Who is the criminal?
WHO IS A CRIMINAL?
Perpetrators of crimes are called criminals. They are also referred to as offenders, violators, deviants, transgressors or plain bad guys. They are presumed to be on the other side of the law. Non conformists or simply, abnormal. Easily, those who are convicted by the courts and placed under the penalty of law, or incarcerated, are labeled criminals. To date, conviction seems to be a fastidious process to determine a criminal. However, to be held as suspect and paraded for the world to see is enough to merit the tag as a criminal, never mind if in the course of litigation the person is acquitted. His record nonetheless as suspected for a misdemeanor carries the same weight as when a person is convicted.
Crime is the result when laws are not followed. To a certain extent, there is also a crime when laws are ignored. The more laws, the more criminals. And worst, the more people, as statistics have shown, the more violations. Government promulgates laws. Hence, the more government impositions, the greater the possibilities for violations. An imposing government therefore encourages more deviancy than discipline. Less government implies maturity and therefore progress.
In the past, an Italian scientist once hypothesized that criminality can be detected just by looking at the person. An ugly feature, bony cheek and strong jaws suggest criminal proclivity. Cesare Lombroso was toast of his time until his theories fell flat on its face. His ideas would however be a stereotype basis in casting characters in movies later on but never a significant reference in the determination of barbarity. Crime has nothing to do with looks and anatomical givens to be frank.
Criminality is therefore dependent on the standards by which an act can be measured. Criminality is an expression of deprivation. On the other hand, criminality is also the result of abundance. The former is out of desperation while the latter is done more out of exploitation. Crimes committed because of hunger are different from those transgressions done in the name of selfish progress. A person out to rob his neighbor to buy medicine for his sick child is different from a manager who manipulates his financial book so that those gypped could pay him more to support his gambling vice. Likewise, a man of courage does not take anyone as prey to prove his machismo but would rather test his principles in the face of an exploiter. In such instances, there is offense committed. In appreciating however, the lowly one gets the reference as criminal.
Use of terms are misleading but very revealing. When the victor commits carnage, he calls it conquering. When the vanquished has done it, he did a massacre. When the rich robs another, they are called smart. When the poor does it, they are seen as scumbags. When the influential commits an offense, they have a reason. When the squatter commits something unfortunate, they are just being unreasonable. A criminal therefore is a political or ideological tag attached to anyone outside the circle. And those within it have conscripted not only the powerful government and its apparatus but also those gatekeepers at the fringes of legislation. The world is a stage for those with something and for those with nothing. They constitute the rich and the poor. The term or label depends who what side one is in. A criminal for all we know may be the government functionary or the unemployed drunkard in the street corner. We may be committing a sweeping generalization of sort when we declare total war on the criminal for in the course of its application, it may land on the side of the exploited and mayhem may erupt.
What is a crime therefore? It is something wrong done against humanity. Less than that is merely a petty offense that does not merit considerable effort by the greater force of those who banner justice. This is one area where the criminal justice system must address itself. It should not allow its dockets to be flooded with inanities, errors or blunders of tribal limitations or of parochial considerations. It should take only cases where humanity is violated intentionally. Those short of such concern should be relegated to boards and related ad hoc bodies which government has aplenty. Our laws and courts should never be a part of a charade that depicts or pits one against another if only to prove strength or portray weakness.
A criminal is not the usual delinquent or neighborhood felon who preys on anything that compels his survival. It is one who enjoys the perks and privileges of exploiting helpless citizens either through sheer incompetence or outright lust for power. They retard progress, stagnate prosperity and rejoice at their blessed condition wrapped in luxury and constantly showered by abundance. They are in effect the very criminals we all should be wary about. They are the ones, the only specie that requires extreme termination. The rest of those who were once upon a time blamed, or even those mistakenly called criminals, deserve a merciful understanding from a confused society.
This is not an apology for the deprived sector, the landless, the property challenged or the politically frustrated. This is about criminal justice administration and the perceptions that should merit a second look. Not because the poor should be romanticized but because they ought to merit the long overdue attention they deserve. They fantasize their deliverance, even pinning their hopes on popular movie icons, even athletes and gambling lords. They deserve a break from the deafening silence of those whose idealism is still a trademark principle. Time slowly claims the vigor of those with heroic attributes. And it would be too late if senility appropriates the very seed of a genuine revolutionary fervor.