June 16, 2010 at 9:53 A.M. Several essays were defaced overnight as my security system was breached. I believe that I have corrected all of the inserted (or reinserted) "errors." It is fascinating to experience this display of public criminality in a land that once symbolized the rule of law and respect for freedom of speech. Fascinating, but also very sad.
March 3, 2009 at 8:05 A.M. A progress report from the Western front: I am still unable to access MSN, neither hotmail nor my group are available. I do not accept that MSN has "closed." Hence, I must infer that this obstruction of my Internet access is a result of my opinions and is made possible by nefarious Cubanazo-mafia factions from New Jersey and/or Miami. How is Senator Bob these days?
I cannot imagine who would be sufficiently interested in post-Kantian theory to commit cybercrimes to prevent dissemination of rival interpretations of German idealism. It could not be my views on the Cuba issue that are problematic, right? Certainly not the accusations of criminality in New Jersey politics and law. This continuing spectacle is humiliating (probably deliberately) for the Obama administration, undermining U.S. Constitutional guarantees, challenging the President's authority and standing by hinting at the administration's inability to control various Right-wing paramilitary groups within his own country. I hope that this is not accurate.
I will not modify my views nor will I refrain from expressing them. In the event that, due to cyberattacks, I am unable to express them or to write at all -- if I am injured in any way -- then rest assured that my thoughts will continue to be pretty much as you have known them to be over the past several years that this cyberwarfare has taken place, cyberwarfare made possible by the cooperation of corrupt officials from the odorous and odious Garden State. I think that was very well put!
A.M. Rosenthal, Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case (New York: Melville House, 2008), entirety.
Norman Geras, The Contract of Mutual Indifference: Political Philosophy After the Holocaust(London & New York: Verso, 1998), entirety.
Lewis Mumford, "The Mechanical Routine," and James Baldwin, "Fifth Avenue, Uptown," in Eric and Mary Josephson, eds., Man Alone: Alienation in Modern Society (New York: Dell, 1962), pp. 114-122, pp. 346-355.
J.P. Chaplin, ed., Dictionary of Psychology (New York: Dell, 1985).
T. Honderich, ed., Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
Betty Brink, "Carswell Prison Blues: It's a Crime How Inmates Have Been Treated at a Federal Hospital for Incarcerated Women," in Ms., Summer, 2008, at p. 40.
Adam Liptak, "Defining 'Cruel and Unusual Punishment' When the Offender Is 13," in The New York Times, February 3, 2009, at p. A12.
This essay is dedicated to Darlene Fortwendel.
At about 3:00 A.M. on March 13, 1964, a twenty-eight year-old woman named Catherine (Kitty) Genovese was coming home from her job in what was described by journalists as "a tavern" to her middle-class neighborhood in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York. Ms. Genovese was attacked by a man wielding a knife. The incident is not all that unusual for a large American urban center, where murders are "predictable on a statistical basis" -- as social scientists inform us with a worrisome chuckle. Ms. Genovese's death had a particularly grisly set of features and some disturbing implications for the society in which we live. For example, alluding to Ms. Genovese's employment in a "tavern" in 1964 amounted to calling her a whore.
"... Over the course of thirty-five minutes, the assailant stabbed her in three separate rounds of assault. She screamed for help repeatedly. Only after Genovese lay dying, three doors from her apartment house, did any of her neighbors call the police." (Rosenthal, p. 15.)
Thirty-eight people heard the young woman screaming for help, as she was being murdered, but did not wish to "get involved." What is fascinating about this incident is not that a young woman died. Ms. Genovese is long gone and never had an opportunity to develop her talents. We don't know enough about her to mourn the loss of her gifts and -- unless we knew her personally -- we cannot feel her absence from our daily lives. The incident is intriguing for what it says about us, collectively, about our disconnectedness or fragmentation in contemporary society. I will have more to say on that point in my concluding remarks. This is far from an isolated incident.
