Monday, March 21, 2016

They Know Not What They Do?

In the gospel at Palm Sunday mass, Jesus is quoted as saying from the cross, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

Many times I have wondered how people who commit crimes and other unethical acts can possibly not know what they are doing. I often think that of course Spring knows she committed perjury, Nelly Wince knows she committed fraud and lied in court, Judge Mearly knows he ruled unethically, the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board and County Attorney Bernie Sonsang know they corruptly conspired to cover up criminal activity. How can they not? There actions were blatant after all.

But the reality is they probably do not think they did anything wrong. The key is that they rationalize the actions away. Spring probably believes that lying in court is just how the system works. (she actually told me this at one point) Nelly Wince likely thinks the same. They all have their reasons and those reasons are enough to assuage their consciences.

But still, their actions are wrong. And illegal. We have, in general, pretty good laws. Where we fail is on the equal and just enforcement of this laws. Leaving alimony awards up to the discretion of a judge without any guidelines, provides a wide open door to abuse. For examples take a look at the stories on the Minnesota Alimony Reform site. We have good laws agaisnt fraud but apparently they don't apply so much when it comes to certain people.  Minnesota Lawyers have laudable rules of ethical conduct. But they are pretty much ignored and the Lawyers Office of Professional Responsibility rarely, if ever, takes action against a lawyer unless the person has already been convicted of a major crime.

Because the laws and rules are not enforced consistently and equitably, they come to be seen as optional by the unethical.

Although there are variations, in general there is remarkable consistency in laws and ethics across religions, non-religious value systems and countries.  Collectively, we know what is right - sadly, on an individual basis our species is not so good. Murder, bribery, and fraud are universally condemned by law. Yet, in many countries they are quite common. Why? Because the laws are not well enforced in those countries. Well enforced laws are what keeps the the individuals who are able to rationalize away their unethical and criminal actions in check.

Despite all the evidence I have of crime, in some cases indubitable evidence, the criminals go unpunished and unchecked.

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