Why is there crime? In our very individualistic society there is a strong tendency to think about things like crime only in terms of the psychology of the individual; e.g., greed, immorality, poor home life, impulsivity, stupidity… The point being made in the following note is that the major cause of crime is an economy which deprives and dumps large numbers of people…into something much worse than poverty.
In consumer-capitalist society it is difficult competitive struggle to get enough money. You have to work at school and university for fifteen years to get credentials that still might leave you unemployed, or you have to take on the hard work and risk of attempting a small business. Many fail to make it either way. Many are no good at school work or don’t like it, many have distracting problems, and many are not very intelligent. The fast runners get the good jobs. Millions end up unemployed and in poverty. In this economy there are not enough jobs or houses for all, and in fact many work full time but are still under the poverty line. Many are handicapped or mentally ill and receive too little to live comfortably on. At the very bottom of the competitive heap are the homeless, addicts, seriously mentally ill, and of course indigenous people.
The core problem is not poverty; it is lack of purpose. Nothing is more important in this world than having purpose, interesting things you want to do. In a good society we would make sure everyone had a livelihood, a valued role contributing to society, doing something they loved doing. We would make sure everyone had interests, hobbies, obsessions, arts, etc. that they loved doing. I did three years French, Latin and Greek, with no discernible benefit, but what I did gain was a strong distaste for languages of any kind, (along with contempt for Shakespeare and poetry.) But for half an hour on one wet afternoon in primary school some big kids came in and showed us their hobbies and that simple farm diorama in a cardboard box was a major influence on my life, reinforcing an interest in making models that has lasted a lifetime and provided immeasurable benefits in relaxation and creative leisure, and ships to look at now. How many boring staff meetings did I survive only because I could think about how to do the deck planking or backstays?
No one who loves his carpentry or little shop or dentistry or baking would have the slightest interest in stealing, or getting drunk, or taking drugs, or driving recklessly, or being violent for the fun of it. People only do those things if they have nothing worthwhile to do. Yet this society dumps large numbers into “exclusion”, i.e., poverty and boredom and depression…then wonders why they turn to activities which cause themselves harm, cause us harm, and cost billions. We leave people on Aboriginal settlements with nothing to do but get drunk and be violent. We leave young people with nothing to do other than go to school, with no contribution to make, no role, no productive or helpful activity to participate in, and little or no involvement in their society, at the very stage in life when they most need to feel valued, to form a sound self-concept and identity, to learn about adults and adulthood, and to learn how to be a good citizen. No “primitive” tribe ever did that. Young people were solidly integrated into society at every age, they had roles and responsibilities and worked alongside everyone else to get necessary things done, and learnt from elders and cared for youngsters and knew their contribution was important. We cut them out of all “work”, isolate them from all but their own kind, attend to them only as a market for pop music, games, cell phones…then wonder why they get drunk, take drugs, drive dangerously and get into fights…and why they are not interested social issues, the public interest, citizenship, the welfare of the underdog…
Most people in jail come from the ranks of the excluded. Half have an IQ under 70 (ABC radio, 3.6.2010). How surprising that people with no chance of a job, no sense of making a valued contribution, a poor self-concept, other life problems, tend to do illegal things! How many would do so if a) we made sure they all had a livelihood of some valued kind, b) we helped them to develop interests, goals, hobbies, pastimes, ie., if we made sure they had purposes?
The Simpler Way totally eliminates this whole range of ridiculous and inexcusable problems. In the coming times of intense and irremediable resource scarcity and therefore very frugal lifestyles, the town will (have to) make sure everyone is included in the economy, firstly because there will be vital work to be done to make a highly self-sufficient local economy thrive and everyone’s help will be needed, and more importantly because we will not tolerate anyone being excluded. We will make sure everyone has a livelihoold. The town will also be a thriving hive of activities, little firms and farms and committees, working bees, concerts, craft groups, celebrations and festivals. There will be heaps of interesting things for anyone to get involved in.
The problem of crime cannot be fixed in consumer-capitalist society. Like all its major problems they are automatically and inevitably and increasingly created by the normal functioning of greed and growth society. So don’t be surprised at the continual increase in prison populations, or environmental destruction, or stress and depression or family breakdown, or eating disorders, or drug dependence or alcoholism, or resource depletion…The problems can only be solved by transition from the kind of society that generates them to a very different kind that that doesn’t.