Darlene Fortwendel, "49, convicted of embezzlement, arrived at Carswell [prison] in February 2005 with a prior diagnosis of metastatic liver cancer. Inexplicably, her cancer then went untreated for six months. When the doctors at Carswell finally sent her to an outside hospital in August of that year, doctors found that the cancer had metastisized to her bones and there was no hope for recovery."
Alienation and "apathy" (defined for present purposes as a generalized indifference or absence of suitable emotion) revealed by these horrible events are greater today than ever before. Social apathy may well explain our national indifference to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Darfur, China's earthquake, together with many other international calamities, thus explaining a great deal of the ambiguity and hostility directed at Americans today from all over the world.
Americans are said to be "numbed to distraction," narcissistic, self-indulgent, and crass. Theologians and psychologists say that we are losing our capacity for empathy and affect. Who cares about a female inmate with a treatable cancer? Not the prison doctors who collect their checks no matter what happens to their victims -- I mean, "patients." I think they murdered this woman with their neglect of her illness which might have been treated in a timely fashion. Terry Tuchin?
Wall Street bankers and financiers who are about to receive $850,000,000 in "stimulus" from American taxpayers, after bringing about a financial crisis with global repercussions and massive job losses due to their irresponsible lending practices as well as unsound financial instruments, paid themselves huge bonuses that have added to our economic troubles. Mazeltov.
President Obama was rightly furious at this "insensitivity" -- I call it, greed -- on the part of the very people whose structural decisions have brought the economy to this sad state. (Spacing of paragraphs in this essay may be affected by N.J.'s hackers.)
I believe that there is much truth in this diagnosis of social apathy. I am far more disturbed by collective forms of alienation than by any isolated individual's estrangement from the human condition and community. There are some exceedingly frightening examples of what happens when nations feel less or nothing at all for the least fortunate persons. Nazi Germany is one example. However, there are others which are just as awful.
Film of African children no more than twelve years-old carrying machine guns is scary enough, until we see a fourteen year-old inner city youth arrested for raping and killing a thirteen year-old neighbor. We yawn before our t.v. sets, as we reach for more potato chips along with the remote control. Most of us are exactly like the people who did not wish to get "involved" in 1964, as a young woman's screams wafted up to their windows in the night. Some -- like a few "scientific" shrinks, Terry Tuchin perhaps -- may wish to take notes and "observe" the crime being committed, while remaining neutral at all times. Right, Terry? "We can learn from you!"
Joe Sullivan is 20 years into a life-sentence for a crime that he probably did not commit that took place when he was 13 years-old. The victim testified that her assailant and rapist was a "colored boy." She did not see his face. She heard him say "something" like "if you don't see me, I won't have to kill you." The defendant was required to say these words, repeatedly, on the witness stand. Defense counsel -- perhaps a graduate of Harvard Law School -- was probably in a coma. The victim was not sure that Mr. Sullivan was the assailant. However, Mr. Sullivan was convicted in Florida, probably by an all-white jury with some Cubanazos members favoring the death penalty. The only First World country where persons younger than 15 (who are mentally impaired) are sentenced to death (for murder), or life behind bars for crimes other than murder (rape), is the United States of America. These offenders are children who are always viciously victimized and in need of treatment themselves.
There are, of course, Freudian and Marxist explanations for these cultural realities. There is some usefulness in these traditional or quaint models and attempts at "scientific" explanation. There is also much obfuscation and contribution to the very social pathology under examination in such distancing approaches. Those who are into Continental philosophy, however, and who are anxious to engage in a "coolness competition" at your local coffee house should refer to the following sources: Political types are directed to Raymond Geuss, The Idea of a Critical Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); whereas psychobabblers will opt for B.F. Skinner's Science and Human Behavior (New York: MacMillan, 1953), a Devil's Manual for producing alienation and controlling what is then created on the basis of "behaviorist" conditioning; as opposed to the classic re-working of Freud in Marxist terms, Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965).
There is certainly an increased tendency in America towards "depersonalization" and "alienation." These will be our words for today, boys and girls:
"'Depersonalization' ... in existential and sociological writings, the feeling attributed to contemporary man of being a cog in a vast impersonal machine." (Chaplin, p. 122.)
