Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A Survival Guide for Decent Folk

NightJack’s Survival Guide for Decent Folk is available on the Internet in various places. I picked it up at Samizdata and read it. It makes very interesting reading. I will assume that it is posted with the best of intentions, and that NightJack honestly believes that it is the wisest policy. I will even assume that he is completely correct.

But it immediately made me think of some other words of wisdom: “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:39-42)

Fitting the instructions of Jesus Christ with the kindly advice of NightJack seemed a little difficult. Perhaps the relevant teaching of Jesus was actually Matthew 10:16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

The truth of the matter is that NightJack’s advice should make us weep. He basically suggests that decent folk should be prepared to make false allegations. He says “So don’t do the decent and honourable thing . . .” He is telling us that the way the criminal justice system works, honesty is not the best policy.

Now, I’m sure that he himself finds it highly depressing that the system works the way it does. It probably depresses him more than it depresses me. I’m sure he wishes that doing the decent and honourable thing would always be the best policy.

The point is that if NightJack is right (and I have little doubt that he is), then there is something rotten about the system. The system is designed to reward dishonourable and dishonest behaviour, and to penalise decent and honourable behaviour. In other words, the actions of our governments, the laws that have been made, the instructions that have been handed down, all have the effect of rewarding wickedness and penalising goodness. Which means that our legislators have either been terribly wicked or terribly stupid - or perhaps it is just a combination of moderate wickedness with moderate stupidity.

There is a message here for politicians (and would-be politicians). The system needs to be fixed. It needs to be redesigned, so that honourable behaviour is rewarded, and dishonourable behaviour is punished. That, I thought, was why we had a criminal justice system.


patently said...

I saw NJ's post as being satirical, to point out that the justice system utterly fails to do justice - in that the reasonable and honest person is hit with the book full in the face, while the dishonest person finds it easy to avoid sanction.

(That said, I did make a few mental notes as to what could be done within the bounds of truthfulness!)

Young Mr. Brown said...

Well, you know the law better than I do, and have seen more of the criminal justice system.

Perhaps it was satirical, and my reading has been over-literal. But I do wonder . . .