Simon Fowler's Blog

rLiving Day 19: Crime and Punishment (Directness/Power)

Posted by Simon on May 19, 2010

Crime. A man breaks into an apartment at number 23, ransacks the place and steals money and jewelry of sentimental value. He’s disturbed by a woman who lives in the opposite apartment. He knocks her over as he escapes but she is otherwise unharmed physically.

You live over the road at No. 20 and hear about it a couple of days later. It’s been a quiet neighborhood and that kind of thing has never happened before. So you’re a bit spooked out by the whole thing but you hear the woman hasn’t been able to sleep since. The person who lives in the apartment hasn’t been able to go back there.

Punishment. The man is eventually caught and given a jail term.

Justice? What are the relational dynamics between the burglar and the others and you? What relational factors have been dealt with by the justice system?

Relational Proximity Dimension #1 is “Directness”. My relationship with someone is better and healthier the less mediated it is. It can be mediated by technology or other people: these reduce our ability to communicate fully. It can also be mediated, even when face to face, by dishonesty and fakeness: there’s a real me and a real you, any fronts we put up reduces directness.

Relational Proximity Dimension #4 is Parity. The greater the asymmetry of power between me and someone else the greater the potential for difficult and strained relationships. This asymmetry can be real or perceived, and its affect on relationships can be more about the use and misuse of power than the mere existence of power disparity. This dimension can also be considered in terms of fairness, or justice.

A relationship has been established between the burglar and the woman, the owner, and all the neighbors including you. If you like, the commonality (dimension #5) of the crime has bound you all together.

There has been a direct face-to-face relationship between the burglar and the woman, which makes the relationship more significant even as it’s hideous. [Makes me think I should change the definition of directness to “makes the relationship more significant” rather than “better”. What constitutes ‘better’ is determined by the purpose/commonality].

One reason it’s hideous is that he’s created an enormous injustice, an imbalance of power (actual, in terms of his physical assault, and perceived, in terms of his having left her feeling afraid). Because of your proximity to the scene, and you being neighbors (another commonality with the woman), you also have a relationship with the burglar, albeit mediated, but also negative since you too feel an insecurity and fear or powerlessness.

What has the jail term done to restore or make right these relationships?

“Restorative Justice” is something I’ll explore again in the future, but for now, watch this video that tells a similar tail. If you can’t understand the thick London accent let me know and I’ll translate!


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