Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Scott Horton brings my attention to this article about why a society must be judgmental about certain actions. In the article, Berkowitz laments our lost ability to label an action as right or wrong, using the current President's failure to prosecute the previous administration's torturers, the inability of news outlets to use the word torture lest they appear judgmental and the rise of plea bargains and mandatory sentencing in criminal trials as evidence of this lost ability. While all of these may be regrettable developments, I do not think our society has lost the ability to judge the behavior of others. In fact, these seem to illustrate that society has passed judgment on such behavior: it is OK to get caught up in a nationalistic fervor and torture people in the name of national security, news outlets are to serve as PR machines for the ruling classes and nobody likes to serve on juries. I remain somewhat sympathetic to Berkowitz's point of view, but it strikes me as hopelessly naive. In a culture that demands an exact, scientific approach to children's games, literature appreciation and all other matters that used to enjoy a grey area, it should not be surprising that we demand the same automization of our criminal procedures. Efficiency is key, not results.