‘I need to be acknowledged while enjoying my sitcom’ syndrome. Or something awkward and shallow. Subconsciously, no doubt, but when watching a movie alone, with others in the vicinity, audible laughter is often an attempt at grabbing attention. Laughter infiltrated by insecurity. I, on occasion, have laughed audibly while sitting alone in my bedroom, but this has occurred only in response to scenes such as this, and is muffled by my realization that only the scared laugh out loud while alone.

There is no such thing as too much laughter, and I believe that all, even funeral home employees, would agree, and I am not yet a bitter and old enough man to be stealing the laughter from the scores of good-hearted people in the world. But when I hit the age of at least thirty, old and grey, expect a man ready to slay the joy and laughter of the masses. Can’t wait.

I may be mistaken but it seems to me that a man may be judged by his laugh, and that if at the first encounter you like the laugh of a person completely unknown to you, you may say with assurance that he is good.

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Memoirs from the House of the Dead, Chapter 3, p45