"'Alienation' ... the feeling of apartness and strangeness ... a separation of the individual from the real self and others because of the preoccupation with abstractions [middle-class, American, employed, tax-payer, etc.,] and the necessity for conformity to the wishes of others and the dictates of social institutions." (Chaplin, p. 18.)
I wish to focus on somewhat different culprits and a more tangled set of social-theoretical difficulties that afflict us in our postmodernist moment, without abandoning all the good stuff in those Freudian and Marxist analyses that our parents thought were so "groovy" back in the sixties. I wish to examine scientism and techno-worship, for one thing, but also a uniquely distressing American phenomenon, "legalism." I shall also "have occasion to mention" -- as they say in Oxbridge circles from which I am happily excluded -- postmodernist irony, entertainment culture, the America of disposable objects and persons as illustrated, for instance, in something called: "America's Next Top Model." I return to the unhappy fate of Ms. Genovese in my conclusion. Donald Trump, "you're fired!"
"The regularity that produces apathy and atrophy -- that acedia which was the bane of monastic existence, as it is likewise of the army -- is as wasteful as the irregularity that produces disorder and confusion. To utilize the accidental, the unpredictable, the fitful is as necessary, even in terms of economy, as to utilize the regular: activities which exclude the operations of chance impulses forfeit the advantages of regularity." (Mumford, p. 115.)
Neutrality and objectivity are terms absorbed by our kids in school before grade two. Teachers these days have M.S. degrees in a strange and arcane discipline called "Education Science." This field of study involves the attempt to discuss teaching and what happens in classrooms in terms that make nuclear physics seem like one of the humanities. The widespread assumption is that intelligence and education amount to passing on these "methods" and "strategies" to students. Improvisation, imagination, awareness of intellectual opportunities are discouraged.
"Learners in our learning module will be exposed to social scientific studies designed to maximize growth opportunities derivable from aesthetic encounters in urban settings."
This kind of jargon is found in teachers' "lesson plans." It means, roughly, that the kids are going to an art museum on Tuesday. They should bring their lunch. Compare George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," in A Collection of Essays (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1953), p. 156. If you think I am joking about this, wait till you meet my kid's social studies teacher. I was handed what looked like a flight plan from NASA by this person at my last parent/teacher conference that scared the shit out of me. I can imagine what it does to the kids.
Where is the joy or eros in learning and discussing history, or great societal issues? Simple, it doesn't exist anymore because this joy cannot be quantified and demonstrated "objectively" to superiors making "teaching performance assessments" of teachers trying to get tenure.
Suppose that you stagger into a "social issues" course at 8:00 A.M. on a Thursday. I am your professor. I enter the classroom. Place a chair on top of the desk in the middle of the room. I climb on to the chair. I then scream at the top of my lungs: "I am the representative of God in a new religion! I have recruited devotees to fly airplanes into buildings in Manhattan in order to protest and strike against the wickedness of 'godless' America!"
I then descend from this chair and invite you to persuade me that this command by the head honcho of a new religion -- let us call it, "the worship of Opera" -- is evil. I will defend the command as highly moral. At the conclusion of our discussion, we will have covered Eric Hoffer, Santayana, Freud, Jung, Islam, the Inquisition, pacifism, civil disobedience, legality, ethics, humanism, politics and freedom of religion. Assignment: Read one book by an author mentioned by me during our discussion and be prepared to argue, eloquently, that he or she is full of shit.
I know what the response on the part of the authorities will be: "Can you break that down into 12 lesson plans?" Answer: No. O.K., you say, but what does all of this have to do with "apathy"? Well, people are bored and disconnected from one another. Bonds and deep friendships that once emerged from shared experiences in schools and churches aren't part of people's lives anymore. We relate to others only indirectly, through interactions mediated by institutional roles and status, or worse, by machinery (like e-mail or Internet discussions), cellphones, or cablevision opinion "polls." Human contact and interaction with our fellow citizens is diminished because it is deemed "inconvenient" in a commercialized and technological setting. Here come some more books that you should read: Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Knopf, 1964) and Harvey Cox, The Secular City (New York: MacMillan, 1966). (What do these authors mean by "anonymity"?)
