Revised Edition -- June, 2007
It seems that thinkers, philosophers, social critics, and typically anyone concerned with the plight of those who must endure through misery and suffering, usually make references to the poverty, oppression, and crime of those who must go through a harder life. Throughout the ages, the political leaders of a nation, whom have been elected by their campaign funds or their birthrights, have always given great concern to ending crime. Murder, robbery, and rape have typically been regarded as the greatest crimes in society, each one created in its own nature. Murder is the highest form of vengeance, and in societies where feuds and arguments have been the general discourse, there will be this crime. While men and women live together, they have often neglected the articulate nature of science, art, and learning. Instead of decided to advance civilization, change the world, and love each other, they have created war among themselves, for their own reasons. Robbery itself is a crime that is as old as the existence of property. Instead of deciding to increase their own wealth, by the labor of their hands, man decided to benefit from the reward of another man's hand. Rape itself has been detested throughout all of Western Europe, but it is only a recent phenomenon that the motive changed. For a great deal of time, rape was simply regarded as expensive property damage. Finally when the people realized that women are themselves capable of independent thought, and a desire to express and experience inner emotions, rape has been changed, from property damage to personal assault. While the monarchs and elected officials of nations, and their countless followers, have endeavored to offer their plans and ideas on ending crime, few have attempted to discover the cause of crime. It has almost always been assumed that the source of crime is a simple disobedience to the law. It was only in the 20th century that the Western world finally discovered that criminal activity was not in fact caused by a diseased brain. It still remains a doctrine of many of today's politicians and their supporters that crime in caused by savagery, an "evil" nature, or simply a disobedience to the law, and this view is expressed in their speeches, their public reports, and their communication with the public.
It is crime that I shall be investigating within this paper. By crime, I mean a violation of either the laws or social customs (new and old) in a society.
A Profile of Crime in America
Before continuing in this piece, it is probably most important to first note the most common types of crime that occur within this nation. In state penitentiaries, 49% were sentenced for a violent crime, 20% were sentenced for a property crime, and 21% were sentenced for a drug crime (for the year 2000). In city jails, a fourth were held for violent crimes, a fourth were held for property crimes, and a fifth were held for drug crimes (for the year 1996). [*1] However, there are overlapping crimes. Robbery, for instance, for something as small as a few dollars, may go unprosecuted, but the crime of assault or battery may end up with the suspect serving several years. Offenders of violent crimes had used a weapon in 46% of all robberies, as an example (for the year 2002). [*2] With that, I continue in my analysis.
Crimes of Greed
When I speak of Crimes of Greed, I want it to be understood that I am speaking of robbery, of mugging, of theft of property in any manner. The desire to steal property can be understood by all. It is but a human desire, one that exists inside all of us, to have the essentials of life, such as food, shelter, and the like. In fact, it is hardly human, and rather completely natural to all forms of life. This instinct to gather the necessities, at all costs, is wholly normal. I am not attempting to justify it, but rather, only understand it. Humans, however, vary somewhat than other creatures of this planet. For some of us, it is not enough to have what is necessary to life. We must have wealth; we must have financial security. A loaf of bread every day while living in the smallest of apartments might very well meet the necessities. Yet, it is as much a dream as it is a desire to think that one day, you can have luxury, and those things you've always hoped for as a child. A loaf of bread and a cockroach-infested apartment, sure, they may very well meet your necessities. But what about a television set? A CD player? A DVD player? A stylish wardrobe? A condominium? Maybe your own house? As I said, it is only human to want wealth and possibly extravagance, or the idea that you are "well off" and need not worry about financial insecurities. The instinct to obtain that what you need to survive can be found in all life forms and the desire to become wealthy and even recognized is closer to the human species, though I wouldn't be surprised if similar desires were found in the other creatures of this world.
The instinct for survival and desire of wealth are apparent parts of human society; they have found themselves expressed in every facet culture. The question now is, what are the methods by which people go about procuring these desires? Primarily, there are two methods: legal employment and criminal activity (or, Crimes of Greed, "Property Crimes"). On behalf of legal employment, one must first understand that this hardly signifies something worthy, just, or virtuous. The officials of the Nazi army were well paid and well respected -- and despite the fact that it may have been their task to persecute those of the Jewish ethnicity, they were legally employed. So, too, were the Roman soldiers, whose task it was to invade foreign lands with the intent to rob and plunder. Only a nominal difference took place when American soldiers are sent world wide, to raid countries like Vietnam, Haiti, Guatemala, Cambodia, Colombia, or others. Millions of lives taken and thousands of homes burned to the ground, all under the banner of legal employment, but not only legal employment, but a job that was respected by society and honored by the government.
These are the two options for a human being's natural inclinations of wealth: legal employment, and the alternative, the alternative going by the title of "crime." Of those who commit crime, statistics show that their ability to generate revenue through legal employment is deficient. In federal and state prisons, 63% percent of jail inmates belonged to racial or ethnic minorities in 1996. [*1] The importance of this statistic is the history of racial and ethnic minorities. Less than two hundred years ago, the African race was released from the bondage of slavery, only to be given unequal conditions and poverty. Only some decades ago did they really achieve social, political, or economic equality in opportunity -- and still, even though the opportunity is present, they are in the thick sand of poverty. A black family, with two parents working minimum wage, will have a harder time sending their children to a university, than a white family, with two parents working middle class jobs. And then consider the plight of the Native Americans. They owned the land and the resources that make up virtually all property in this nation -- and it was stolen. In prisons, altogether, an estimated 57% of inmates had a high school diploma or its equivalent. [*1] And, indeed, there is no denying that lack of a high school diploma will prevent acceleration, either with money-making ability or job opportunities.
