Friday, July 30, 2010


We continue reviewing the 1986 book entitled “The Politics of Victimization” by Robert Elias, then of Tufts University.*

Summing up what he sees a Victimology’s contributions, Elias writes that it “has provided new methods for understanding victims (who had long been ignored), but also crime generally. It has allowed us to view crime as a totality, and to fill criminology’s many gaps. Beyond its scientific achievements, it has also made a normative contribution … Aside from being at the forefront of developing new victim services and assistance, it has helped spearhead a new political movement for victims.” (p.22)

The “new methods” rely on a highly dubious combination of surveys and self-surveys combined with ‘advocacy science’ extrapolation of those numbers by persons whose credentials are not always impressive for the task and whose primary objective is not to discover existing Reality but to Shape a new Reality. Which is much in keeping, coincidentally, with the entire Revolutionary approach: you have a vision and a pretext for ‘whatever action it takes’ to bring your vision’s agenda to fulfillment.

The ‘victims’ had been “ignored” – and for quite a long time – because the concept of Law in the West had evolved beyond revenge and emotionalism and toward detached and objective assessment of provable and relevant facts so as to a) prevent the misapplication of the sovereign police power and b) to prevent society continually being wracked by private and personal vengeance.

And you can look around today and see that with the re-introduction of the victim-focus – coincident with the commonality-fracturing adoption of Identity Politics – both (a) and (b) are now back in full swing.

But I do support the “victim services” which in their basic efforts help persons unfamiliar with legal processes to get through the complexities of law enforcement process and especially court process.

Many of those “gaps” were the things put aside when the West shifted away from a vengeance-victim mode of enforcing law. So in this area Victimology has not introduced new ‘change’ but has actually re-introduced old and discarded elements.

And in best how-to-sell-your-product style, its supporters – Elias clearly among them – have selectively emphasized the positive while neglecting the negative and dangerous, and then he works hard to ‘spin’ the whole thing as purely-positive and a Great and Good New Thing.

And of course the final giveaway is the proud assertion that Victimology has not only provided a conceptual basis and justification for all this, but has actively “spear-headed a new political movement” – which is clear warning that there will be precious little detachment and objectivity in the ‘research’ and that there is a greatly heightened potential for partisan spin in the service of manipulation and deception of the public. But, as always, all in a ‘good cause’.

But then, immediately after those statements, Elias puts his objective hat again (halfway, at least) and lists the “drawbacks” (p.22) About the elements that have been “faulted” by outside critics he states: “Methodologically, [Victimology] has gathered data from very varied sources. Information culled from statistics, victimization and self-report surveys, case studies, archives, experimental and quasi-experimental studies, anecdotal reports, and participant observation has vastly enriched our victimological data.”

Note that this is a sly defense of some verrrry dubious ‘research’ procedures. The statistics have been extrapolated in many cases; the self-report surveys, anecdotal reports, and participant observation mean simply asking certain persons about their ‘story’; and in regard to the studies: the experimental have been conducted by ‘advocacy’ researchers (of whatever level of expertise and competence) and the quasi-experimental indicates a ‘study’ whose structure and methods did not conform to accepted professional standards in some or many ways.

And it is my personal habit nowadays never to easily-accept the use of the word “rich” in any of its grammatical forms, especially when accompanied by an exaggerated adjective or adverb (such as “vastly”).

I’d also note that much of what he describes that seems to be mere ‘story-telling’ conforms closely to the early and radical feminist “epistemology”: that women (somehow) process information with their emotions rather than the (male) mind and reason, that they are therefore not ‘abstract’ or ‘detached’ but rather emotionally involved in what they ‘report’, and that ‘narrative’ and story – rather than the male ‘argument toward facts’ is an equally valid, if not indeed much better, way to get at ‘facts’. Which ‘facts’, feminist epistemology would continue, do not exist anyway but are merely conditioned-observations stemming from a tainted, patriarchal habit of perceiving events that do not in any case participate in any ‘reality’ independent of the viewer.

Whew. What that last bit boils down to is that when dealing with the Six Blind Folks and the Elephant Problem (six folks unable to see come into tactile contact with the very different parts of the elephant: tusk, trunk, ear, legs, body, and tail) then feminist epistemology will decide that the Elephant doesn’t exist in the first place since there are such differing reports about it. Which is a colossal mistake that the ancients in the East chose not to make millennia ago and that the Greeks, with their efforts at analyzing according to the best and most proper use of their Reason and their mind, also avoided millennia ago.

Such ‘progress’.

He then neatly adds that the really substantive objections are that Victimology (in its criminal justice variant) doesn’t have enough data, when really, he insists, Victimology has far more data; but, as I have said, most of that ‘data’ is not professionally acceptable ‘data’ at all, but merely a collection of unverified and often unverifiable ‘stories’ that constitute ‘feelings’ which no outside observer can verify and that therefore constitutes that ‘spectral evidence’ that fueled and lethally deranged the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. (p.22)

Then he neatly includes objections from the Left – that Victimology has not gone far enough: there are suggestions that Victimology should “break the shackles of criminological methodology by devising new theories and by applying an open systems approach to our inquiries”. (p.22) But this suggestion really means that Victimology is still trying to be too ‘scientific’ according to ‘professional standards’ that are themselves too ‘patriarchal’ (meaning: detached, objective, insistent on careful and replicable investigation and assessment, and careful to make sure that its conclusions do not outrun its evidence and logically proceed from the evidence). The SO community is verrry familiar now with ‘science’ that has followed that ‘suggestion’. **

Other complaints – again from the Left – want to see ‘rape’ explored differently, freed from the shackles of evidence and more accepting of ‘story’, since the traditional criminological practice “favors the offender’s perspective”. Again, the SO community is familiar now with where such suggestions can lead a government and a country. ***

Indeed, the final complaint-suggestion he mentions is that Victimology “has unnecessarily constrained itself within traditional criminology’s boundaries, adopting the same conservative mentality”. (p.22) And that “conservative” means that the suggesters don’t accept the ‘old’ approach of the scientific method: formulate a hypotheses, carefully gather untainted data, assess the data objectively and carefully, and make only such conclusions as the data and the evidence will support.

This is not the way of Revolution and of Revolutionary ‘science’ where you already know what the real truth is and your job is simply to throw out a few ‘facts’ that ‘prove’ that the Revolution is right.

And again, the SO community nowadays is verrrry familiar with the results of that sort of thing.

He then neatly and subtly shifts from crime-Victimology to international-humanitarian Victimology, stating that the Soviets (this is 1986 and they are still the world’s bogeyman) have chosen to hew carefully to ‘traditional’ criminology in defining victims, so as to avoid a too-broad definition of ‘victim’ that would indict the Soviet system for humanitarian crimes. (p.23)

Placed right after Elias’s lengthy discussion of (American) crime-Victimology, a reader may well be seduced into presuming that to insist upon ‘conservative’ standards of criminology is to ‘do the same thing the Soviets are doing’ – which is a frakkulent bit of misleading manipulation. But you can see here the same type of illogical but meaty sensationalism that has been taken to stunning extremes in the SO Mania even as it masquerades as mature and professionally ‘scientific thinking and research’.

But then he mentions something a bit more objectively: “Some writers have so strongly embraced conservative, hardline criminal justice policies that a broader victimology would be a contradiction in terms”. (p.23)

What he is saying here is that already by 1986 American crime-Victimology has been embraced by the conservative-Right. BUT WHAT HE DOESN’T NOTE is that the same policies were not only embraced by, but pretty much implicit in, the (radical-)feminist thinking from the Left or putatively ‘liberal’ end of the spectrum. But in those days, and to some extent still nowadays, folks pretty much assume that if it’s coming from the Left-liberal side then it must indeed by ‘liberal’ and for ‘the individual’ (as opposed to ‘the government’) AND THIS IS NOT TRUE AND NEVER HAS BEEN.

Rather, radical-feminism has always been for the individual woman or for women as a class (there’s much argument within the Movement itself about that).

AND in the interests of the individual woman or women as a class this allegedly ‘liberal’ Movement welcomes – indeed demands – the intrusive and robust deployment of the government power, both its legislative and sovereign police power. Thus, as I have said, the National Nanny State and the National Security State both lead to the same anti-Constitutional place. And a hellish place it is indeed. As the SO community can now well attest.

He wraps up this section with the thought that “finally, several writers have suggested that victimology fills important gaps, which now allows criminology to finally establish itself as a science”. (p.23)

But those “gaps” are precisely there because Western Law had evolved beyond Medieval and caveman laws of victim-vengeance. And also because Western Science had managed to grow beyond emotionally biased and unverifiable ‘evidence’ into the realm of objective, detached, verifiable evidence that can prove to any rational analysis the accuracy and truth of its claims and assertions.

But in making this skewed claim he is proceeding from the assumption that without ‘the victim’ criminology is not a “complete science” (p.23) – and THAT is simply not true at all. It was in getting BEYOND the primacy of the victim’s age-old role that Law and Science actually matured into the actual Law and Science that fueled so much Western development and progress over the course of the past several hundred years. (And No, I will not allow a 1990-ish Multiculturalist assertion of all the West’s failures – and there have been more than a few – to trump my statement.)

He then tries to use attorney Benjamin Mendelsohn’s 1930s do-it-yourself analysis of “victimity” to justify the expanded role of the victim. Mendelsohn did raise some interesting observations – but that’s a long long way from creating a comprehensive and verifiable Theory upon which huge (and anti-historical) changes should be rapidly imposed upon a major Western nation’s legal system (which is precisely what has happened in this country in the past decades, simultaneously with the rising political influence of radical-feminism). (p.24)

Proceeding from Mendelsohn, he notes (1986) that “feminist victimologists have invoked international human rights standards in examining female victims, such as victims of sexual slavery”. (p.24) But in the American crime-Victimology setting, such a deployment of international standards is hugely fraught because America’s radical-feminism presumed without doubt that marriage, the Family, and even sexual relations themselves constituted a form of institutionalized ‘dominance’ and ‘oppression’ and for all practical purposes ‘slavery’. And the SO community can see here the clear foundations of both the Domestic Violence and SORNA regimes, as well as the foundations of the on-going assault on Marriage and Family.

“Some [thinkers]”, he notes, “argue that certain cultures, such as capitalist culture, may impose a structure of victimization”. (p.24) And you can see here not only the queasily Marxist core of much of this type of thought, but also its sensationalist yet sensationally inaccurate ‘thinking’: surely Soviet society, hardly ‘capitalist’, imposed victimizations far more glaring upon its citizens and captive peoples.

