Monday, 22 July 2013

Tanj, the System is Broken

My internet has been over-quota for a while now, but even without it I have been hearing an awful lot, on the television, on the radio & by word of mouth, about the latest story in America. I don't know the details, as I missed the initial story; but what I do know is that a young black teenager, named Trayvon Martin, was killed by a man named Zimmerman. As I said, I don't know the details, but I know that Martin was unable to defend himself, yet Zimmerman shot him. Then, when this issue went to court, Zimmerman was acquitted and this caused much upset. People believe that Justice has not been served and that the man known as Zimmerman deserves more punishment than has been dealt.
In response to this, I heard one nice story of a peaceful protest in New York City, but that tale quickly fell to the wayside as even more people began rioting in the streets in the midst of a heatwave. It is a dangerous situation, many people have been hurt, property has been damaged and police have been called in to settle the new bout of protesters. Who have taunted police and caused a ruckus.
Basically, what was once a simple protest has disintegrated into a total riot.
The Word of the Day is: 'RIOT'.

Riot /'ruyət/ n. 1. Any disturbance of the peace by a group of people. 2. Law The carrying-out of a violent and unlawful act by three or more people (or, in New Zealand, at least six) acting together causing terror to people. 3. Violent or wild disorder or confusion4. A brilliant show. 5. Colloquial Someone or something that causes great amusement, enthusiasm, etc. 6. Run Riot, a. To act without control; disregard all limits. b. To grow strongly or wildly. ♦v.i. 7. To take part in a disorderly public outbreak. 8. To live or act in a wild, uncontrolled way.

Apparently, the rioting has subsided of late, but I can't tell. Perhaps my own media just finds the story boring at the moment. But media coverage of this revelation, to the injustices of the American Legal System is, to me, an absolute riot. And I mean, the fifth definition above. I find it amusing.
Not the civil disorder and outcry! No, that is entirely understandable. If you're protesting crime by committing crime, you're a moron; but the plight of this poor kid, shot by a man who dodged justice, that deserves to be heard. I believe Zimmerman should be punished.

So, no, I am not laughing at the tragedy. Rather, what I find funny about the whole affair is that it’s happening now.
Why are people complaining about this now? The system has been this messed up for a LONG time now, ever since the institution of the Legal System and it’s only after a death of a black teenager in 2013 that I hear people complaining only now? You're a little late to this party, as far as I'm concerned.
But I think I see the reason now, and that’s what I want to talk about today. if you’re confused, let me enlighten you.
The joke as I see it, is that Americans still believe in a “Justice System”.
This is how they think works:

  1. If you commit a crime, you are pursued by the police.
  2. When police catch you, you're brought to a Court of law.
  3. In court, you speak your case and the other side speaks theirs.
  4. After all's said and done, you are judged by a jury of peers.
  5. Then they decide what fate you deserve and justice is served.

This is a very simplified version of what people call the 'Justice System', but even though it doesn't cover everything, it's certainly one example of how 'justice' is served. But it is ridiculously flawed. Let me break down for you why this system serves no justice, in my eyes.

If you commit a Crime, you are pursued by the Police
Right off the bat, 'Police'. In Australia, it's not so bad - at least, not in my personal experience - but there are instances in First World Countries around the globe of police abusing their power. For example, there's a member of my extended family (whose name I will not mention) who has a Restraining Order for the Police Department. As in all of them. Why?
Because where he lived, a policeman decided that he didn't like him. I can't remember why, apparently he challenged the officer's judgement in some manner. But in response this policeman, and many of his buddies within the department, began to park their cars outside of the man's driveway every morning. Then, when he left for work or the shops or just to leave his house, they would crawl behind him with their cars to intimidate him. Then when he inevitably made some minor mistake, because he was worried about the threatening cop car behind him, they'd pull him over and book him.
Oh yeah, that sounds like 'justice'.
Not all police are arseholes, but this is one of a shitload of examples; and it only takes one drop of sour milk to spoil the bottle. I still have faith that when I meet a policeman he won't abuse his duties, but I also know that power corrupts and policemen have an awful lot of power.

When Police catch you, you're brought to a court of law
Well, that's just not true. There are a ridiculous number of crimes with just 'fines' (which, ironically, aren't all that fine). But I can't really complain about this one that much, if you commit a crime, generally you are brought to face some kind of judgement, even if that is in the swift, unjust form of a ticket.
I mean, sure, I find it sad that you can only catch a criminal after they've committed a crime, but that's not a problem with the 'Justice' System so much as it is a sad fact about the world at large. My only real issue is 'when police catch you'. What do we do in the meantime?
There is no perfect system that can catch a criminal. Nothing that works every time, nothing that guarantees to prevent them from committing more or worse crimes in the intervening time. Even if there were, it could potentially provide police with too much power. So we've got a lot of systems in place where people can outrun a jurisdiction; jump through some legal loophole and completely avoid judgement. The problem is, you don't always catch the crooks. Perhaps it's semantics - but if you let a couple slip through the cracks, then you can't call that Justice, can you?