If a sexual partner is made available by technology, for example -- i.e., a robot -- people will opt for the convenience of this device. No annoying person to deal with when one feels "frisky." (See Cherry 2000.) Ask yourself what all the cybersexual encounters are really promising -- intimacy or the opposite? This might well be another issue for our course. The beings that we relate to -- at the grocery store, on the subway, at the mall -- are less human than ever before. We are less human than ever before. We are more abstract and objectified in our social categories. A call is received by me from a computer telemarketer:
"Hi, this is Bill ... I am calling about your prostate!"
It is my practice to engage in intimate personal discussions with these devices and recordings in an effort to convert them to Marxism or Christianity. You say that this essay is "supposed to be about 'apathy' and some poor girl that got killed, why am I so flippant." This so-called "flippant" tone is part of my argument about what is going on, socially, in this hyperreality that we inhabit in postmodernist society that explains that indifference by persons who do not wish to get involved with real people and their messy problems. ("Saying Goodbye to William F. Buckley, Jr." and "The Torture of Persons.")
"Behind the nation's razor-wire fences, egregious medical neglect has been the norm for decades. 'Prison health care [from the local to the federal level] is grossly inadequate and abysmal. ... [and] has been too long ignored,' says Jody Kent of the ACLU Prison Project, which has class-action law suits in progress against men's and women's prisons in Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin, charging them with gross medical abuses. But for the most part, this dark side of prison life is ignored by the mainstream media and lawmakers, and too often accepted by the general population as just another price paid by those committing crimes."
We alienate or project the power to recognize one another on to a pseudo-scientific "neutrality" in representatives of the state -- like judges or "experts" -- leading to absurdities, like those I have just described. We worship science, mistakenly believing that science is the only path to truth or way of knowing about people, "objectively." Why are we surpised to find it difficult to relate to others as persons? Why should we seek objective knowledge of subjective matters, and not the opposite? What, if anything, do these terms (subjective versus objective) mean today?
If I ask you whether you'd like to go to the movies on Saturday night, then I am not asking you to define cinema or the neurochemical reactions associated with your encounters with me. To provide such an objective response -- however accurate it may be -- to my question is to distance yourself from me. This is the opposite of "knowing" me. If I shout for help because I am being attacked by a knife-wielding assailant, it will not do to inform me that, in the future, I should avoid darkened streets late at night. Furthermore, it will also be unhelpful to explain that there is a police station within a mile of my present location when I am in the "process" of being assassinated.
After my experiences in the Philosophy Cafe and the ease with which persons I have known who called themselves my "friends" were persuaded to cooperate with the violation of my rights -- by informing against me or betraying my trust -- nothing surprises me about human behavior in groups. See Lionel Rubinoff, The Pornography of Power (New York: Ballantine, 1969) and Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973).
It is easier to understand that thirty-eight persons did nothing, each expecting the others to act, than to understand a single guilty bystander. When that indifferent observer is a so-called "therapist," or family member, the disgust and anger one feels becomes unbearable. This brings me to legalism, procedures, and the American fondness for clerical displacement of responsibility. ("That's not my job, man.") Someone once said to me when I asked about the destruction of a woman's life: "It wasn't my call." Is that right, Terry? Consider this exchange with the man who was arrested and tried for the rape and murder of Ms. Genovese, Winston Moseley, who took his victim's money after killing and raping her:
Q: Forty nine dollars you put in your pocket, hah?
A: That's being practical.
A: Yes. Why would I throw money away?
Why, indeed. Moseley would have done well at any American law school. Right, Alex Booth, Esq.? Practicality, rationality, and intelligence are things associated with means, not ends. David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, William James and Oliver Wendell Holmes would agree with this understanding of rationality as distinct from that fuzzy "subjective" moral reasoning. Game theorists concur. Isn't that right, Howard?
