Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Tale of Two Countries

"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky."  ~ Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, Chapter 9

The United States and Norway are two very different countries with two extremely different approaches when it comes to crime and punishment, actually when it comes to life.

I started to write this post over a month ago after reading these two articles. One in the New York Times The Radical Humaneness of Norway's Halden Prison and the other Hellhole, which ran in the New Yorker about the tens of thousands of inmates in the solitary confinement of American prisons.

I am not certain when America went wrong in its thinking, when it zigged when it should have zagged. But clearly the underlying motivation in this country is not humaneness nor the rising up of the individuals within its population. That basic human concept has become too associated with socialism and for some reason that is a bad thing.

No, in recent decades it is all about wealth and growing wealth. Complaining about what the government can and shouldn't do for its people while at the same time making sure the wealthy are taken care of in ways that matter most.

We throw pot smokers in prison but not Wall Street swindlers and thieves. We turn a blind eye to white collar crimes but allow atrocious inhumane acts to be committed by the police in the name of justice.

Recently in New York there was a incident on the subway where two homeless men were engaged in a brutal fight with each other. There were four tourists from Sweden on that subway car and they just so happened to be Swedish policemen when the call went out from the conductor for assistance. The four unarmed but trained Swedes moved in and took action.

What amazed me was when I later watched a longer video of the encounter was how these Swedish policemen handled the situation. With humaneness, the men could be seen subduing with a gentle hand on the homeless men, gently touching and calming and asking over and over, are you ok? are you hurt?

When asked about the situation afterwards they merely said they acted as they were trained to behave. Hmmm, four tourists in a foreign land and they let their training kick in, which didn't seem to include fear for their lives as a first response.

I wonder if it is too late to change, to treat our fellow man better than animals. If you beat a dog mercilessly it will one day turn on you if it gets a chance. We should be better than treating our fellow man as dogs, no matter what the crime. We should have as our goal to help to make that person a better man.

We won't always succeed one hundred percent of the time, but we as society will be better off for the successes we do achieve.

I have always said and believe that if we want to find the answers we need to study what works, no matter where we find it. Study success - whether it is in education, healthcare, social welfare or the penal system. That is where you will find the answers.

I suggest you take time to read the attached articles it is an interesting contrast to two very different philosophies.

The Radical Humaneness of Norway's Halden Prison


1 comment:

  1. Great post, Annie. I don't know how Americans got so mean.