This is not to say that the ‘capitalist’ approach doesn’t require human beings to subject themselves, to some extent, to some form of systematic self-denial and self-Shaping in order to function within it. But ANY large human social system, seeking to organize itself for self-sustainment, is going to require some of that. To define victimization so broadly as to define any self-Shaping and self-denial as ‘victimization’ is a rather huge conceptual error, and would require an earthly government to assume the responsibility for (and power to deal with) perennial and built-in dynamics that have logically manifested themselves whenever the human species has tried to achieve higher-than-individual organization. (Recall, for example, how even the work or spiritual growth ‘communes’ of the Flower-Child 1960s resulted in their own types of quasi-tyrannical organization … think, for instance, of the Bhagwan).

So Elias here is setting up a self-licking ice-cream cone in best Pentagon fashion: you define a problem so fuzzy yet thus so theoretically huge and profound that just about ANY social phenomenon can qualify as part of the ‘problem’ or ‘emergency’ that you want to address, and thus that you will never ever lack for ‘proof’ and ‘evidence’ that the ‘problem’ that keeps you in business exists. And, thus, that the government – if you can get it to pay attention to your demands – must always do more, do ‘whatever it takes’, to ‘solve’ the problem … which is by definition impossible and so the government keeps trying and you keep demanding and … on and on and on. The SO community sees this now every day.

And it sounds more and more like Vietnam as you read along in this book.

And THEN he makes a remarkable suggestion: that governments as well as individuals are “victimizers” and that therefore Victimology should “study larger categories of victimization”.

Which gets me to thinking that the Beltway embraced radical-feminist supported crime-Victimology not only to pander politically to a group whose votes it had decided were worth the trouble, BUT ALSO to deflect any larger Victimology examination into the role of government-as-victimizer. In that sense, then, ‘men’ and then ‘the Sex Offender’ quickly became – in Leniinst-Stalinist terms – the ‘Necessary Enemy’ and – in Biblical terms – the Scapegoat who would have to be sacrificed in order to prevent worse things from happening. And you can see where THAT has gone (and is still going).

He concludes this Chapter: “At one time crime victims virtually monopolized criminal justice. Over time, law enforcement became a shared activity, and finally victims lost their role almost completely. By the mid-1900s victims had been formally excluded from criminal justice for several centuries.” (p.25)

That “one time” constituted all of the pre-Modern era in Western Law and Science. The crime victims in those pre-Modern days had “monopolized criminal justice” by seeking their own vengeance against whomever they had decided was guilty of ‘victimizing’ them – much like the Wild West in settlements before sheriffs and judges and juries had been set up; or lynch-mobs in place of or opposed to such agents of Law.

To say that the crime victims “lost their role almost completely” is to say that Al Capone and his colleagues “lost their role almost completely” when Prohibition was repealed.

Slipping back into his ‘international Victimology’ voice, he admits that “victimology’s most significant drawback might lie in confining itself almost exclusively to criminological boundaries … despite its broader origins”. (p.26)

He means two things: first, that Victimology still allows itself to be ‘confined’ by all those professional and objective standards of research and analysis that radical-feminists assert are merely oppressive and patriarchal obstructions designed to keep the ‘dominant males’ of human society on top (as it were).

Second, that international Victimology, while respecting the American (and radical-feminist) variant, should not abandon its larger analysis into entire cultures and structures of societies and of civilization, and into governments’ role in oppressing various classes, groups, races, genders, and so on.

Can you imagine any earthly government NOT wanting to head that initiative off at the pass?

Perhaps by throwing the Constitutional ‘obstructions’ aside and delivering up whatever Scapegoats are demanded in order to save itself from itself falling under the gimlet but hyper-excitable eye of international humanitarian Victimology.

“Dear Sir: The government regrets to inform you that you have been designated as a Necessary Egg in the ongoing policy of whomping up a National Omelette. This will entail your entire life prospects and your very human integrity to be impugned by the full force and authority of the national government. But rest assured it’s all in a good cause and someday – though perhaps you yourself won’t be able to participate in it – the government will be proven to have been right all along. Have a nice day.”

If you get my drift.


*My copy is the paperback version put out by Oxford UP in 1986. It bears the ISBN 0-19-503980-7. It will be unwieldy to include both Chapter Titles and sub-headings as well as page numbers, in case you have a different edition. I will stick to only using page references when I make quotations, but for especially important points I will do so.

**And again I will note that in the Era of Bush the Egregious, the government – long used to accepting these suggestions in domestic affairs – then applied the gambit to foreign and military affairs, “breaking the shackles” of Truth and the Constitution to drag the country into its still-raging (and unsuccessful) wars in Southwest Asia. And that in 1999 and subsequently, by “breaking the shackles” of the old 1930s legislation designed to prevent another Great Depression and by departing from Truth and Honesty, the financial industry, with the Beltway’s essential help, led the economy into a series of Bubbles that have wrecked so much now.

***A very great deal of what began as the highly dubious but highly touted (and, by the Beltway, immediately embraced) ‘feminist epistemology’ – meaning the feminist theory of knowledge and knowing – is deployed in Victimology, especially as Elias describes it. I use a great deal of that feminist material while discussing Elias; I haven’t put footnotes in, because it would require a lot of them. But if you wish to come up to speed on these matters, I recommend this article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy here, and also here, and this Wiki article here; you can always expand your research by following references and links in these articles or searching the internet via google or some other engine.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Apologies for interrupting my Nussbaum series – which will continue.

But I know I have mentioned the1986 book entitled “The Politics of Victimization” by Robert Elias, then of Tufts University.* And it seems to me that this relatively early, now quarter-century old comprehensive discussion of the field of Victimology (the name formally given to it by its proponents) is vital to my purpose of helping the SO community grasp just how significant their work is and also to give the community deeper historical understanding of where this whole SORNA regime is coming from.

This will be a series of Posts. I will simply proceed through the text of the book, quoting a relevant bit, and then commenting on it. This will minimize the need to actually have the text accessible to you while you’re reading the Post.

So let’s get to it.

In his Preface (dated January, 1986) Elias enumerates his three goals: i) to analyze victims “politically”, in terms of their newly found (or re-discovered; see below) influence in international politics; ii) “to provide an introductory overview of crime victims and victimization” for which “we” now have forty years of “victimological writing and research”, though “most of it emerging in the past twenty years” [thus, since 1966]; iii) “this book proposes a broader victimology that transcends officially defined criminal victimization [italics Elias’s] and rather “traces the relationship between victimology and human rights and advocates a ‘new’ [quotation marks Elias’s] victimology of human rights including victims of both crime and oppression”. (p.vii)

You can see here that in the eyes of its early proponents, Victimology was first of all some sort of ‘science’ buttressed by ‘research’ – they were very confident of what they were saying when they made their many assertions (and indeed after 244 pages of text Elias will append 140 pages of Notes – comprising hundreds of footnotes that report thousands of articles and ‘research’ and ‘scholarly articles’).

Second, you can see that the movement initially got started in the immediate postwar period as a concern for persons around the world ‘victimized’ by the loss of their human rights through the actions of governments that did not conform (and here’s a tender point for Multiculturalism) to the Western concepts of what government should be like and what rights people ‘naturally’ have (and here you can see a tie-in with Nussbaum , and also how such talk of natural-human-rights would be a sore point for radical-feminism, since it seeks to be ‘secular’ AND to avoid any and all thought or talk that involves a ‘human nature’ – since such a concept would support ‘gender stereotypes’, ‘essentialism’ and such).

Such loss was called “oppression” in Victimology, and was distinct from the victimization wrought by having a crime committed against you.

And you can see where Elias is not completely happy with the American variant that got itself all wrapped up with crime-victimization; this was a process already noticeable to him in the mid-1980s, although the great triumphs of ‘feminist law’ or ‘governance feminism’ – such as the Domestic Violence and SORNA regimes and their ‘reforms’ – were still half a decade in the future.

He would have no doubt have watched the course of the Satanic Ritual Abuse Child Day-Care trials as they proceeded (although perhaps by 1986 not yet have seen the ultimate discrediting of almost all of the convictions (Massachusetts, site of both the Salem Witch Trials and a heavy concentration of academic and professional radical-feminists, still refuses to accept the discrediting of its day-care staff convictions and the trials that brought them).

Elias had worked previously with the Vera Institute in New York (which, if memory serves, released an impressive Report on the problems with the SORNA regime in the past several months).

While there he “began recognizing the political uses of victims beyond the humanitarian rhetoric, and how victim initiatives very often reflect ‘symbolic’ [quotations Elias’s] politics with little tangible improvement of victim rights or assistance”. (p.viii)

But then he gets a little more complicated: “I began seeing the rights of crime victims as intimately connected to broader human rights concerns, rather than to the American law-and-order initiatives which seek to promote victim rights by restricting the rights of defendants and the general public” [italics mine] (p.viii)

But as I mentioned in a Note to an earlier Post, Elias is trying to be both an ‘objective scholar’ and a scholar ‘committed to the cause’ … and those two roles don’t sit easily in the same person very often. We will see two ‘voices’ in this book of his: a detached and often acutely observant voice, and then an emotionally involved (and less skeptical) voice.

He starts off Chapter 1 by quoting the American cultural commentator, Philip Slater: “One of the first goals of any society is to make its inhabitants feel safe”. (p.3) This is true enough, but in the American vision this is only the pre-planting spadework: the government keeps the ‘field’ clear so that the great creative power of The People, individually but also as working in their own way toward the common weal, would have wider scope for action.

Otherwise the government becomes Hobbes’s Leviathan, necessarily exercising all power and primary power in the society in order to keep order and provide ‘safety’ (and, no doubt, taxing the populace heavily in order to finance its protective and perhaps preventive tasks) – and such a Hobbesian vision is hell-and-gone from the American Experiment as the Framers conceived it.

“Americans are a frightened people”, he observes. (p.3) Yet in addition to what would be classified and reported as crimes, there is also a roster of unrecognized ‘crimes’ such as “consumer fraud, pollution, unnecessary drugs and surgery, police violence, censorship, discrimination, poverty, exploitation, and war” and” not only at the hands of individuals but also by governments and social institutions, not to mention the psychological victimization brought by our own insecurities”. (p.3)

It should be clear that Victimology is a worthy effort to analyze the problems that beset human beings. It should also be clear that even in its non-American variant with the American concern for ‘law and order’ Victimology’s concerns cannot easily be translated into policy by a Constitutionally limited government.