"Instrumental rationality" postulates that the Genovese assailant's actions were "rational" -- if they were aimed at fulfilling his "goals" in the most effective and efficient, or purely practical terms. "It's a means and ends kind of a thing." An attorney at New Jersey's unethical Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) said that to me. We are missing the sense of tragedy in America which can only be derived from an understanding of human purpose, telos. (See "Richard Bernstein, Emmanuel Levinas, and Evil.") We are alientated from the moral realities of our lives and, therefore, from ourselves.
I recently saw the film No Country for Old Men, where the homicidal maniac played by Javier Bardem was, obviously, emimently rational in instrumental terms. One would have to be pretty obtuse not to detect the theological and cultural issues dramatized in that very fine film. Mr. Bardem's character was very "scientific" in the way that he went about doing what he was doing. The only difficulty to be raised against his actions is that they were "evil." However, "evil" is a value choice which is merely relative. After all, what is evil for me may be peachy-keen for Adolf Hitler. (See "Why I am not an ethical relativist" and "John Finnis and Ethical Cognitivism.")
I will ask you to compare Jean Paul Sartre's, "Existential Psychoanalysis," in Existentialism and Human Emotions (New York: Citadel, 1985), pp. 68-84, then "Ethical Implications" at p. 91, with Karen L. Carr, The Banalization of Nihilism: Twentieth Century Responses to Meaninglessness (New York: SUNY Press, 1992), pp. 51-85 ("The Theology of Crisis"). Write a ten page paper relating these readings. Get rid of the chewing gum, please.
"Neighbors" of Ms. Genovese expressed fear and hostility to the police and other public officials -- especially lawyers -- with their procedures and demands on one's time, even as these neighbors expressed themselves in legalistic jargon. Everywhere you go these days there is a "procedure" in place for whatever you want to accomplish with any corporate or government entity. This is ostensibly to ensure neutrality, fairness, objectivity and efficiency. The goal is to eliminate "subjective value choices" or "arbitrary" behavior by officials. We are all rule-followers today. The blue copy stays here; the yellow copy goes over there; then you have to come back to this desk and wait on line.
Why should we do that following of rules? What is the "model of rules"? Why should these values of impersonality and efficiency displace other values of compassion and humane recognition? The answer from judges and other decision-makers is "huh?" See Ronald Dworkin, "The Model Of Rules," in Taking Rights Seriously (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), pp. 14-81, then Rollo May, The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983), pp. 125-132. Rules must be grounded in flexible standards and principles that are ethical in the true meaning of the word.
"What is legalism? It is the ethical attitude that holds moral conduct to be a matter of rule-following, [nothing personal, right John?] and moral relationships to consist of duties and rights determined by rules. Like all moral attitudes that are both strongly felt and widely shared it expresses itself not only in personal behavior but also in philosophical thought, in political ideologies, and in social institutions. As an historical phenomenon, it is, moreover, not something that can be understood simply by defining it. Such a morality must be seen in its various concrete manifestations, in its diverse applications, and in the many degrees of intensity with which men in different places and conditions have abided by it. It is, in short, a complex of human qualities, not a quantity to be measured and labeled."
Judith Sklar, "Law and Ideology," in Legalism: Law, Morals, and Political Trials (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 1. (See my essay "What is Law?")
At the time of Ms. Genovese's death and at common law, there was no "affirmative duty to rescue." The law has changed these days. Acquiescence in criminal behavior could result in vicarious liability in some jurisdictions. There is now often a legal responsibility -- at least civilly, sometimes even criminally -- to assist persons in danger. This leads to some new questions: What are the rules for? What are people being asked to do "for others" by officials or authority figures? Why should you obey the law? Is it not for moral reasons? If the law is immoral, then is it really law? And why do people not trust or cooperate with the police? ("I am Sean Bell.")
