Saturday, 16 February 2013

Bending the rules

We've all committed crimes, haven't we? Maybe hundreds and hundreds of them. Sometimes petty, sometimes serious. So we can hardly get on our high horse about "criminals" when we're less than snowy-white ourselves.

And if you tell me you've never committed a crime, I don't believe you. No speeding? No petty pilfering? No VAT-dodging? Nothing from the black market? No illegal drugs? No litter-dropping? How could you be so saintly? Do you have a police officer in the family?

I frankly admit that I have on occasion done all the things on that list. Not out of ignorance either but quite deliberately. Because the way I see it, although in general laws are needed to maintain decent behaviour, there are times when breaking the law does no harm, may actually be necessary in the circumstances, and may (shock horror) just be enjoyable and cathartic.

How many of us have nicked a few things from work to compensate for a tyrannical boss or miserable pay? Or hurtled through a 30 mph zone because we're late for work or just like to put our foot down? Or bought something knowing full well it's from a dodgy source but it's half the normal price? How many of us slavishly keep to the law because we're afraid of unleashing anarchy or mayhem? Is there anyone that puritanical, that strait-laced?

By the same token, I won't rush to judgment over other people who've committed crimes, or at least relatively minor ones. I won't condemn a penniless woman who's shoplifted from the local corner shop to feed the kids, or someone with rent arrears who's done a moonlight flit, or a homeless person who squats in a long-time empty house. Okay, so they're breaking the law, but maybe you or I would do the same in similar circumstances. How can I tell them they're criminals and happily see them fined or jailed? I'd need a heart of stone.

Those people who pontificate about law and order and coming down hard on law-breakers are probably not only heartless arseholes but also hypocrites. Let she who is without sin cast the first stone....

30 comments:

John Gray said...

Speeding
Going down a one way street
Throwing a bag of dogs shit at a car that nearly hit me on a zebra crossing
That's about it for me
Oh and murder!

Nick said...

John: Murder, huh? Was it the homophobic politician or the village busybody? As for the other offences - is that the best you can do?

Bijoux said...

I see your point, but I certainly wouldn't want to live in a world without laws.

Grannymar said...



Bless me father for I have sinned...
Speeding
Reused un-franked postage stamps
Killed a cat - If I braked, the car behind me would have crashed into me.

My Knees are worn out so go easy on my penance!

Nick said...

Bijoux: Oh, I'm not saying I'd want to do away with laws altogether, I'm just saying that there are situations where breaking them is not only harmless but maybe a good idea.

Grannymar: Sorry, that's just not good enough. What about all the other crimes you're pretending ignorance of?

Kristofor Ballance said...

The issue I have is that most laws are made without a sense of conscious.

A mother stealing bread to feed her children is still a crime. It is left to those that enforce the law to take pity and more often than not, they show none.

Nick said...

Kris: Indeed, however necessary the crime, the courts may strictly enforce the law. Which is why so many women are in jail for petty offences.

kylie said...

surely you are not quoting the bible??

Nick said...

Kylie: Are you saying atheists shouldn't quote the Bible? Even if there's no mention of God?

kylie said...

well either it has value or it doesnt

Nick said...

Kylie: Sure it has value. Should I be eschewing the Bible and whatever wisdom it contains because I'm a non-believer? Should I not read The Hobbit because I don't believe in hobbits?

Nick said...

Hey, Kylie Tai, your only concern is whether I should be quoting from the Bible or not? Is this for real?

kylie said...

Nick, the principle you are espousing is attributed to Jesus himself, who you believe to be a total crock.
I find it offensive that you can repeatedly mock Christianity and then quote from it's namesake.

kylie said...

what else would you like me to be concerned with?

kylie said...

you know, nick, you are irritable about people who dont respect vegetarianism, or unusual expressions of gender, or age or ethnicity and i bet you are way too pc yourself to make any criticism of muslims, jews, buddhists, black people, asians, homosexuals, photographers, shop assistants, artists, writers or taxi drivers but Christians are open slather.

Nick said...

Kylie: Goodness, honey, what brought all this on? I write a post on crime, with a casual biblical quote at the end, and you say I "repeatedly mock Christianity." When and where have I repeatedly mocked Christianity? I have said many times that if someone finds that Christian beliefs add something to their life, then fine, why not? Likewise I hope my own atheism is fine by you.

Nick said...