Because this listing of woes is a Menu of all the woes that beset humanity and a Recipe for a government that would need the wisdom and power formerly ascribed to God in order to ‘prevent’ and ‘protect’ from all these harms (and you can choose your poison: National Nanny State or National Security State, but equal poisons they are).

“We often understand victimization very narrowly”; “we accept superficial explanations and solutions that perpetuate standard clichés and ignore the political roots of victimization”. (p.4)

And then he asks a series of questions: “What if crime victims have been backed by interests that may care less about victims and more about other goals, and promote policies that may create more victims not fewer? … What if crime waves, media coverage and official crime statistics had little to do with the real victimization level? … What if we found our fears and insecurities about crime [are] artificially manipulated for political purposes? … Suppose We discovered that most people commit crimes, and not just certain groups? What if the real career criminals were corporate offenders, not common criminals? … What if we found that victims have often been offenders before, and vice versa? … What if we discovered that we were as likely to be victimized by a friend or relative as by a stranger? … And suppose we learned that victims served important political and symbolic functions in criminal justice which better explain official concerns for victims than humanitarian impulses? … What if we learned that victims often support anti-crime policies that will not reduce crime, and may increase it?” (all p. 4)

And even more acutely: “What if we found that crimes provide big business for people we consider legitimate entrepreneurs?” (p.4) Which raises the specter of the cottage-industries of ‘science’ and ‘research’ and ‘therapy’ in regard to either victims or offenders.

You can see how American victimism has developed with only a verrrry selective culling of Victimology’s comprehensive concerns. (And yet how that selectivity has supported, as We shall see, such Constitutionally dangerous regimes as Domestic Violence and SORNA).

“Suppose that we discovered that defendant’s rights received as little protection as victim rights and, in any case, had little to do with victim prospects in criminal justice?” (p.5)

“Suppose we discovered that some forms of victim advocacy had numerous ulterior motives, goals, and functions that rendered tangible assistance [to erstwhile victims] either secondary or irrelevant?” (p.5)

This is not a complete list of his questions; others raise some of the (to me) more dubious of Victimology’s concerns, which will be coming up later on in the Post. But you can see that at least in this ‘voice’ Elias is willing to raise some acute points indeed.

He is concerned here with “the crime victim’s new resurgence in the last two decades [1966-1986]”. But he notes that “most victimological literature pits the offender against the victim, emphasizes the criminal’s supposed ‘paradise’ of rights, protections, and programs, and bemoans the victim’s fate by comparison “ … while a different strand of the literature “does quite the opposite, emphasizing victim precipitation and implicating victims in their own victimization”. But Elias will “examine the great amount we have learned about crime victims, but we will not blame victims, nor will we blame offenders”. (p.6) And he thinks that in their way both groups are victims.

I think We have seen enough of the ‘scholarly’ and ‘research’ literature to know that Objectivity is no longer considered a good career path for far too many would-be ‘scholars’. But you can see where so much of his concern has come to frakkulous reality.

He will consider in this book not only “common” crime but “corporate” and “state” crime (and so you see why Victimology has been so verrrry selectively deployed over here). He is going to consider all crimes against human beings, against “humanity” and will “wed victimology to human rights”. (p.7)

In the subsection of Chapter Two entitled “The Evolving Victim” Elias lets some serious cats out of the bag.

“The crime victim’s role has changed dramatically since primitive times” (p.10). This warns you that your historical understanding is going to have to go back to the cavemen, because in Victimology’s self-history it was back then – certainly before the coming of organized governments and their police and enforcement power – that the ‘victim’ enjoyed a far more enhanced status and role and respectability than in modern times.

He puts it oddly: “Prior to social organization, people merely took the law in their own hands and avenged their victimization unconstrained by outside interferences. Victims extracted personal reparation if they had the strength. Victim retaliation served as the earliest form of social control, albeit an unorganized one”. (p.10) But that “merely” makes it sound either easy and OK or else somehow ‘primitive’ – yet it is back here in the “primitive” social beginnings of the species that he locates the heyday of the victim’s status.

Of course, the dangers of going after and perhaps revenging oneself upon the wrong person, or without full knowledge of mitigating features, were part of that primitive world … and it wasn’t pretty. And actually there were no ‘laws’ as We know them, because there were no governments to make such rules.

As things began to develop in human societies, “rather than a completely disorganized system of personal revenge, a system of reparations began to center around kinship-groups”; those groups might start a blood-feud if a member of another clan did not make reparation to a victim of the first clan; and – good grief – “clans might launch pre-emptive raids, thus victimizing to prevent their own victimization” (which makes you wonder just how far current US foreign and military policy has taken Us back to the cave-men). (p.10)

“Gradually, alternatives to perpetual retribution arose, largely to reduce violence and feuding”; things get up to the Code of Hammurabi and its requirements for restitution. And by the Middle Ages (and in the West, under the influence of the Church as a cultural and political as well as religious influence) courts had now been sufficiently developed that there were “judicial duels” in front of judges rather actual vengeance violence. (p.11)

BUT in Elias’s view this is where things began to go wrong. Crime (he also equates it too easily with “sin”) “became an attack on society” not merely on the actual victim. This would have been clearly signaled by the development in England, among other places, of ‘the King’s Peace’ – which when broken resulted in affronting the Crown (which in Medieval theory was responsible under God and to God for protecting the subjects under its royal authority). (p.11)

And with a legal system developing, in societies ruled by royalty and aristocracies and a nascent class of merchants and bankers, then such law would be bent toward preserving “dominant interests” (a bit of Marxist and Continental insight, not at all inaccurate, but like any volatile acid, it has to be handled carefully). Until, “eventually”, crime came to be viewed “as an offense against the state, not [against] the victim” and “victims had substantially lost their criminal justice role by the end of the Middle Ages”. (p.11)

I suppose that was an inevitable trade-off: if the burden of restoring a balance post-crime or post-tort was going to be undertaken by the Crown, then the Crown was going to become the major player. Conceptually, as long as there was room for recovery through compensation, it wasn’t such a bad deal for so-called victims: you were saved the risk and expense of going out and enforcing your own revenge, but also the moral corrosion that accompanies any act of violence, especially a vengeful one.

But ‘revenge’ is a powerful motivator – and an attractive one; and it can become only more powerful if a social movement ‘valorizes’ the status of Victim. It’s one of the moral hazards – as they say – of being a Victim in a victimist age. And powerful motivators are, by their very nature, just the type of easily-ignited herd emotions that political manipulators know can start stampedes in public feeling and opinion.

Naturally, the question arises in your mind: so does the re-emergence of ‘the Victim’ mean a regression of Western Law back to the Middle Ages? Elias doesn’t address the point, although the SO community by now has seen enough indications that such indeed has been the case with far far too many of recent legal ‘reforms’.

But Elias has two voices so you never can tell what he’s going to come up next. He recounts some recent (1986) crime literature and TV police-show themes: they either revolve around some form of ‘blaming the victim’ or else “the other extreme often emerges … [that] appeals to the public’s bloodthirstiness for revenge”. It is this latter that Elias thinks “may be the unfortunate symbol of the crime victim’s new emergence”. (p.15)

But given what he’s hoping for – that return to the Middle Ages – it may well be the most accurate if unpleasant consequence of the entire Victimist movement, at least in its American ‘crime’ variant. But then, Elias has said he is trying to weld or bond together the human-rights and crime variants of Victimology, so he himself is an active player in this gambit.

He raises the interesting observation that in a country of ‘rugged individualists’ and ‘winners’, there will be a natural tendency to see a victim as a ‘loser’, and this is especially true for those who call attention to their status as victim. And he goes on to recount many feminist observations clustered around the view that ‘women’ are culturally vulnerable far more than men and are – in the domestic setting – actually somehow ‘culturally legitimate’ potential victims for male crimes against them. (p.16)

In the subsection ‘An emerging Victimology’ (p.17) he recounts “scientific developments” that supported the current Victimology. An American attorney had conducted an informal study of clients in the late 1930s and had coined the term ‘victimology’, constrasting ‘criminality’ with ‘victimity’ (though, reflecting his interests, he did not contrast ‘criminality’ with ‘law-abiding-ness’).

But it was in the late 1940s that humanitarianism, especially as catalyzed by the new United Nations organization, stirred many to dream of “a world free from war, violence, ignorance, poverty, and disease”. (p.18) Let me say right here: you have to stop for a minute and contemplate the almost manic and ebullient optimism of the late 1940s: that any generation of human beings could imagine that they were somehow in a position to eradicate the greatest and most perennial scourges of humankind “within our lifetime” or “in the next XX years” … it’s touching, it’s inspiring, but from the vantage point not only of half a century and more later but also of an SO community that has seen where such manic enthusiasm (combined with much ulterior motivation on the part of many ‘players’ involved) can lead, and what stunning and alarming damage can be caused in a Constitutional and democratic Republic.

And of course, the ‘world’ mania of the late 1940s became the American mania that began with the Great Society under LBJ and in one form or another persisted into the time of Reagan’s ‘law and order’ and ‘fundamentalism’ and Clinton’s ‘governance feminism’ and their meshing under the banner of ‘the victim’ (and later, more intensely manipulative, ‘the children’).

In the 1950s and 1960s, in Europe and in the Commonwealth nations, the humanitarian Victimology began to share attention with a ‘criminal’ Victimology, and in 1973 a specifically Jewish variant was developed in Jerusalem during one of the international Victimology conferences that would see the foundation of an organization and an international journal, entitled “Victimology”. Ominously, when the first international general “Victimology textbook” was published it was entitled “Crime Victims”. (p.19) And you know where things went from there.

But then he gets into the political side of the thing. “While victimology progressed professionally and academically, and while it helped promote the victim’s interests scientifically, the victim’s status reflected various political developments as well.” (p.19) And the first thing I’d say right off is that he is being far too generous in his assessment of the Victimology movement’s ‘achievements’: a few conferences in international venues, some credentialed scholars who had to use passports to get there … these do not a highly-established and well-Grounded movement and theory make. Ditto his generous use of “scientifically”, especially when the SO community has seen what ‘science’ can do in the lead-up to the Mania and in the various legislative Findings and assorted court Decisions and Opinions.

But then the politics comes in – and in America, especially after 1968 – the political is vital as motivating and sustaining element.

He starts with the conservative ‘law and order’ reaction to the Warren Court’s many Opinions in favor of the defendant and against the government in its police power. The Warren Court’s “backlash” was against the nationally-televised police of the Jim Crow South throughout the mid-1950s and early 1960s assaulting freedom demonstrators brazenly and openly; clearly a police power that was this arrogant needed to be rebalanced, and the Warren Court began to pay more attention to defendant rights (the defendant presumed to be – you could say – the ‘victim’ of the government’s arrogant and misused police power).