Ms. Milgram, your apathy and lethargy in response to cybercrime and censorship against me emanating from New Jersey government computers is actionable. Regardless of whether the authorities act on this situation because of political considerations or corruption, fear or incompetence. Your professional failure (at best) and malice (at worst) is obvious, Ms. Milgram. Is Nydia Hernandez, Esq. a "friend," Anne? Has Senator Bob communicated his desires in this matter to you or your office? Would such influence by the Senator on law enforcement be appropriate in New Jersey? Should N.J.'s Attorney General participate in a conspiracy to violate civil liberties, then in a cover-up of such violations? Was it about a little cash in an envelope, Ms. Milgram?
In the Garden State, cops and other officials may well be corrupt. When you are asked to engage in conduct (like spying on a friend or family member), demand the legal authority for such a request. Refuse to comply or cooperate with evil. Do not assist in the violation of anyone's rights. If you live in New Jersey, I suggest that you avoid the cops, if at all possible, and cooperate with the feds at all times. The responsibility in the Genovese case was to call the authorities immediately, risking the horrors of police procedures and loss of work days at court, because a person's life was at stake. There may be situations when cooperation with the authorities is morally prohibited for the same or similar reasons, to save a life. Here is where Mr. Rosenthal's analysis falters because of a serious mistake: "... the Genovese matter ... talks to us ..,. [not about Kitty Genovese, as an individual, but] about ourselves, a subject never out of our minds." (p. 23.)
Ms. Genovese is not really distinct from ourselves, in a metaphysical sense, as an "individual." This is the point of what I said earlier. Those silent neighbors must live with their guilt since each witness was him- or herself "murdered," spiritually, on that dark street. Concern for this young woman is caring for ourselves. The loss of community revealed in the witnesses' cruel indifference was also a kind of "murder" of something vital in the American spirit that has been lost. The death of the isolated individual, Ms. Genovese, is not the termination of this discussion of collective responsibility for that killing in which something more than a single person was killed. New York and America are less cohesive societies than they once were. This diminishes all of us. There are, as I say, precedents for this process of division among segments of a population. None are very edifying. Today much will depend on whether the victim of an assault in America is a member of one's racial, ethnic or religious group. We are Balkanized, tribalized, and (too often) at one another's throats.
"Most easily recognizable," Norman Geras writes, "are the bystanders: those who, not directly active in the process of mass murder, did nothing to try to stop it either. These are the people who affect not to know, or who do not care to know and so do not find out; or who are afraid, for themselves or for others, or who feel powerless; or who are weighed down, distracted or just occupied (as most of us) in pursuing the aims of their own lives. Such people formed the background to the tragedy of the European Jews and they continue everywhere to provide an enabling condition for other tragedies large and small, and for great but avoidable suffering. The ubiquity of the bystander surely testifies to a remarkable capacity in members of our species to live comfortably with the enormous sufferings of others." (p. 96.)
Ms. Fortwendel's death is attributable to every one of us in this country who remains passive to the imposition of what is, essentially, the death penalty for embezzlement or other minor offenses. Most people could not care less about this poor woman's suffering and murder at the hands of so-called "healing professionals" -- who are frequently only vicious sadists in prisons -- because Darlene Fortwendel was "poor, female, white trash." There's more where she came from, people say with a laugh.
At 49, the same age as a woman I love, Darlene was past her best years physically and unlikely to interest most men. She was deemed "worthless." The vast majority of American men -- however enormous their beer bellies and hideous their personal appearance -- feel entitled to claim and enjoy sexual relations with nineteen year-olds. This is bizarre. Age is a category of guilt for women, not men. Considering the alternative, this is not very encouraging. What women are being taught, surreptitiously, is to die or disappear around age 40. Maybe that is why we, mostly, do not see forty-something year-old women in leading roles on movie screens.