Kylie: Neither am I especially pc. I'm as capable of outrageously un-pc remarks as anyone else. If pc means treating other people decently and with respect, then yes, I aspire to be pc. But "way too pc"? What does that mean exactly?

Macy said...

Nick! I don't think we do rush to judgement over people prosecuted or charged with petty crimes. Rather we accept that the laws do exist and that if you persist in criminal behavior you will get caught one of these days.
As they used to say in "Porridge " jail can become an occupational hazard..."

Nick said...

Macy: But you are blaming the criminal though? And saying that they're guilty whatever the circumstances, because the law's the law?

Nick said...

I was thinking about emergency vehicles that are allowed to break the speed limits to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Although hundreds of people have been knocked down or even killed, we accept that there's a valid reason for breaking the law.

Secret Agent Woman said...

When it comes to judging, I see a difference between crimes that hurt others and crimes that are less harmful. We do need laws, of course, but not all sins are equal.

Ursula said...

You do surprise me, Nick. I had you down as an upright law abiding citizen. Rubber bands, paperclips and a ream of A4 finding their way into your briefcase on the way out? My my. One of my bosses 'stole' openly and frequently from her own business. Help yourself, she'd say. I call it proactive.

"Crime' is a bit of a strong word for some of the misdemeanours you mention, isn't it? Reminds me: One of the first arguments you and I had when I found out that you are a litter lout. A "crime" I have zero compassion for. NONE.

Speeding through a 30 mph zone? Definitely a no no. No child should be killed on your way to work. Speeding on a motorway? Definitely. Even in Belgium. And by speeding I don't mean going at 71 mph on a 70 mph autobahn. I mean going 140 km/h. That way losing your license and a lot of money makes the thrill worthwhile. This is were Lady Luck shines on me. It's quite extraordinary. I haven't been caught once - ever! Indeed like the hapless what's her name I once took some points on behalf of my then husband who had reached the limit. Not that I'd ever dine out on it as she did. Either you do something or you don't. Honour among thieves and all that.

Stealing food for your children? Maybe for yourself? Sure. I have turned many a blind eye. Not because I am a saint but because the mark up in supermarkets is so high why shouldn't people help themselves? Like poor students. If nothing else you have to admire their nerve.

Tell you a funny story (well, funny to me) and since your picture depicts a bottle of wine: A couple of years ago I went into Tesco, picked up a bottle of wine and then remembered that I wanted to get some money out of the cash point first. I must have been in a dream. Walked out of the store - bottle openly in hand. When I woke up I was in a bind: How can I walk back into the store and explain that I'd like to pay for what was already in my possession? 'Possession' as in the legal term. Interesting dilemma. Don't you think?

As to Kylie's comment: I do think we have to consider each other's sensitivities. However, I do agree with you that the Bible, whatever your (non)religion, is a most interesting book lending itself to be quoted. One of my favourites is the one about people in glasshouses.

U

PS Politeness asks me to apologize for the length of my comment. I won't apologize because unless we say what we want to say no meaningful dialogue will ever develop.

Nick said...

Agent: I agree. Clearly we're not going to be very tolerant of murder or arson or major theft. It's the more everyday things that can sometimes be seen as excusable. Let's not forget about "mitigating circumstances".

Nick said...

Ursula: I've never had a briefcase by the way, and I never take my work home with me.

Re speeding, I was once nicked for doing 45 mph on a 30 mph dual carriageway in Glasgow with not a pedestrian in sight. I wasn't in any way driving dangerously, but I was breaking the law.

You like driving at 140 kph? Well, why not, as long as there's no obvious danger to anyone....

Oh yes, the inadvertent walking out of a store with something, I've done that a few times....

No need to apologise, you make a lot of very good points!

Liz said...

Copying cds we borrow from the library! On the grounds that I have no intention of buying it so I'm not really losing them any money. Think that would stand up in court? No, nor me. Very definitely guilty as charged.

Nick said...

Liz: Ah, I plead not guilty to that one! Neither have I nicked books from the library, that would be seriously anti-social.

Suburbia said...

a few paper-clips...turning right when the sign says left turn only, and that's only this week!

Nick said...

Suburbia: Ah yes, we aren't fully fledged office workers until we've swiped a few paper clips. Not that you're really an office worker....

Rummuser said...

I will most decidedly not cast the first stone, though I am not a she.

Nick said...

Ramana: Very sensible of you. You don't want anyone throwing a few stones back!