There’d been a time she had depended on her family and friends for absolutely everything: the views she gently but firmly declaimed of the world; the irascible criticisms perpetually thrown at the TV news like bricks batted back and forth; even her generally resigned acceptance that, despite all the above, we all needed to occupy a space of mutual cowardice in the face of (what later she found out were) life’s zemiologies.
Which was when she then returned to university after a break of thirty-three years, and began to no longer to depend on the discourse of the easily resigned: the easily resigned who had spent so much of her life flattening her perspicacious but still primitively democratic intelligence.
And this was when she discovered how so much of her life was designed – allegedly on her behalf – by people and organisations who actually pursued such design for their own benefit, never hers.
An example. Crime was bad but also illegal, and thus seen by almost everyone as worthy of societal discourse. Harm, meanwhile, although almost certainly bad enough, was not explicitly nor necessarily criminal. The advantage to the elites of such a division, of course, was that whilst harm was easily left legal, where useful to their overarching strategies, so allowing them to hurt people without running the risk of punishment, even any crimes defined by society’s criminal justice institutions used tools and processes which only these top brass easily and consistently knew how to lever and engage effectively with.
Essentially, criminal justice was a duel where only one of the duellists ever got to choose the weapon, the time and the place.
Imagine you were asked to pass university end-of-degree exams without having ever studied the first three years of your course.
So exactly what it was like to enter the criminal justice system and defend your honour.
The theoretical choices a different society of the grassroots could have far more interestingly was either to criminalise more and more of what went on – and so be able to condemn it legally and credibly enough to carry the weary populace with it, though (probably) without successfully resolving the issue of costly and opaque access to justice – or, alternatively, utterly change tack by arguing we needed quite different frames and tools and ways of seeing in order to tackle the much broader evil of harm as (so often) committed by the aforementioned top five percent or so.
Which brings us back to zemiology: the discipline and science and defining of social harm.
And it was here and then when she realised the following: when crime as a concept was not there to ringfence our morality from exploding at the hurts which the powerful did consistently – did legally! – expose the poor to on each and every occasion they were able to engineer; when harm became the litmus test for a true and competent moral panic; when what you did and not whether what you did was legal became the really big picture and space and discourse and focus … when all the aforementioned did slip into place is when society would became a real society of the good – a society of the truly “legal”, not just a society of the simply – smugly – legal.