But by the time that such Opinions began to take hold in the mid-Sixties, the drug, sex, and booze anti-authoritarianism of the Summer of Love Boomers, plus the in-your-face anti-authoritarianism of the blacks of the Northern cities, on top of a quietly intensifying ideological anti-authoritarianism of the developing radical-feminist movement … all had combined to help create an alarming and intensifying disregard for the law, especially in cities.

But, the way I look at it, the government at that time had what I call the Abe-Lincoln-in-Illinois problem: Southern Jim Crow police had given the government police power a verrrry baaaaad image; if the government were going to flex its police power against ‘crime’, it would need a new ‘face’. That face, I contend, was ‘the victim’: a telegenic and script-friendly element who could be put forward in front of the cameras: thus, instead of media focus being on the deployment of the frightening police power, it would be on the reason for the deployment of the frightening police power (that helpless and violated victim).

And while the nation’s Blacks had morphed from the ‘innocent’ and well-intentioned’ and non-violent and even well-mannered ‘victims’ of Dr. King’s era into the in-your-face, Kill Whitey activists and ‘revolutionaries’ of the late 1960s, the ‘new’ victim was the essence of helplessness and violated innocence, reflecting an impressively shrewd grasp of the principles and dynamics of political framing in the service of public manipulation.

And so it went.

With stunning quickness, the Jim Crow police and Southern prosecutors ceased to be the face of the government police power, as the New Victim’s aura raised them up out of the Southern swamps of Jim Crow into the shining realms of professionalism, purity, integrity, and the service of Justice.

And of course – not to get ahead of Elias here – the defendant was also transformed (or rather, deformed) by the orbital change achieved by the New Victim: where only a Moment before the arrestee was the ‘defendant’, with Constitutionally enshrined rights, he (almost always a he) was now ‘the perp’ and ‘the offender’, a permanently evil class of Other dedicated to the overthrow of American law-and-order and the peace of mind of the New Victim. And, potentially, weren’t all Americans potential New Victims now?

The Reagan Administration quickly hoisted sail to catch the wind, convening The President’s Task Force on the Victims of Violent Crime in 1982, supporting the Omnibus Victims of Crime Act of 1982 and the Crime Victim Assistance Act of 1984. About the Act Elias says: “it ignores human rights victims – at least in the American setting – instead championing crime victims with a new dose of conservative, law-and-order rhetoric. (p.21)

He concludes that observation by opining that “Victimology’s ideological and scientific future may depend on whether it responds to conservative, parochial interests or progressive international forces”. (p.21) Now I think he’s identified the right dynamic here: the pull of domestic politics can deform any program.

But he’s betrayed a bias, and a profound one: he has set up a two-axis either-or comparison: either “conservative, parochial [and domestic] interests” or “progressive international forces”. What this leaves out – and for a long time dulled awareness of or opposition to what was developing under Americans’ noses – was so-called ‘liberal’ domestic political influence.

Because what really went on in the Reagan years was an exercise in ‘bipartisanship’ on the advocacy level: the radical-feminists, enjoying the Correct cover of being on the Left and therefore (everybody presumed) ‘liberal’, made common cause with the law-and-order Right.

The National Nanny State and the National Security State wind up, for police-power purposes, to be sisters. And this was the major alliance that underlay the victimist movement as it developed here: crime-oriented, casting the female as eternal victim while casting the male as eternal sexual aggressor, moving into ‘registration’ (bad in itself) as a form of ‘prevention’ (preventive law is like preventive war), and at all points requiring a tremendously elevated level of public fear, and that fear based on the manipulative misinformation of shoddy advocacy ‘science’ and ‘research’.

And then, of course, the feminist ‘woman’ and the victimist ‘New Victim’ merged … and like a Southern California wildfire, the several individual fires merged to form a Megafire.
At the point he’s writing, and perhaps given his own preferences, Elias here does not notice (or choose to notice) the deep Constitutional threat emerging from the Left.

Elias then takes up the many ways Victimology has contributed as a “science” (p.21): I’ve already pointed out that once you are into the realm of post-1960s ‘advocacy science’ you have to imagine you are getting lectures on oil-drilling from BP ‘house scientists’ and make the necessary subtractions to their claims.

But I also have to point out this howler: “by promoting victimization surveys, [Victimology] has helped reveal the actual victimization level, explain non-reporting, and clarify the ‘dark figure’ of crime existing between official statistics and victim experience”. (p.21)

This ‘survey’ method is now a well-established advocacy gambit: there is no way to determine whether the respondent is telling the truth, no way to sift out exaggerations and distortions in the ‘self-report’; and no ‘advocate’ would want to question the survey method’s objective validity because the ‘survey’ offers the huge benefit of a reliably ‘useful’ and ‘friendly’ report that also appears to be simultaneously ‘scientific’ and ‘empowering’ and ‘sensitive’. Neat.

The respondent is under no legal obligation to tell the truth whatsoever, and many do not consider any professional or moral responsibility to Truth or Objective Fact; the respondent is often ‘self-selected’, volunteering to ‘tell her (so often) story’ or selected through affiliation with an already known and advocacy-friendly group; the respondent is primed either before encountering the survey or perhaps by the survey-taker, so as to ensure peak – and Correct – emotional ripeness; and the survey itself has been carefully constructed to lead the thought and emotional patterns of the respondent in certain desired directions.

The self-reporting survey, part of what the professional communities call ‘anecdotal evidence’ is the least-trusted of professional methods for getting at facts and truth and forming a reliable picture of whatever you are examining.

BUT it has become a stock-in-trade of organized advocacies, and precisely for the same reason that the professional canons reject it: its validity is highly dubious. And worse, it can either convince or provide a convincing ‘excuse’ for legislators to participate in hasty, ill-examined ‘stampedes’.

And given their subjective and emotional derangements, self-surveys also contribute to the sense that there is a lot more of the subject-matter going on ‘out there’ than may actually be the case.

And when you then add to the number indicated by the surveys the statistical method of ‘extrapolation’, then you start reaching astronomical figures for the incidence of your subject-matter concern: so for example, you take the number of cases ‘reported’ in the surveys and then multiply by 10 or a 100 .. giving you a Mega-Figure that exists nowhere in reality. On the basis of this Mega-figure, derived from a ‘scientific’ methodology such as the self-survey or the survey, you can scare folks into sitting on their hands as you scare or lure public-watching politicians into passing laws based on the emergency ‘proven’ by your Mega-figure.

And if you ever run into persons honest enough to try to suggest that the number of incidences of your subject-matter concern are actually lower than you claim, you can always point to “the dark figure”, your Mega-figure, and simply claim that the vast majority of incidences in the country are not-reported and thus the total of incidences is ‘under-reported’.

Neatly, since there’s no way of validating their claims, there’s no way of knowing how many of these surveys or self-surveys ‘over-report’ – to put it charitably. But it also means that information gleaned from surveys (somebody asks you the questions in person) or self-survey (you answer the questions from a sheet of paper or computer screen) is verrrrrry close to ‘spectral evidence’, the old Medieval term for evidence that only the ‘victim’ could see and nobody else could, but which the court and the onlookers were supposed to accept as irrefutably true.

And in listing what he sees as some of the achievements of Victimology, he gives another bit away: some victimists consider that a court-confrontation with the (alleged) victimizer is actually the ‘property’ of the victim and the victim cannot be deprived of that ‘property’ without due process so the courts must allow the victim such an experience. (p.21)

You don’t have to imagine the Salem Witch Trials, with the alleged ‘victims’ screaming and writhing on the floor, to wonder what useful legal purpose is served by such drama. But of course it is one of the founding tenets of Victimology that the ‘victim’ must be allowed to ‘speak’ about victimization.

This, I think, can be traced back to the immediate postwar era, where international Victimology was making the case that populations under the iron heel of tyrannical governments must be allowed to tell what the world would otherwise not be able to know.

And surely the Holocaust survivors were included among such persons, since the world could hardly conceive of the experience imposed on millions of human beings by the Nazi regime and there was an indisputable need for the world to be informed as to just what had happened, since what happened once could happen again.

But when you try to apply this principle to standard legal proceedings in a democracy where folks are pretty much informed as to what goes on, then this whole principle turns sour like milk taken outside on a hot August day for a picnic.

The reason for this, I think, is that most folks know the major variations on the themes that constitute the roster of crimes being tried in your local court-house. As a matter of keeping informed – as the world needed to be informed of this new Nazi method of exterminating millions – the world needed to know of the Holocaust.

Of course, the problem for many Holocaust rememberers nowadays is that the world has made a note and is on the lookout; hence there is a problem keeping up ‘interest’ and ‘memory’ of the Holocaust as a conceptual possibility that the world needs to keep an eye out for.

But in a local court setting, there are few new conceptual revelations; the focus shifts subtly but hugely FROM the public’s need to be informed of some never-before-known type of crime and TO the individual victim’s ‘need’ (or ‘right’, the Victimologists would insist) to tell his/her personal story: the public forum of the court-setting is somehow psychologized into part of the ‘closure’ process.

This starts sliding back ominously toward the tremendous personal satisfaction (yet also morally and psychologically dangerous) of slamming your club personally onto the head of your alleged victimizer back in the caveman era.

Nowadays (as Elias has lamented) there are legal professionals, employed by the State, to make the determination of guilt and do the punishing. Leaving the alleged victim with no role except – as Victimology demands – the alleged victim getting a State-sponsored chance to ‘tell a story’ of personal pain, injury and indignation.

And the purpose is not to enforce the law – the State is already in the process of doing that – but rather has devolved into a personal psycho-emotional ‘need’ of the alleged victim. This is a form of ‘psychologizing’ the process, a signature symptom often noted in modern American society by such commentators as Christopher Lasch and others.

You can see where the application of the ‘international Victimology’ principle of giving silenced peoples a ‘voice’ so that they can inform the world of a threat (or, perhaps, an ‘outrage’) takes a queasy turn when applied – as it has been in America – to quotidian court-trials.

But it gets worse: since Western courts, following the genuine developments in Western law (objectivity, careful assessment of reliable evidence), had been precisely attuned to avoiding ‘spectral evidence’, then the introduction (or, historically, the re-introduction) of ‘emotion’ and ‘spectral evidence’ actually regresses Western jurispraxis to a darker era out of which it had – with much blood and tears – emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries.