Nationally, in local jails, over a third of all inmates reported some physical or mental disability. Altogether, only 54% of inmates had a high school diploma or its equivalent. Thirty-six of all inmates were not employed during the month before they were arrested for their current offense. A quarter of the jail inmates said they had been treated at some time for a mental or emotional problem. [*1] There is no denying that all of these statistics debilitates the inmates from acquiring a legal job. Besides those who fall into the category of debilitated, what can be said of those who are on an equal level with others as far as legal employment ability? It is in only one or two instances where the state minimum wage with a full time job is enough to reach the poverty level. The fact that these individuals are not just randomly committing crimes, and that they are in fact acting based on their conditions, is quite obvious. Of the 272,111 persons released from prisons in 15 States in 1994, an estimated 67.5% were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years, 46.9% were reconvicted, and 25.4% resentenced to prison for a new crime. [*1]
The ultimate cause of the Crimes of Greed is poverty. There is no premeditated motive based on disobedience to the law or disrespect for the law -- it is based on the ability to make wealth. The economy is the cause of crime. This new realization actually throws responsibility from the criminal to the heads of the economy, or to those who sustain the economy. Tens of millions of Africans, for instance, were born in poverty, because their ancestors were bondaged to slavery without the right to freedom. When a man of African descent commits a crime of theft, it may be less linked to his disobedience than his desire for food. And the same can be said of any man who commits a crime of greed. Though it is hardly deniable that poverty is the cause of these crimes of theft, is it justified to state that the economy is the cause of poverty? Any person who understand basic economics cannot deny this. Capitalism has allowed the most extreme wealth to a few and the most extreme poverty to all. The rest of the 90% of that wealth goes into the pockets of the Capitalist class. If workers, in fact, were paid all of the wealth that they labored to create, then their revenue would increase by enormously -- this would mean more wealth and less work time to the laborers responsible for creating the social product.
There are, of course, various interested players in the system of Capitalism. If the few are the oppressors, and the many are the oppressed, why is it that a revolution has not come? The answer is simple: the oppressed are conditioned to believe that slavery is freedom. From the day a citizen can attend school, they are forced to by law, where they are taught nothing more than lies in an oppressive system that involves torture and abuse. Then the work experience comes where wage-slavery threatens people with starvation if they do not succumb. The media has been purchased by megacorporations and receives grants from the government -- never is the truth wholly told. The government lied to the public during the Vietnam War and in fact, few people know today that the war was an attempt to keep Vietnam as a colony of France -- the same reason why the colonies of America revolted. The next secret war of the US Army is always around the corner, when the US imperialist government overthrows a democratically elected president and supports their own dictator in South American nations. Poverty has never existed in such prevalence, except those nations touched by contemporary Capitalism, a fact that no economist would be bold enough to refuse. The wars go on and the soldiers die thinking that liberty is what they are fighting for, but when they find themselves in a foreign land burning villages, only those who are free in mind will say, "Is this really for liberty?" The next anti-Capitalism or anti-police brutality is met with rubber bullets and pepper spray, as police officers brutalize and murder citizens -- and they think that order is "people not being outraged that 40% of the children here don't have enough to eat." [*3] So when people express an anti-government opinion, they can rest in prison cells while the president delivers another address to the people, arguing that invading and destroying another country so we can exploit them for their cheap labor and resources is the same thing as independence. Because when people fight back against their government, they are called "terrorists" -- and when a person expresses a revolutionary opinion, they are called an "insurgent." The media publicizes it and the people buy. From the first day, people are given the mindset that fighting back is futile.
Maybe a police officer will think it's a lie that "liberty means shooting protestors." Maybe a soldier will think it's a lie that "doing your duty means killing civilians." Maybe a news reporter will think it's a deception that they refuse to cover the stories of soldiers executing civilians. Tom Hurndall was shot in the head by an Israeli police officer during a peaceful protest. All of the major news networks refused to carry the story. [*4] He was protesting the destruction of a home with bulldozers by a government that oppressed Palestinians. The other 2,500 deaths of refugees, protestors, and political dissidents went uncovered. When he protested against Capitalism, Carlo Giuliani was shot in the head by Italian police. [*5] Because today, struggling to be free has been labeled as "anarchy and terrorism," because a movement for and by the people is the equivalent of a "terror cell." Why talk about the deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of police and soldiers, when we can raise enough support for another war?
Out of sight. Out of mind. The police and soldiers take on the "insurgent" masses while the media convinces the rest that slavery is freedom.
*1. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Criminal Offender Statistics
*2. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Crime Characteristics
*3. UNICEF, State of the World's Children Report, 2003.
*4. "Not again": Eyewitness Joe Smith writes about the shooting of Tom Hurndall. Joe Smith, The Electronic Intifada, 12 April 2003
*5. The G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, 7/21/01.