The atmospheric skip was favorable, so my multi-band ghetto blaster managed to receive a shortwave radio station broadcasting from New Zealand. I listened intently as the signal repeatedly faded out and back in. The “RNZ Pacific” announcer was interviewing a government official regarding an alarming white collar crime wave. Several corporate executives were being investigated for defrauding the treasury of a small city. Due to the tentative nature of the atmospheric skip, I wasn’t able to hear many of the important details about the crimes before the radio station’s signal entirely faded away.
I switched off the radio, and leaned back in the desk chair. I felt sad that even an idyllic country such as New Zealand is blighted with crime. It seems that wherever humans live, there is a certain percentage of people who do awful things.
Crime begins with unhappy people who either intend to harm others or do not care if others are harmed. The crime might be blatant acts of mayhem and murder or fraudulent such as the city in New Zealand suffered. To cause unhappiness in others is one of the results of crime. To foster unhappiness in oneself is where crime begins.
Crime is often the byproduct of unfavorable social circumstances and individual problems. The causes of everyday crime like muggings, robbery, and burglary are easier to understand than corporate and governmental fraud. Petty criminals are easier to apprehend because of the amateur nature of their wrong-doing. Vandalism and home break-ins are easier to solve due to the proliferation of modern technological surveillance devices. Cases involving fraud and organized crime are much more difficult to solve because nearly all of it is premeditated. The perpetrators are more likely to find ways to outwit police and official investigators.
It’s interesting to note that no punishment has been strong enough to deter the commission of crimes. In even the most repressive police states, people steal from others, commit fraud towards others, and murder each other. Whenever a new form of punishment is devised to punish specific crimes, new ways of avoiding punishment arise. The jails and prisons overflow with new miscreants and felons. In most instances, the prisons are de facto universities that criminals teach and learn from each other. The result being more sophisticated criminals. Crime and means of punishment have been problematic and controversial throughout history and will likely remain so in the foreseeable future.
The most serious crimes are committed by organized syndicates. The instigators corrupt society at all levels. Whether it is a protection racket in the inner city or the corruption of a nation’s politicians and corporate executives, the harm is far-reaching. Such criminal activity affects great numbers of victims at a time. Organized crime can be found in nearly every aspect of society. When their venue is the Internet, the criminals exploit the international nature of the Web. The crooks are able to avoid apprehension to an alarming degree.
There are also environmental crimes such as pollution and exploitation of resources. Although these crimes affect the planet as a whole, they remain controversial with the perpetrators exploiting legal loopholes. The power of the wrongdoers is so immense that whistle-blowers are reluctant to come forward because of great risk to themselves. Thus, the crimes continue unabated.
The subject of crime is depressing to contemplate. It’s easy to understand why we wish to deny it or look the other way. Ironically, society loves crime in the form of entertainment. Cops and robbers television shows are always popular with the viewing public. Movies and video games that feature wars, organized crime, and lots of bloodshed are some of the most profitable forms of entertainment. We are fascinated by the evils of people like Charles Manson.
Historical tales of gangs headed by serious criminals such as Jesse James or Al Capone are perennial best sellers. I find stories of large-scale intrigue and deception fascinating. The stories about atrocities like the Jonestown mass murder-suicide in Guyana in 1978 are fodder for endless speculation.
It appears that criminals and crime will always be part of society. The best we can do is to nip it in the bud. Whether it is violent activity or financial corruption, crimes are violations of the heart and spirit. Learning compassion and consideration for others will go a long way towards a solution. This is not a pollyanna approach. When people care enough for themselves and others, we tend to get along better and not harm one another.
Anyway, these are just some random thoughts and opinions about a timeless subject. Be safe.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actor, director, screenwriter, John Huston. “…After all, crime is only a left-handed form of human endeavor.”