AND in a Constitutional republic whose Framers precisely sought to avoid the arbitrary and mis-applied exercise of the government police power, then such a dynamic is bound to exercise a corrupting and corrosive influence on the entire process and on the agents sworn to administer the process and deploy, on the basis of that process, the sovereign police power.

Yet this American-type of application of the Victimology method, into what I call ‘victimism’, in the setting of American courts, is precisely what has happened.

And it has blended with many of the hallmark tendencies (and demands) of far too much ‘feminist law’ and ‘governance feminism’: overriding all of the classic and genuine Western and Constitutional legal reforms in the service of ‘reforms’ that are actually ‘regressions’ to much darker and – as Elias implies – less civilized times. Hence, alas, rules of evidence designed to prevent ‘spectral evidence’ that only the accuser can ‘see’ or ‘know’, the unleashing of ‘emotions’ back into the careful analytical process of the court and trial, the removal of statutes of limitations specifically erected to acknowledge the unreliability of evidence as it degrades with the passage of time … all of these new ‘reforms’ constitute the dismantling of the actual and genuine legal progress made centuries ago.

This is a hugely dangerous road to travel BACK down on. It is profoundly inadvisable to undertake it except for the most urgent reasons. (And pandering to the psychological or emotional desires of individual persons, while politically desirable in a short-sighted sort of way, is hardly such an ‘emergency’ or ‘urgency’.)

But to do so and simply ‘frame’ it or ‘spin’ it as cutting-edge reform and great ‘progress’, pooh-poohing or waving-away the potential dangers as ‘backlash’ or ‘insensitivity’, is grossly whackulous.

(And you could see the same dynamic at work as the Bush-era Beltway embarked on preventive and invasive war – itself a regression from the careful diplomatic principles of the Westphalian progress made in Europe in the mid-17th century ; it was precisely this same dynamic, now migrated from American law to American foreign policy and military strategy. With monstrously awful results, many ill-consequences of which will prove irreversible.)

AND I note also that the period of the 16th century, the beginnings of what is known as the Modern period in Western history, was clearly a period of huge progress in the growth of Western law and its taming of the ancient beast of unrestricted government power. So that much of what has been imposed in the past 40 years as ‘progress’ and as ‘new’ are really only disassembling (or Deconstruction) of those great achievements. And a lethal disassembling, no matter how ‘good’ the intentions.

And this is also much similar to the 1999 American repeal of the Glass-Steagall and other legislation designed as a result of the Great Depression of 1929 to prevent such financial catastrophes from happening again. The repeal was touted in 1999 as cutting-edge legislation to give room to the ‘newly-developed’ financial sector. And yet within 10 years of that 1999 repeal, in 2008, the nation’s economy suffered a lethal catastrophe which (it is beginning to dawn on some folks) will actually prove to have been a major watershed moment in the permanent loss of American economic primacy in the world, if not indeed a permanently reduced and perhaps even non-viable political position).

So Victimology, certainly as it has evolved (and been mis-applied) here in the United States, in the service of certain ‘advocacy’ interests, has spread beyond the original infection site to derange almost all the major vital systems of the nation.

So much for now.


*My copy is the paperback version put out by Oxford UP in 1986. It bears the ISBN 0-19-503980-7. It will be unwieldy to include both Chapter Titles and sub-headings as well as page numbers, in case you have a different edition. I will stick to only using page references when I make quotations, but for especially important points I will do so.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


For those who follow the Catholic priest abuse crisis, I wanted to comment in a Post about a July 21st article on the Commonweal Magazine site.

The claim made by the reporter Nick Cafardi is that “secret laws” are evil things; reference is made to the odious Caligula, who notoriously had new laws inscribed on tablets in very small print and then followed the letter of Roman practice (but defied the spirit) by having the tablets placed on tall pillars where nobody could read them.

The venerable Western compendium “Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England” is brought into it – reinforcing the idea that in a government (even a royal government) that is responsible to the people, the laws cannot be made secretly and then kept secret. (And THAT is a point I’ll get back a bit further on here in regard to Our own Sex Offense Mania crisis.)

And – this being a Catholic sorta thing – Thomas Aquinas is brought on stage, opining that “promulgation is necessary if a law is to have binding force”. And Thomas actually predates Blackstone by several centuries – so there’s a point to be made here that Western Democracy as We know it kinda owes something to Catholic thought and philosophy. But I digress.

In Woodward-and-Bernstein or ‘DaVinci Code’ style, the reporter informs Us of a 1922 Holy Office INSTRUCTION (caps mine; I’ll explain in a minute here) that was – of course; it was an official Instruction – signed by the then-Pope and the Cardinal-Boss of the Holy Office.

It was an Instruction, not a ‘law’ and as such set up procedures for dealing with things, and in this case how to handle violations of the already-well-published Church laws (called Canon Law – and not a secret these past 1500 years). From the point of view of Aquinas’s and Blackstone’s concerns, the ‘law’ was already well known and this was simply a procedural instruction on how to deal with violations of the law when and if they arose.

You know something’s up when the initially breathless reporter suddenly gets kinda vague: this Instruction was approved, printed up by “the Vatican Polyglot Press” (no surprise there), “but it was never officially promulgated in a useful way”. Ummmm – useful to whom? It was what the military would know as a confidential command-procedure instruction, for the use of commanders when the subject situation might arise; consequently there was no need to paste it to lamp-posts. It was for Bishops (“Ordinaries”) and the heads of Religious Orders and such; it would be kept for reference in the Holy Office files against the time when the case of such an offense came to their desks and they wanted to know how to proceed.

So I sense that when this reporter goes vague he knows what he’s doing: trying to tiptoe around the evidence that his mountain is a molehill. A secret Instruction on procedures is not a “secret law” and it would be “usefully promulgated” if it only made its way directly into a well-tended filing system in Rome, or perhaps to Ordinaries and the heads of Orders and such.

And even if, as the reporter darkly reports, all those folks didn’t get a copy as a matter of course, but would be sent a copy if they had such a situation on their hands – it’s not a “secret”. If the Ordinary inquired of Rome, Rome would send him the Instruction and he’d have it in short order and know how things would be handled within the Roman system.

It’s very much like War Plans: take, for specific example, the Rainbow War Plans that the US had on file in case war became imminent with any of the world’s major powers; they were replaced in the late 1930s. Plan Black, if I recall rightly, was for war with Germany; Plan Orange was for war with Japan; Plan Green was for war with Mexico; and Plan Red – wait for it – was for war with Great Britain and Canada. Put together afterWW1 in 1919 (Mexico got its Plan in 1916) the Rainbows were on the books but weren’t generally known even by those in positions of relevant authority: if the situation arose, the appropriate file would be pulled out and copies passed around as needed. If not, not.

So possessing a War Plan is not only not an Act of War but it’s also not ‘secret’ just because it hasn’t been put up on the news-ticker in Times Square.

The Instruction is renewed in 1962 – by the good Pope John XXIII, so dear to the heart of American religious liberals of that era because he convened the Second Vatican Council.

Although nowadays, it seems, he would have to be classified as an abuse-abetter, a Pope, and a ‘mahhhhn’ (enunciated with a whiney nasal intonation). It’s not to be discussed in Commentaries – just as the Rainbows were not common knowledge … imagine Churchill and Roosevelt having to build their relationship if both had Plan Red on their mind. Some things, as every European and perhaps every genuinely mature adult knows, don’t need to be pasted to the inside of your eyeglass lenses.

The 1962 revision, this reporter reveals, confirms that a priest ‘soliciting sex in the confessional’ is a major crime – as it had been, he notes with some honesty, for centuries. But then it adds that “obscene behavior with children of either sex or with brute animals” is ranked right up there with priests soliciting sex in the confessional.

This is supposed to be incriminating. But it strikes me as an updating quite in keeping with the developments in society and law – and indeed is somewhat well ahead of American law, where the child-sex-offense concerns did not gather public steam for another twenty years, and even then it was in the queasy and alarmingly rash form of the Child Day Care Satanic Ritual Abuse mania of the early 1980s.

I suppose a point might be made that “obscene behavior" is actually a new addition to the classification of crimen pessimum (the ‘worst crime’), but since priests were already taught in seminary that ANY sex-related behavior was a violation of their Holy Orders, then such behavior was already covered and they knew it because they had been taught it. Surely this is not the grounds for claiming a “secret law”.

As for the obscene acts “with brute animals”, I can’t imagine that not occurring to anybody who’d been through seminary training, or – up until recently anyway – was an adult in Western society. Yes there were reputed to be the ‘mountain folks’, and yes, sex with an ape had more than a little to do with the AIDS epidemic’s notorious Patient Zero, but by and large most adult males in the Western tradition in those days of the early 1960s (at least) would be rather clear on the concept that sex-with-animals was neither liberating nor creative nor bravely transgressive nor in any other way an expression of mature socialization.

The reporter – writing for a progressive American Catholic magazine – is tactically well-advised not to venture that far afield in his examination of the matter and he doesn’t.

He does then point out, gingerly but adequately, that it was in 2003 that attorneys for the plaintiffs brought the 1962 document to the klieg lights in the spate of Boston civil cases consequent – by the most amazing coincidence – upon ‘the Boston Globe’ series of the preceding year. They claimed – and who could be surprised? – that the 1962 revision constituted “a smoking gun”.

Nor did it make much difference to the many players on the field pursuing their own various purposes, that – as Cafardi points out – a Vatican Instruction outlining how to deal with complaints and crimes within the Church’s law do not constitute some effort to impose ‘secrecy’ on the crime itself.

The civil attorneys could hardly surprise anybody by their extravagant claim that the 1962 document constituted “not only a smoking gun but a nuclear bombshell” – clearly it does not and did not, although the blast wave that the statement produced worked nicely enough for the tactical purposes for which it was no doubt intended.

Nor did the document prove “criminal conspiracy”, although persons familiar with the assorted sub-cultures around the US could far more easily imagine what in the Northeast might seem the most outré science-fiction: that the Vatican does now and for long centuries has engaged in dark criminal conspiracies of all sorts in its role as the Anti-Christ (and so forth and so on).

The reporter shifts a bit now and dismisses without prejudice “the exaggerations of plaintiffs’ lawyers”.

But only to clear the track for his own “deeper ecclesial question”: “where was Crimen [shorthand title for the 1962 revision] during the clergy sex abuse in the 1980s and ‘90s in the United States?”