In Court, you speak your Case and the other side speaks theirs
Uh, no you don't. You get a lawyer, who talks for you. This, I find, proves the flaw in the system. When I was young, I never understood Law & Order (the television show). As far as I could see, whenever a suspect was in the interview room and said "I'm not saying anymore until I see a lawyer" they might as well have just said "Well, you've seen through my lies, so I need to call in a professional who can lie for me.". So I asked my dad, an attorney:
  "If you're innocent, why would you ever need a lawyer?"
His answer was, basically, "You could say the wrong thing." And he's right. Your position could be misinterpreted, misrepresented, invalidated or otherwise undercut if the other side wants to use your words against you, and it could possibly even see you indicted in the proceedings.
But as I see it, if the system were truly just then I wouldn't need a lawyer to prove I'm right. If all I am doing is trying to provide the truth, why do I need a lawyer? Can't I just tell the truth?
But that's the biggest truth of all: This isn't a justice system. It's a legal system. It's a system of the law, and you need a lawyer to help you navigate the law so that you can utilize the law to somehow find truth and justice. The only way this system could be more confusing is if you had to present your case in Latin. But that's a ridiculous suggestion. . . unless your lawyer's working pro bono.

After all's said and done, you are judged by a jury of peers
Okay, this just makes me angry. You're saying that to find justice, I have to pay some arsehole thousands of dollars an hour just to pay off his law school fees and read a law book. Only to then say:
  "Sure, we spent years trying to make a just legal system and deciding what is right and wrong. But pfft! Screw that, let's bring in some people off the street to decide what's right and what's wrong."
Fuck You, Legal System. What is the point? Seriously WHAT is the POINT of having a court of law if you're then going to bring in some people off the street to decide the final truth who know nothing about law?
And that's the truth, they know nothing about law. Lawyers aren't allowed to do jury duty, and if those in charge realize that you know about the law then they can potentially deny you jury service (that's a fun one. next time you want to avoid jury duty. Just go to the registrar and say "I look forward to utilizing the power of Jury Annulment.")
But am I saying that we shouldn't get judged by a jury of peers? HELL NO!
That's even worse! You are worried about one black teenager who won't find justice? It is a Fact that the majority of judges are old, white & racist, and I believe that played no small part in Zimmerman's acquittal. I don't believe that judges are any more capable of finding justice than twelve civilians, but at least it's less likely for twelve random people to all be racist.

Then they decide what Fate you deserve and Justice is served
I'm sorry, NO. I don't call that 'Justice'. You cannot pile Opinion, Corruption, Silence & Elitism on top of one other and call it 'Justice', that is an absolute joke.

The title of this post includes the word 'tanj'. The word is from the works of Larry Niven (the author of the Ringworld novels). It's a fictional profanity, and the word itself is an acronym: T.A.N.J.There Ain't No Justice.
These days, I feel the word speaks volumes.

So I do not believe we have a Justice System. Sure, sometimes it achieves justice. Sometimes the bad guy goes the jail, the family gets over their grief and good things come from dark beginnings, but that is not always the case . . .

However, I am not telling you all of this so that you lose all faith in the law. The system is heavily flawed, but it works sometimes and without it we would be much worse off . Just be cautious around it, because we don't have a Justice System, but we do have a Legal System. So long as you understand that, and realize that Justice is not a guarantee, you can use this system to your advantage, and when you see the Legal System committing these injustices, speak up.
Not every snake is venomous, but when you see a snake you can't identify, you should be cautious around it just in case. I believe the same mindset should be taken around the Legal System. Not every cop is corrupt, not every law is unjust, not everyone in jail is innocent and most criminals go to jail, so it's probably going to be okay; but just in case it's not, you need to make sure you're not going to get bitten in the arse.

That's why I am disappointed it took so long for people to see these injustices, like those committed against Trayvon Martin, because he's not the first; people just let the system get away with it because they thought they could trust it. But unless the system changes, he won't be the last either.

And most importantly, when this all dies down. Whether or not Zimmerman is brought to justice or not - Don't Let your Guard Down!
Trayvon Martin has become a martyr to a cause, but he represents hundreds of comparably innocent victims and many more crimes left unresolved, so don't wait for another injustice before you try to fix this broken system. Otherwise, all that's going to happen is that more people will get swept under the rug, more people will riot and I'll just keep on laughing at a joke no one else understands.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm off to see if I can find my favourite kind of justice: Vigilante.

2 comments:

  1. It's not that Trayvon Martin was a wake-up call for the flaws in the legal system; it's that despite all our efforts to make the laws equal, racism still exists in the legal system. We keep trying to make several steps forward, and someone else wants to go one step backward.

    It's also the fact that the Sanford Police covered up the incident, not even giving answers to Trayvon's mother and father about what happened. THAT is why people got angry, that Zimmerman was walking around free while two parents mourned the loss of their son.

    We know that dozens of cases become based on race have happened, and I agree, the only thing we can do is remain aware of it

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  2. The biggest problem was that Zimmerman was tried with second degree murder, and there was absolutely no evidence of it. The four minutes where the crime happened there were no witnesses, so only Zimmerman knows what happened. If he were tried for man slaughter, he would more likely get what's coming to him. There are definitely holes in the system, and the entire case was pretty heated. Laws needed changing, including gun laws (like why did someone untrained in using guns possessed a gun when he was only on neighbourhood watch?). Lots of havoc really.

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