Was Ariel Castro a Monster or a Product of the System?
The trial and conviction of Ariel Castro is the one of the more recent supposedly “shocking” crime stories to dominate american mass media. To summarize it in one sentence- the guy kidnapped, imprisoned and raped three young women for over a decade while simultaneously living an unremarkable and outwardly normal life.
As usual, talking heads in the mass media have come out with their own interpretations of what drove that guy to do what he did. There are those who see it as evidence for the existence of “true” evil, while others interpret it as the actions of a deranged and mentally ill man. Yet others see it evidence of a decline in neighborliness and social cohesion. However almost every single one of these talking heads and media pundits seem to agree that what Ariel Castro did was very abnormal, unusual and bizarre.
But were his actions abnormal, unusual or bizarre?
And this brings us to an important, though rarely asked, question- how do we determine whether any given behavior or action is normal or not? Are there any hard and fast rules for what is OK or not OK? Let us start by looking at human history over the last 100-150 years. During that period many behavior and actions most of us would today denounce as abhorrent, at least in social settings, were considered normal and socially acceptable.
Slavery and ‘Jim Crow’ was once totally acceptable and legal.. and some would say the later is still well and alive, if under a different name. Using child labor in hazardous industries was once very common and considered an integral part of capitalism. Killings millions of minorities, like the Jews and Armenians, was also totally legal and socially acceptable. Eugenics was once considered progressive social policy and sending millions of men to die for the sole purpose of lining the pockets (and fluffing the egos) of rich, old and decaying impotent white men was once considered normal. There are therefore no hard and clear boundaries to what is normal and what is not, regardless of what paid sophists (academics and intellectuals) say or write. And this brings us to the next important question that even fewer people want to ask..
Were the actions of Ariel Castro typical of American society in the 2000s or were they truly deviant?
Let us start with the part about kidnapping and imprisoning innocent people. As many of you know, extraordinary rendition of people suspected for “terrorism” is a routine and publicly accepted part of the war on “terror”. Almost nobody seems to care that most of the suspects apprehended under this extrajudicial way of doing things are either low-level members or innocent people who happen to have the same names as suspects. Then there is the whole business of secret prisons and torture facilities, often run in other countries by governments that are friendly or compliant with the USA. You might have also heard about Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. The point is that kidnapping and imprisoning innocent people is totally normal and acceptable in the USA, as long as they are not white.
But what about all that torture, sexual and psychological abuse that those three girls were subjected to. Surely that has no equivalent in the contemporary american society, or does it? To answer that question we have to look at who is imprisoned in the USA, for what reasons and under what conditions. Once again, some of you might be aware that the USA leads the world in incarcerating its own people- both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population. The rate of incarceration has also lost any linkage to the amount of violent crime committed. Moreover, a large and important sector of the american economy is now based upon arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people- all under the guise of ‘law and order’.
Then there is the question of who is incarcerated and who is not. The american system has no interest in prosecuting “white-collar” crime unless the suspects is non-white or a small time operator who made many powerful enemies. People who made billions by selling useless or harmful drugs that killed tens of thousands will never be jailed. Similarly, those who made billions and trillions by destroying the lives of millions through ‘legal’ financial engineering will never see the inside of a jail cell. Yet average or poor people who broke some inane and almost never enforced law are often dragged in court and sentenced to prison. Similarly low-level pot or crack dealers often end up in jail for years or decades even if they have not been violent. To put it another way, american “justice” is a bad joke that only a stupid, fat, impotent and decaying CONservative white moron can believe in.
The conditions in most american jails are also pretty grim. Most are overcrowded places with lots of internal violence, rape, drugs etc. Then there is the whole issue of solitary confinement, its effects and supermax prisons.
To put it another way, the american system pays millions of people to do far worse to millions others than what Ariel Castro did to those three women. It is too bad that Ariel Castro chose the occupation of a school bus driver and had to do those things “illegally” when he could done all that and more “legally” if he worked as a police or corrections “officer”. He could also have made much more money doing that than as a school bus driver.
What do you think? Comments?