Friday, May 1, 2015

Civil Disobedience and Laws

Does anybody else find it ironic we're talking about civil disobedience right now so that it coincides with the Baltimore protests?

The first set of written laws was the Code of Hammurabi, a compendium of 282 laws that outlined how every citizen should live. Most of the laws were extremely harsh- punishable by death- forcing the citizens to behave in a way that he could later on alter those laws to be more lenient. Since then, we've had dictatorships and democracies, laws written by a single individual or a group of people. Regardless of the intent, there will always be someone suffering from it. Suffering exists in the world, after all, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

For the most part, the laws today are pretty fair and just- you steal something, you go to jail for it. Who decides it? A judge or a jury of your own peers. Pretty fair, right? The judge has to go to law school for it, and the jury are a group of civilians. Cool. However, there are some cases that make you sort of do a double-take on the decisions. Have you heard of Junko Furuta? To summarize, a group of four teenage boys kidnapped a 16-year-old girl for over 40 days, torturing, raping, and mutilating her body the entire time. The sad part is that one of the boys' parents were present at the time- during one instance when she escaped, they found her, fed her, and then put her back in the room she was locked in. Why? Because they were "too afraid of their son." She did die eventually, and they disposed of her body in a drum filled with concrete. Mind you, this happened in the early 1990s. The fun thing? All her murderers are already out of jail by now; the shortest and longest sentences were 8 and 20 years respectively. For kidnapping, murdering, and raping a girl. Was there any civil disobedience over this? Not at all. Because Japan is vastly different from us, in both morality and community. There's a famous proverb in Japan: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. Get the picture?

On the other hand, Americans are on the opposite end of the spectrum. We will riot. We will freak the fuck out if anything is too unjust, such as the Baltimore protests going on. Just like Wall Street. We have a very different sense of morality than Japan does, which goes without saying that morality is not universal and is extremely subjective, from individual to individual. Many people value animal lives much lower than a human's, but I do not; a year or two for taping a dog's mouth shut and letting it starve to death? (This is a real case, by the way). That deserves far more than that. But just because I think that doesn't mean others do; my opinion is in the minority. There's a law set in place for these kinds of things, and it seems to be working for most people apparently.

A law may or may not be fair. It depends on which side of the fence you're sitting on.