My first point is that this conventional American framing of the issue is itself misleading and inaccurate: what broke out in the US in the 1980s and 1990s (in those several curious Phases) was not Catholic clergy sex abuse but the reports of same. The alleged acts themselves had mostly taken place quite some time before, in some cases several decades before. Even the John Jay Report noted that, though tactfully without caring to explore it in any depth.

If We presume that Catholic clergy actually committed such crimes in larger proportions than other fiduciary groups such as other faiths’ clergy, educators, medical personnel, and relatives and family friends, among others – and that’s a bigggggg presumption, then it is hardly beyond the pale to hypothesize that the numbers of genuine abusers among Catholic clergy were greatly increased during the postwar period because such an increase was somehow included in a wider ‘loosening’ of American maturational competence consequent upon the experience of World War 2.

And perhaps also because the Second Vatican Council had the unhappy and unintended consequence, certainly in the US, of re-igniting the quintessentially American sense of individual freedom that manifested in the Catholic religious arena in a tendency to distrust ‘Rome’ and ‘foreign ideas’. And that loosening of all the ‘old’ disciplines of behavior and deportment: you might imagine far too many priests unprepared for the sudden loosening of rigid codes of dress and conduct that had helped provide an exo-skeleton for a not-fully-matured internal adult competence.

Clearly the Church was unprepared for that development – and in that she joins just about every other major institution in Western civilization during the 1960s. Although doubly so: since the Second Vatican Council’s unintended loosening effects had already taken hold in the American ecclesiastical culture before the Summer of Love (1967) or 1968 (the whole year) started doing their work on American society and culture.

But the Church has – as so often in two thousand years – used the past 10 or 20 years constructively: seeking to improve the maturity of its ordained members. (In fact, you could hypothesize that those elements in the American Catholic community who want to get rid of an all-male clergy or of any clergy at all, realize that the Church has been effecting repairs and are thus now seeking with intensifying urgency to administer a death blow while they still have some at least modestly credible pretexts at their disposal.)

Cafardi wants to know why the 1983 revised Code of Canon Law still held to a five-year canonical state of limitations “for starting diocesan penal trials against accused priests”. [italics mine]

The first point to make here is that We are still in the area of Church law here – these are canonical trials, before an ecclesiastical court, and that court’s greatest punishment authority would be to impose a dismissal from the priestly state. It was not a civil or criminal court and had no authority to imprison and so forth.

Second, in 1983 world psychological opinion was not as convinced as conventional (or ‘progressive’) American psychology – galvanized by a developing ‘Victimist’ perspective – in regard to the significance and consequence of unwanted sexual-experience. Especially since ‘advocacy science’ was by its own definition not objective and in a psychological field still seeking objective facts any prudent practitioner-researcher would want to take some time to study things more carefully.

As I have often said, in this country the Victimist ‘revolution’, like its older siblings, sought to override any ‘objectivity’ and framed any effort at prudence or deliberation as a form of (perhaps willful) ‘re-victimization’.

Even now in this country there is no scientific consensus on such large ‘scientific’ claims as the validity of repressed and recovered memory. And the exception that proved the rule in regard to the necessity for objective science in matters of Stampede and Mania was the dust-up a decade or so ago when a group of government-funded scientists (as most are these days) reviewed all the already-existing and already-approved reports of studies and found, much to their surprise, that none of those studies validated the bedrock Mania presumption that children are profoundly and irretrievably harmed by any sexual experience whatsoever.

The alarming response of Congress – passing for the first time in American history a Resolution claiming that any further study of such a finding would result in the cut-off of government funding – should have been a clear warning that something had become grievously unbalanced in the United States.

I hold no brief for any unwanted sexual experience and certainly not for imposing such experience upon children.

But the point relevant to the discussion in this Post is that the assorted groups allied (however tenuously and sometimes illogically) against the Church in this brouhaha continue to conflate the hugely odd American Mania Psychology and ‘Science’ of the past few decades with accepted world professional opinion. Advocacy Science is not World Science and is not actually even American Science - if I might put it that way.

The Church would have been highly imprudent to incorporate in the 1983 revisions to its master text of Canon Law a peculiar and (as the Brits would politely term it) ‘extraordinary’ Victimist Science and Psychology. (Indeed, the US Congress is already starting to experience, I think, the baaaad consequences of its own drunken embrace of the whole thing a couple-three decades ago.)

And the Church would have been equally imprudent to debase her own ancient and effective legal system by introducing the panoply of American Victimist agitations: for example, the term ‘abuse’ has no fixed meaning, and such meaning as it does have relies heavily on the ‘spectral evidence’ of how an individual reports him/herself … for which there can be no possible objective verification except the Vulcan Mind-meld or Dumbledore’s doo-hickey that makes memories come to life in some fluid or other.

It may be true that “it takes children a long time to process sexual abuse when it happens to them”, but you would have to study objectively the many variables in that assertion: a) all children (and if so on what basis of commonality?) or just some children (and if so how to distinguish and then what makes some resilient and others not?); b) define ‘sexual abuse’ clearly – which is precisely the opposite of what was happening in American, Victimist-addled, law where any long-established ground-rules meant to create hard-and-fast boundaries to reduce the possibility of arbitrary and mis-applied government authority were merely framed as ‘structural re-victimization’ or some such; and their removal or watering-down ‘hailed’ as ‘reform’. Phooey.

And what specifically does “process” mean?

American science and American law have both been hugely deranged and deformed in the past few decades. It is nothing more than a rhetorical debater’s gambit to claim that the Church has failed because it has held firm in preventing such a derangement from spreading to its own legal systems and systems of thought and analysis.

But in the Revolutions that sired American Victimism, themselves heavily dependent for justifications upon literary theory, the clever word-play and the shrewd rhetorical gambits were considered to be adequate replacement for the disdained analysis, objectivity, deliberation, and genuine debate. (And, to repeat, the US Congress is already starting to experience, I think, the baaaad consequences of its own drunken embrace of the whole thing a couple-three decades ago.)

Cafardi mentions the fact that “in the late 1980s the U.S. bishops began asking the Vatican to change the five year statute” and “the Vatican seemed reluctant to do so”. This only seems ‘suspicious’ if you presume that American Victimist science was in all of its assertions objectively proven right and widely and conclusively accepted as such by the relevant world professional community.

And that presumption would not have been correct back then. And would not be correct even now.

And the Vatican has had centuries of the tension between allowing local authority to determine its own affairs and calling the locals back from the brink.

Think of World War One. The local German bishops were rather strongly in favor of the German position; ditto the French. And there was a Belgian prelate who actually condemned the Germans for atrocities they were committing in his country. The Austro-Hungarian bishops ditto. And the American bishops – so eager to secure for their immigrant flocks a place as in the national esteem patriotic citizens – were mostly as slap-happy for American intervention as any jingoist Protestant.

“The Vatican” did what it could to try to keep the Universal perspective alive among national episcopacies that had, alas, gone gaga along with their national flocks.

I see more than a little of the same thing here. American Victimism has not discovered some psychological equivalent of Newton discovering or codifying the Law of Gravity that would be valid at all times and in all places on the planet. American Victimism – especially in the queasy and alarming turns it has taken in regard to deranging Constitutional principles, jurisprudence, legislation, and the utterly indispensable American concepts of competent public deliberation and consensus-building – is not some world-historical discovery that the Vatican is lumpishly and mulishly obstructing, in order to prevent ‘progress’, hide sex-fiend priests, and continue its violent reign as the American fundamentalists’ or liberals’ favorite Anti-Christ.

And as for ‘statutes of limitations’ – the same problem exists. It has yet to dawn on ‘cutting edge’ American legal thought – such as it is – that to extend Statutes of Limitations is a dangerous jurisprudential and legislative gambit because evidence in any form – physical or remembered – decays over time. And any consequent legal judgments based upon such decayed evidence risk not only their justification in Truth and their political legitimacy, but their fundamental Integrity as well.

But of course, to American Victimism – evidence ‘don’t enter into it’: to disbelieve the victim is to re-victimize the victim, so courts should just ‘believe’, ‘convict’, and thus respect the reported pain. If evidence ‘obstructs’ the rush to alleviate the pain, then evidence must be eliminated just like any other bump in the road. But this is a recipe for tyranny in the most classic American sense. Or in any country’s sense.

You cannot sustain so regressive a legal gambit in an advanced Western nation. And Vatican lawyers are hugely well-placed to recall the centuries-long effort in the West, under the example of the Church’s own Canon Law, to advance beyond the level of jurisprudence so nicely limned in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”; and so fatally exemplified in the Salem Witch Trials and their “spectral evidence” that only the victim could see; or in any 20th century totalitarian jurispraxis where Correct revolutionary emotions were all that were necessary to justify a conviction (both Hitler and Stalin could agree on that).

Cafardi would like to move beyond the almost-admittedly over-the-top “plaintiffs’ attorneys” in the hugely remunerative civil trials aspect of this thing. But he then deploys his own acuity in a painstaking unraveling as to which office in the Vatican bureaucracy knew what when in terms of who had the official authority to do stuff.

The best he can come up with is that there was a lot of confusion and that “secrecy” helped cause the confusion.

It would seem to me that if I were a non-American watching what was going on over here I most certainly would want to avoid stepping in front of a stampede and to try to accomplish the best possible outcome some other way. The Vatican did that during the Stampedes that enabled both the German and Italian regimes of the 1920-1940s.

If you don’t realize just how seriously deranged the American elite mentality is at this point, then you aren’t going to be able to accurately assign weights to the Vatican’s behaviors – that’s Diplomacy 101.

I make no trump assertions that no priests did bad things; I make no trump assertions that the Vatican is superhumanly good as an institutional entity.

But I do say that A) there is more than enough indication that the presumptions vital and quintessential to the American variant of Victimist thinking are hugely unproven and more than probably inaccurate and even dangerous to any Constitutional jurisprudence as it has evolved with great difficulty in the West since the Middle Ages; and that B) until you have gotten clear of the deforming ‘planetary atmosphere’ of Planet Victim you will not be able to gauge clearly actions that are in many ways a Vatican response to the American situation (whether American commentators realize their own myopia or not). *


*If I seem rather hard on Victimism and Victimist thought, let me explain myself: I have just completed reading Robert Elias’s 1986 book “The Politics of Victimization”, published by Oxford University Press. Elias writes in 1986 as a committed scholar who supports the insights of Victim-thought around the world (hence I am following his lead when I point out that what We know is only the American variant).

He tries to write simultaneously as an objective scholar and as a committed advocate. Hence there is a weird two-tone authorial voice.

