Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The clouding of judgement

So we know know, or think we know, that the ill fated Malaysian airlines known to the world as MH370 met its end in the Southern Indian Ocean. Why, we do not have any coherent idea.

But during the 18 days since the flight started, the rumour mills of our imaginative world have been working overtime to feed the idea that there is more to this than something within that aircraft: some hidden and conspiratorial motive that has caused the crash and the deaths of 239 passengers and crew. Even these numbers, 370 and 239 have been etched into the psyche of a generation.

And whilst the men and women of 26 nations have exposed themselves to the risks of one of the most intensive searches in history, the relatives of those on board have festered their hopes into suspicions, their grief into anger, encouraged by the media; and without a single voice, so far as I can see, saying that sympathy for those who have suffered loss should not cloud judgement; that reaction to any event should be proportionate.

In those 18 days: just under a twentieth of a year; some 60,000 people have died on the roads of our muddled planet, over 3,000 in China alone. Each of those casualties left a hole in the lives of others: a hole just as profound as that felt by the relatives of the travellers on this aircraft.  And yet there are no clamourings for justice, for concealed meaning to be revealed. Men and women are getting behind the wheels of their cars unaffected by these grim statistics.  

My argument is simply that proportionality is a necessity when dealing with any event.  When those personally involved influence decisions there is distortion. It is a lesson as valid for dealing with disaster and crisis management as it is for the execution of justice. And it is in that latter connection that it is of most interest to me. The historical basis of our legal system has always been the maintenance of the "peace"; this is the wellspring of justice: for without the rule of law, there is only "might is right".  That principle requires that legal decisions are made consistently, and not so as t0 favour those who shout loudest.  

When this principle is ignored or bypassed, injustice occurs; and the weak will generally be those who suffer most, as Brecht put it: 

There are some that are in the darkness
And others in the light
And those you see are in that light
But those in the dark stay out of sight

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