While walking my dog Sheena this morning I witnessed a car blow through a stop sign (after slowing down, meaning he saw the sign but chose to ignore it) and almost run over a woman who was on her bicycle pulling a small child behind her. I yelled a profanity at the man in the car and shot a knowing glance to the lady on the bike and then continued my stroll home, Sheena in tow. As I tend to do a few times a day, I imagined a situation where the near accident was actually an accident. As Sheena peed in front of every house we passed I played out a scenario in my head where the woman got hit by the car. She was fine, just a little shaken up, but the car took off and it was up to me to save it. It the first daydream, I threw a brick at the car, which then came to a stop, with the driver exiting and wanting to fight me. Of course I kick his ass and make him apologize, being the hero as usual. In the next scenario though, things didn’t work out quite as smooth. He got away, the woman and child were badly hurt, and I didn’t know what to do.
I have other daydreams also. I dream of a future, often not too far down the road, where utopian conditions have spread all over. Problems still pop up from time to time, but they’re usually taken care of in a humane way- restorative justice, mediation, and other human ways to deal with issues. In this world everyone looks out for each other; there are no police, no building department, no military. When I picture a world lacking these authority figures, I don’t – like we are trained to – think that people would be running amok, smashing windows, and pillaging and raping each other. In most cases, I can envision a solution to the problem facing me that doesn’t involve court appearances and prison time. Sometimes things get a bit tricky though.
Let’s take the situation above. What I mean by alternate forms of justice, in this case, would be to have some kind of community meeting for the person who ran the stop sign and hurt the woman and child. The woman and child would be there, the man who ran the stop sign would be there, and so would other people from the neighborhood, or anyone else who feels they were directly or indirectly effected by the incident. No police to rough the guy up, no judge to sentence him like he’s just a name on a piece of paper, and no corporate prisons to profit off of his slave labor. The question is, in the second daydream scenario anyway, without license plates, motor vehicle departments, and police how would we find the guy?
I don’t have an answer. The best one I can think of is that we wouldn’t find the person and it wouldn’t necessarily matter. Does justice mean holding the person who committed the offense accountable? I think part of it does, but shouldn’t it be more about helping the victim? Making sure she gets the care she needs, both physically and emotionally? Helping her fix her bike? Helping the child overcome her potential fear of cars or riding bicycles?
We, as a society, tend to focus more on the perpetrator than on the survivors. If I’m walking down the street, I get mugged and beaten, and I call the cops the focus is on catching and punishing the person who mugged me. They local police department may have a few thousand dollars a year that it dedicates to “victim services” but this pales in comparison to what they spend arresting, trying, and imprisoning the so-called criminal. It also costs money down the road; maybe the person who ran the stop sign is a great person, an amazing father of a few children, he helps out in his community and is well respected. He just happened to make a mistake. After spending some time in prison, his life changes and he will probably end up back in the pen. Not to mention the effects on his children and spouse and neighbors. So, this man’s life is potentially ruined. How does that help the person he hit?
I’m not saying my world is perfect, it’s far from it. However, instead of criticizing it or calling it unrealistic, why not try to build off of it. Why not create little experiences on your block or in your neighborhood?
In case you give a fuck, here is what I consider news today.
Ralph Nader breaks down the dog and pony show that most people call a presidential election, in a way that even voters can understand.
Let’s add Syria to the list of countries to bomb to shit in the name of freedom or democracy or whatever it’s called nowadays.