But he has exhaustively studied the Movement and in this book he wants to share and inform.
And in the process he lets an awful lot of cats out of the bag – and yet the cuddly house-cats of 1986 have by 2010 turned into jungle-size cats. Elias mentions, in his objective scholar mode, how dangerous victim-centered thinking can be for the American Constitutional system and considers that a matter that should be tagged for further consideration. (Alas.)

Yet he cannot help share his excitement about the possibilities for a victim-friendly legal process, and though he refers vaguely to the fact that ‘the victim’ had at earlier points in Western legal history played a much more vital and substantial role in justice, yet that respectable position diminished with the development of “professional” police and justice personnel and institutions.

Which really means that in the pre-Modern West, before the development of a rational, state-run justice system, the ‘victim’ had been a respected player. He’d like the victim to be a respected player again, although he goes no further toward the next question: does he or Victimism imply regression of the West’s hard-won legal system back to the pre-Modern era?

I plan an extended Post – or a short series – on this book in the near future. In the meantime, I can urge you with confidence to secure a copy of the book and read it for yourself: from the perspective of a quarter-century later, so much has happened, and not all to the good.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Well, here We go – the fifth in the series on Martha Nussbaum’s 2007 Harvard Law Review article (94 pages), entitled “Constitutions and Capabilities: ‘Perception’ Against Lofty Formalism”. The link to the text of her article is here.

As with all texts that are available in Adobe, there are two sets of page numbers: the page number assigned by the Adobe browser, and the actual page number of the document as it was written. In this case there is a 3 page difference, so when I make a reference to the text of the article it will look like this: page 13-16. The first number is the Adobe browser pagination, and the second is the actual text’s pagination.

The Stoic approach to life basically withdrew the human person into her/her own interior self, ‘retreating’ from the world in the ancient classic military sense of compacting your force in order to concentrate it and intensify its power.

The Stoic approach is not a bad way to conceive of conducting a life: there has to be an interior concentration of your powers; they need to be Mastered and then put to good use, constructive and helpful use out in the world. For anybody looking to conduct a life free from sexually offending, this Project is one of the most important to undertake.

It was the human’s interior (they wouldn’t quite say ‘spiritual’ the way We would understand it today) powers that were a) free from the decay of the outside, this-worldly forces of chaos, imperfection, and corruption; b) the truly defining powers that made a human being a human being with human dignity; c) the one area of life in this world where a human being could demonstrate sufficient independence (if s/he wished to exercise it) so as to achieve the best and the most genuine state of being possible to a human.

Your interior powers are you only true powers. They are the expression of the Self. And they Shape the Self by the manner in which they are deployed. Imagine the Self as being Master and Commander and the powers as being the crew. The ship won’t work without both being at the top of their form, working together.

There is a place for the sexual urge – but really it’s just a member of the crew, and can’t be allowed to order the Master and Commander around. If it’s unruly, then the Master’s job is to make it into a working part of the entire crew.

Nussbaum rejects the Stoic vision. For two reasons.

First, she says, those powers “are more dependent on the world than the Stoics maintained. The capacities of thought, ethical selection, and will are undermined by malnutrition, humiliation, and lack of education”. (8-11)

It’s a shrewd and accurate insight, I would say. Humans are indeed deeply intertwined with the ‘world’ around them in which they live, move and have their being. You needn’t posit a God to imagine human beings deeply and dynamically related to the bio-sphere or eco-sphere (not in the ‘Green’ sense but in the broader philosophical sense). Humans are so marvelously intertwined with the rest of the life-world that some would see a marvelousness that strongly suggests a God, but let’s not digress.

But I’d still have to say that there is also something that sets humans apart: We are not simply marvelously intertwined with the rest of the life-world like pine trees or like other mammals. There is more to it because there is more to Us: humans have self-consciousness and will power and all the other amazing things that come with the highly-complex human brain.

And humans also are capable of failing to achieve their potential – although here you get into the huge question of where such failure comes from: within the human or outside the human. And that leads to stuff like assessing responsibility for such failure and figuring out how to ‘change’ that in a human (or leave the individual as-is). And to distinguishing between failure-to-develop and committing-a-crime; and failing to respect others ... or oneself.

Theorists can spend a great deal of time figuring whether a failure of Mastery comes from – or more from – the world around a person or the person him/herself. Just as ship designers and yard-experts can debate about this or that way of fixing a ship. But when it comes right down to it, it’s the Master and Commander who has the responsibility to make the ship work right: vessel, crew, and he himself.

Did the building yard fail somehow? Did something go wrong or work out wrong somewhere along the line? Be that as it may. Now is now and you’re out on the deep and you have to fix the problem as best you can manage. And you strengthen your own capability and authority as Master and Commander by doing so. Your authority over your own self – which is the most valuable and rare authority. And this is not a bad point to begin any self-repair and rework: you’re the Master & Commander; it’s your life and your ‘ship’ and your Mission; and any fixing you can do on your own will increase your Mastery.

So in emphasizing the connection between humans and the world, downplaying the independence of their interiority, Nussbaum is heading into difficult territory. The human is simultaneously extended into the material world but also comprised of some irreducible interior dynamism; erecting a plan, especially one that you want legislated as a national Plan, that somehow ignores or inadequately deals with that interiority … is not in advisable way to proceed.

And for an SO this is an important point to remember: there is a vital life and self principle deep within; it needs to be identified: feel within your many moods and gears and interior sounds and threads – listen to your own internal noises like a sonar operator listening to the ‘deep’ or a radio operator scanning frequencies and listening for something worthwhile (intel types used to call it the ‘alpha stream’) – until you can isolate that deep and Best gear or stream. Then choose purposely only to function in that gear or stream. Then start trying to do that and see what rises from within to distract you from that, what rises from within to wrench you off your ‘best’ gear and out of your ‘best’ self. Then get to work untangling those wires and connections. Just a handy how-to for self-repair.

Her second objection to the Stoics is that “things outside a person’s rational and ethical faculties also matter: health, bodily integrity, the chance to have relationships with friends, family, and children, the conditions of political action, the freedom to worship in one’s own way, and the ability to live on terms of respect and equality with others”. (8-11)

Again, nicely said. But she’s expanding the view of the essential or core human capabilities – the mind and (We might say) the soul, the rational and the ethical or moral – to include a whole bunch of those other things that are certainly nice to have but aren’t traditionally established as defining the core of the human being.

The Stoics wanted to withdraw the human into the fortress or protective and impregnable castle of the self (although not Dark-Age or Medieval in their quality, the ancients had such protective fortresses and walled cities). They did that in order to protect the essence of the human – which seemed somehow to them to be immaterial – from the hurly-burly of the material world, which included many human beings who didn’t seem able or willing to live on the level of their less-material and higher capabilities.

What I’m proposing to SOs is not the plain Stoic approach: it could become too defensive and too static. I’m proposing an active focus on the interior in order to ‘hear’ it, select the ‘best’ self, and then actively concentrate on making that ‘best’ self your interior ‘default’ or ‘primary’ position that you never want to fall out of. You want to get to the point where, like the Chief Engineer of a Starship, you can report that the ship is operating at ’99 percent efficiency’ (or a 110 percent – why not thing big?).

Nussbaum, of course, is not about to admit into her vision any ‘higher’ and immaterial capabilities … they would sound too much like a ‘soul’ or an ‘essence’, and Correct dogma allows neither.

The AA folks talk about a Higher Power. They don’t follow along with that to a Higher Dimension but it’s included in the good thought. An SO can’t afford to live in a ‘flat’, two-dimensional world. After all, his own internal workings need a lot of work and he will need a lot of inspiration and support to do that. Especially if he has to do the rework sort of ‘alone’ (he’s in confinement and there are too few opportunities, or there is the danger of his therapy being ‘recorded and reported’; he can’t afford a civilian therapist even though he is in the world; or there aren’t any competent civilian therapists around … or any of a dozen other difficulties).

And she’s not going to let herself judge whether a person failing to live up to potential is somehow contributing to that failure through a lack of proper will power and intention.

Rather, she will call for the government to guarantee to each individual the possibility of exercising the powers; whether the individual will do his/her share, whether the individual will deliberately choose to not-develop – that’s not Nussbaum’s or the government’s right to judge.

And she’s gone and expanded the range of ‘pre-conditions’ that she considers so essential to the enjoyment of a full human life that they must be considered ‘rights’.

And she will sort of slide away from the Stoic sense of having a responsibility for ‘mastering’ one’s human powers, and slide toward a postmodern (and soooo American) sense of ‘enjoying’ one’s powers.

This is a serious problem in modern American society now: so many folks, many SOs included, seek to ‘enjoy’ themselves rather than to Master&Command themselves. (If you can get a DVD of the film ‘Master & Commander’ I’d recommend it.) But more than many Americans, SOs realize – thanks to all the ‘attention’ and all the dangers – just how difficult and yet necessary it is to Master&Command oneself. Funny how the night moves in these things: your greatest ‘shortcoming’ can become your greatest ‘advantage’. IF you use it well.

With the government thus not responsible for simply keeping a clear and level field for individual humans committed to working their way toward maturity, but rather responsible for providing a large laundry list of pre-conditions and assorted ‘rights’ so that everybody will ‘enjoy’ their powers.

You see the differences starting to develop here. Even as she is trying to build-on the Stoics, she’s taking things in a direction the Stoics no doubt considered, but chose to avoid. Which may be ‘progress’. But also may be making a mistake now that somebody already figured out how to avoid a couple of thousand years ago.

She quickly works in that one of the core human powers is ‘choice’ – the ability to ‘choose’. (8-11)

Well, yes. You have to decide, you have to choose, you have to judge.

But the power to ‘choose’ – which indeed is a power that is tied up with human dignity – relies on the deep and mastered deployment of the core human abilities to reason things out, which is a job of work for any individual.

And reasoning things out is itself dependent on the First Principles that define your world and your own self. It’s like a Starship in ‘Star Trek’: when it’s constructed each ship is programmed with a set of Primary Coordinates – I think they were the coordinates of Earth – upon which, for all of its service life, wherever it goes, that ship will calculate its position. You can’t just go out into deep space and the trackless universe and figure you can ‘choose’ to go in this direction for a while and then in another direction. Such a power to ‘choose’, ungrounded by any Primary Coordinates, is going to get you lost – lost in your own mind’s inability to keep the Big Picture and lost in actual fact: you won’t know where you really are … at least not in relation to your Mission or your Base or your Purpose.

