I was speaking with a friend last night about the idea of justice. My friend is a former police officer, with a seemingly strong sense of right and wrong. Personally I am not a fan of the idea of right and wrong. In a chaotic universe, where so many of life’s incidents happen at random, impacting individuals psychologically and physically deeply into the future with unknown effects how can we ever say anything is “right” or “wrong”.
Retrospectively perhaps, but the idea of right or wrong must purely be relative, so one man’s justice could in fact just be another man’s destruction.
Maybe it’s more of a societal question, a set of standards and rules put forth by tribal vote. A group of people decide that in their community it is wrong to eat a banana. They declare that banana’s are ethically bad for the tribe, and based on their shape may drive women completely insane, thus banana’s are forbidden. It seems arbitrary to outsiders, but maybe a hundred years ago one of the first banana’s ever consumed by that tribe happened to be poisoned, bad, etc. causing the death of the head tribesman. Therefore one bad banana was declared to have ruined the whole bunch for all of time.
So it is then, lore, ethics, and superstition, that governs that tribe. Mythology develops about this poisonous deadly banana, forests of banana tree’s are burned… which happens to really piss off the tribe next door, who has developed their culture based off the consumption of these bananas, which in turn causes war. The banana has become sacred to Tribe number 2. They, for years have existed in a world where banana’s are plentiful, and now this group of banana haters has come to destroy their sacred plant.
Who then is right? Tribe 1 has built their culture and society off the belief of the “bad banana” based on hundreds of years of legend, and at one point empirical evidence that banana’s cause death. They feel they are doing Tribe 2 a favor, destroying this poison, a poison that must have caused them all to go completely insane (obviously by consuming too many banana’s).
In the end Tribe 1 is victorious, they have wiped out the main food staple of an entire tribe causing them all either to convert to non-banana eaters, or starved the banana eaters to death. Tribe 1 is then able to continue to propagate and thrive, which they attribute ultimately to their good health and saving of all those that did not starve to non-banana eaters.
Justice has prevailed. In Tribe 1, “right” has superseded “wrong” proven by their ability to continue a rich culture, and although it may have been based on a fallacy or false premise, in a way I must agree, they are perhaps “right”. Because no matter what you believe to be right or wrong, justice is not really about the repercussions of an action, it’s about survival. Which perhaps is why the idea is so ingrained in most people’s minds. It’s primal – survive.
Be the one man in the banana hating tribe to prove that banana’s are safe to eat and you are killed as a freak of nature. Start a secret cult of banana eater’s, write essays and documents explaining the health benefits of potassium in a man’s diet, and perhaps you are all burned at the stake for heresy.
Change takes time, especially to those with deeply rooted attachments to these ideas of right and wrong.
Many men are murdered in this banana war. Generations of people feel betrayed by those that killed their loved ones over these bananas. They pass these beliefs to their children, and their children’s children, and for generations the war continues, the hate grows deeper, the land is scorched by those that seek to destroy these bananas. Each with their own idea of justice. I don’t believe in justice anymore (not in that sense at least). I believe in cause and effect. I believe that we have become so attached to our past, our history, our emotional connections, lore, mythology, and emotional pain, that truth and reason has faded. Our logic has become blinded, we can’t stop the cycle, there must be justice for someone… and all of this for what… one bad banana?
It’s simple to think about this in terms of banana’s it get’s more complex when you think of it in terms of rape, murder, pedophilia, abuse, etc. That’s when people exclaim “of course those things are wrong!” sure, retrospectively, but in a world where all you know is banana’s = death to us all, you may be able to attribute it to generations of hurt, and abuse.
Rapists, murders, abusers, at some point each of these people had become so inherently hurt by those meant to protect or help them they did either the thing they were taught to do or were neglected so badly that society failed to notice the severe decline of their mental health.
So where is justice there? Kill the murder, or lock him in jail for the rest of time. The murderer has children, who then grow up without a father, who hate the system who put their father in jail, the family is lopsided with only one parent raising many children, the children are neglected, the neglect leads to acting out, the acting out leads to jail, the jail leads to more hatred towards the system that has put them there, the lack of family attention leads to a want for kinship in fellow suffer’s who hate the system, call it a “gang”. The gang is filled with hate, hurt, loneliness, the family is poor with no access to mental help for these children. The hate builds, the desperation of poverty leads to robbery, which turns to further violence, all the “gang” knows is violence. The children grow to adults who have children of their own, who they teach this violence to, until one day, while robbing a liquor store a “gang” member is killed, he is put in jail, his children are left to begin the cycle again. Where is the justice?
During that same time period mental and behavioral health programs for the state of California only added up to $77.5 million
A difference of nearly 200% more on keeping people incarcerated versus helping those in need and stopping the cycle.
Expands Public Safety Diversion Programs. The spending plan provides $67.5 million from the General Fund on a one–time basis to establish a community infrastructure grant program administered by the California Health Facilities Financing Authority. The competitive grant program will distribute funds to cities and counties to increase capacity within local mental health, substance use disorder, and trauma–centered service facilities, with the intent that these expanded facilities will serve as an alternative to incarceration for individuals with behavioral health disorders. The grants will finance the acquisition or renovation of new or expanded facilities and equipment, as well as support diversion program startup or expansion costs. In addition to funding diversion services, the grant funding is intended to expand services to sex trafficking victims, domestic violence victims, and victims of other violent crimes.
Funding to Build a Continuum of Children’s Mental Health Crisis Services. The spending plan includes $30 million on a one–time basis to build a continuum of children’s mental health crisis services. The funding consists of $16 million from the General Fund—including a $6 million reappropriation—and $14 million in Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) state administration funding. The funds will establish a grant program administered by the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission and the California Health Facilities Financing Authority, to which counties will apply. The grant program will support county efforts to build a full range of children’s crisis services, including residential crisis beds that serve as an alternative to hospitalization, community–based intervention services, expanded respite care, and crisis training for families.
State Resources to Maintain Suicide Hotline Funding at Current Level. The spending plan includes $4 million in one–time MHSA state administrative funds to allow the state’s 11 crisis call centers that answer calls through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to maintain recently introduced services that were previously funded with discretionary county MHSA funds. The one–time funding is intended to temporarily address an ongoing suicide hotline funding shortfall until a permanent funding plan can be identified and selected.”
But here’s the point, if the idea of justice is about survival about what’s best for the tribe, even if it were based on something as arbitrary as banana eaters vs non banana eaters, no one in either current tribe is experiencing any kind of justice. No one is winning here. The logic and truth is still being burned at the stake in the name of archaic emotional response rather than logic.
Which brings me back to the realization of why my friend is now a former police officer, there are many reasons… but being a reasonable man I would have to assume that one of them is because he has already gathered the idea that the easiest way to stop this cycle and find true justice is to help those in need. Which might be why he is now a behavioral health psychiatrist specializing in PTSD, and trauma survivors like me.