Ms. Fortwendel's offenses pale by comparison with our collective criminal guilt for her agony and death. Enormous sufferings can never entirely belong to others. A girl raped by her father, exploited, abused, violated by monsters equal in depravity to Moseley is you. Her pain is your pain. The beggar on the subway train in need of a bath who is starving is also you. In our depersonalized conditions, officialdom and the culture created in such places as courtrooms and police stations, post offices and government agencies -- which are America's new public squares -- that culture has become dominant. As a result, we no longer SEE one another in our woundedness and pain, as fellow suffering human beings:
"There is now a large literature documenting ... the camp personnel, the members of execution squads, the civilian users (which means users up) of slave labor, the planners and the bureaucrats and the doctors of death -- that these bearers of Nazi genocide fell within the range of psychological normality. They were not, for the most part, psychopaths." -- It would almost be better for humanity if they all had been monsters! -- "They were ordinary people." (Geras, p. 97.) (emphasis added!)
Compare Seth Mydans, "Legal Strategy Fails to Hide Pride a Khmer Torturer Took in His Job," in The New York Times, June 21, 2009, at p. A12 with Michael Cooper, "In Missouri, A Free Speech Fight Over a Highway Adoption," in The New York Times, June 21, 2009, at p. A14. ("'The Reader': A Movie Review.")
Ordinary people is right. R.D. Laing says somewhere that "any human interaction implies some level of confirmation, at any rate of the physical bodies of the participants, even when one person is shooting another." (Collier, p. 101.) But to refuse to see, face-to-face, the person you have injured is truly to destroy that being as a subject for you. It is to annihilate that person as a locus of rights and responsibilities, as a source of infinite moral concern. It is to make the person -- your victim -- into a slave, a thing. It is to refuse even the minimal recognition that is accorded to the condemned through "administrative procedures" by delivering death on a conveyer bealt. This is to deny ALL humanity to victims. That denial was the fate of Darlene Fortwendel. ("Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal" and "R.D. Laing and Evil.")
Many women who are incarcerated in America still bear the scarlet letter of uncontrolled sexuality. The most unforgivable offense for an American woman is enjoying sex, especially when her partner is "not a man!" This indulgence in female bodily freedom is feared as leading to thoughts of emancipation for an entire gender. We can't have that. Docility, lady-like demureness, gentility and expertise in the kitchen are essential atributes of womanhood in G.W.'s America. No wonder it's become so noisy all of a sudden. I am suddenly subjected to new computer attacks. These qualities, of course, together with physical grace and shapely legs are excellent descriptions of me! Furthermore, I also delight in sexual intercourse. These admissions make it clear that my days as a free man are numbered. Oh, wait ... it is only women who cannot say these things! ("Foucault, Rose, Davis and The Meanings of Prison.")
I prefer the status and company of most women -- despite my overt heterosexuality -- over and above the smelly and moronic persons likely to be found at gatherings of men. This tendency of mine is even worse than a woman who likes to fornicate with the mail man. Excuse me, I mean the "mail delivery professional." The vast majority of my fellow citizens find it necessary to turn away from me in horror because of my weird opinions and philosophical interests in order to return to their Tuesday evening bowling trips in lovely downtown Paterson, New Jersey. ("La Traviata.")
Why do I refuse normality? Because "normality" is only another name for callous indifference to a whole lot of human suffering. To be "normal," these days, is to refuse to see the evil for which we are responsible in the effort to be or appear "nice," saying only pleasant things. I don't do the "hypocrisy thing." I am pleasant, when pleasantness is called for; I will be unpleasant when necessary to get my point across to the sort of people responsible for the death of Darlene Fortwendel and too many others like her. ("Terry Tuchin, Diana Lisa Riccioli, and New Jersey's Agency of Torture" and "'Revolutionary Road': A Movie Review.")
Most of Ms. Genovese's "neighbors" would have helped or called the police if they had actually "seen" her. They could not see her humanity. Some of us can no longer see others at all. When you can no longer see or recognize the humanity of others, it means that you have lost your own humanity. Diana? Terry? I insist that Ms. Genovese was not the only person killed on that cold night in Kew Gardens. Morally, each of those silent witnesses also died a little bit.
"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers [and sisters] that you do unto me."