Because where you ‘are’ is itself relative to your Base, as it were. Starships weren’t simply launched and sent out into space never expected to be seen again. If they were going to keep a constructive relationship with their Base, with their mission and purpose, then they had to have those Primary Coordinates. Even when they were exploring, they were doing it for a large purpose: sending the information and knowledge back to Starfleet Command and all that, where the rest of humanity would have a chance to study what you’d found out.

But of course, Nussbaum, true to her ideological First Principles (such as they are) cannot and does not admit that any human has a Purpose or Nature beyond that which – for as long as s/he cares to – s/he chooses to ‘valorize’. And anything so ‘valorized’ would not have a Capital-letter: one can Correctly embrace a purpose but one can never allow any purpose to become a Purpose because that could create a commitment (which would constrict further ‘choice’ that might be made down the road). One commits to responsibility if one wants to, when one wants to, on the terms one wants to , and for only as long as one wants to. And if not, not.

In this regard, any SO who can incorporate that Higher Dimension and Higher Power into his daily vision of how life – certainly his own life – works, is going to be head and shoulders above a lot of ‘normal’ folks who have been insufficiently prepared for life because they have only learned the flat, two-dimensional world of post-modernism.

And if you have a ‘best’ self – as I said above – and that ‘best self’ also corresponds to a Plan for your life that is supported from that Higher Dimension and by that Higher Power … then you are going to feel a lot more motivated about your life’s best possibilities – especially those interior ones. Because now you are in sync with the Universe on a profound level (even though you may have that SO tendency to work through and rework).

And to imagine that one had a Nature is doubly un-Correct. First, because one cannot surrender one’s ‘total autonomy’ to anything that would limit ‘choice’. Second, because if one had a Nature then that Nature might be imagined to be a common Nature – and for humans to have such a thing would constrict autonomy even more.

Radical-feminist identity politics requires that one’s ‘gender’ be the most important aspect of oneself. And if your ‘nature’ or ‘Nature’ somehow defines or shapes your ‘gender’, then you are being oppressed because you ‘total autonomy’ is being circumscribed. Any common ‘human nature’ or ‘human Nature’ is simply a ploy of patriarchal oppression.

In this sense being an SO is also a bit of ‘identity politics’: you are reduced to your psychological or cultural classification (and perhaps your conviction classification): as if you had no deeper or more important Identity. But you are b) a Citizen and a) a Human Being – and no Identity Politics can take that away from you. Those two Identities (add a third: you are yourself) of yours are “inalienable” in just the sense that the Framers meant.

So Nussbaum – as is the whole radical-feminist agenda – is cutting loose from any of the ‘relationships’ upon which humans are so vitally dependent: that relationship to Capital Letter words that represent the non-material high-concepts that will supply Meaning and Purpose to a human life.

In order to keep ‘choice’ as their primary focus, and a ‘choice’ that is unobstructed by anything or anybody else, then they are going to raise up ‘choice’ to Choice, or to ‘total autonomy’ … to do whatever you want.

So long as you don’t hurt anybody else, of course. But I can’t see how a bunch of ships out in space with no Prime Coordinates and no Prime Directive can avoid hurting other ships: and how can a bunch of humans retain their cohesion as a group or community if there is nothing to hold them together except the idea that they can each do whatever they want, whenever they want.

And what does ‘hurt’ mean then? It’s a much deeper concept than simply committing a legally-defined crime – even a violent one – against other humans. ‘Hurt’ is a much deeper and more complex concept (and reality) because humans are: humans are so complex and intertwined that you can ‘hurt’ them without breaking any legal laws or committing what is construed as a crime (especially of violence).

By limiting ‘hurt’ to the types of activity that serve their own agenda, certain Advocates actually wind up thinning out the huge complexity and subtlety of ‘hurt’: the entire common weal and all its members can be ‘hurt’ by the introduction of institutionalized and legalized scapegoating and all the frakkery that goes along with keeping such things going in a society and a culture.

So these envisioned choice-droids that radical-feminist theory wants to turn everybody into … don’t strike me as fully human. Nor will any they have any chance of putting together and holding together a common-weal or a polity whose sinews and bonds will hold it together under pressure and challenge.

But she wants to use the Stoic idea of ‘human dignity’ but then adds to it the idea of ‘human vulnerability’ (8-11): humans have great dignity, but their potentials to fully actualize or achieve that dignity are vulnerable to so many pre-conditioning conditions.

But those pre-conditioning conditions are outside the human; there is no interior struggle in this vision. Rather, in her vision the government is tasked with actively going ahead of all its human citizens like an ice-breaker and keeping the ice out of their way. Or the government is responsible for Shaping and Controlling the national life-world so that all those pre-conditions are and remain favorable to each person/citizen so that each will have “access to a life worthy of human dignity”. (8-11)

It’s an intriguing vision, and not an evil one at all. But it’s going to require a whole lotta government. And the SO comminity realizes just how much government – and not government at its ‘best’ – that this whole scheme requires.

And for a long time, this huge and deep job had been assigned to … God. Not the Greek gods, who really couldn’t have cared less as a rule what happened to humans. But the Judeo-Christian God who was a person (3, perhaps) and cared a very great deal, like a parent for children.

Of course, Nussbaum is doing philosophy here, and not theology. And she is working on a political philosophy that will translate somehow – she hopes – into actual government policy and law.

But in matters human I think that – just like with Starships – you need a set of Prime Coordinates … and if you don’t want to allow them in another dimension (God, say) then you will have to assign something in this dimension to do the job.

Nussbaum wants to assign the task to ‘government’. But that is going to wreak all hell with the Founding idea of a ‘limited government’. But she and the entire radical-feminist Revolution have cast their lot with the Beltway; it is their ‘god’ for all practical (that is to say, political) purposes.

In a way they make an ‘idol’ of government the same way that the Fundamentalists of the Right do: claiming that the government speaks for God and has God’s authority and nobody can ever doubt that.

Idolatry, at this stage of Western civilization, doesn’t strike me as ‘progress’; exactly the opposite.

But you can see why they want to get rid of any rival ‘religion’ and any ‘rival’ god – like, say, God.

And Nussbaum admits it: Her Capabilities Approach “ascribes an important role to government in human life: government is charged with securing for citizens a comprehensive set of necessary conditions for a life worthy of human dignity”. (8-11)

She’s got that right. An organization exercising the role formerly ascribed to God has an ‘important’ set of Shoes to fill indeed.

Whether any earthly entity can – especially if its nature is supposed to be limited … well that’s another question entirely.

She puts her finger on an actual lack in human affairs: humans’ most important abilities – indeed their entire hope for any success and enjoyment in this world – are dependent on forces and dynamics beyond their control.

But Nussbaum wants – decently enough, certainly – to fill this lack by assuming that what an individual cannot do, a government can successfully do for him/her.

I’m not sure she’s thought this thing through.

Because while those powers are somewhat dependent upon the external world, they most surely and indispensably must be developed and wielded by the person, in that interior world. And yet it's precisely here that Nussbaum's vision wants to keep government out of people's lives: they shouldn't have to be 'judged' on what they do with their 'autonomy'. OK, but even people who want to drive motor vehicles or fly aircraft have to submit their achieved skills to 'judgment'.

And while I don't want any government Office of Self-Development Evaluation, still it has to be said that if individuals don't undertake the long hard road to Self-Mastery then nothing at all is going to wind up working. As the songster saith: "You got to walk that lonesome valley; you got to walk it by yourself".

She asserts that these human ‘capabilities’ she discerns, so vulnerable to the world, “need support from the political world”. (8-11) But she has to face it: the “political world” is the US government, the Beltway, an earthly government composed of humans, and probably not Deputized by God to exercise his full authority. And currently running verrrry short of cash, which will be needed to fund the knowledge-and-service society (which will never be able to pay for itself), and now the Capability society as well.

But, she continues, “the political goal” can only be “capability, not functioning”. (9-12) That is to say: the government can only make the conditions ready for individuals to achieve or realize or master or enjoy their Capabilities.

“At that point, the decision whether to take up a given opportunity must be their own. Respect for a person requires not dragooning that person into a particular mode of activity, however desirable it might seem”. (9-12)

But all this government expense and intrusion – assuming that it all doesn’t either wreck the polity or bankrupt the government or both – are thus expended simply so folks can ‘choose’ … what? Not to actualize their Capabilities? To actualize them in ways that will harm others or deprive others of the benefits of mutual contribution and cooperation?

And surely, the government and all of Us are being ‘dragooned’ into supporting this incomprehensibly broad and kind of fuzzy Plan.

But as has been the case for 40 years now, ‘choice’ – broadly and vaguely defined and carried to the ultimate extreme – is the only thing that has to be preserved. Nothing else really matters.
And no human being is simply a choice-bot. It is a grossly inadequate vision of human beings.

And a life with nothing but ‘choice’ is not a life as humans know it or could live in it. And ‘choice’ without any Shaping at all … is kudzu without a trellis: all you’re going to wind up with is a flat but dense jungle, and not a garden.

Which brings things back to the question as to whether any such ‘secular’ society as is being proposed to be imposed upon the country has any possibility of serving as a livable and survivable vessel for Americans or for any humans.

Or whether this whole past 40 years has been as wrackulous an adventure as Vietnam: a Plan insufficiently conceived by elites who figured that they were too big to fail because they were Americans and they were on top of the world. And that American power and brains could never fail, and that American money would never fail.

And here We are.

And so SOs – whether ‘identified’, ‘registered’, incarcerated or under supervision or not – can actually use this whole dangerous situation to advantage by using it as a motivator to do their own ‘self-work’, their own repair-and-rework. That is a ‘choice’ that they can make: to become a Master&Commander by taking responsibility for their lives and the workings of their ‘ship’. And this can be done, as a profoundly necessary beginning, in the privacy of your own ‘self’, on your own ‘quarterdeck’ you might say.

And for the SO community who are not themselves SOs but want to help make this situation better, much can be done; because while I don’t think that much of Nussbaum’s stereotypical ‘progressive’ position (though I don’t think there’s not much ‘progressive’ about it, and a lot that’s ‘regressive’ about it) is going to make it onto Beltway desks, there’s still so much of it that has already been enacted into law and policy, and so much of it that Beltway types and government types on the State level – along with generations of law school grads who are now judges, prosecutors, and pols – have accepted as being ‘just some reform’ or else ‘the best cutting-edge new thinking’.

I imagine the SO community as being something like Anthony Hopkins’ character of Zorro, faced with the character (played by Antonio Banderas) of the young man, still sunk in his own mess, whom he must prepare for great things: “This”, says the older man resignedly, “is going to take a lot of work”.

So much remains to be done.