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The third law

The Imette St. Guillen case has yet to yield an arrest, but the argument over the circumstances of her horrific murder continues. It's the main topic of Boston's local talk shows, and one host in particular -- WRKO's John Depetro -- is catching most of the heat for saying that her actions were a partial, contributory factor in her death. The lines are being drawn, with one side saying that she did absolutely nothing wrong and to question her actions is a crass, immoral, vile way of blaming the victim, of providing her killer with some mitigating arguments.

It's a sad argument, because it is so unnecessary. There is absolutely NO conflict between the two positions.

The conflict arises because there are three sets of laws in play here, and one side is only addressing two of them.

Under the laws of man and the laws of morality, Imette Guillen was indeed utterly blameless and the onus for her death lies solely on her killer. He should be caught, tried, convicted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law. He needs to pay, and pay severely. I would have absolutely no problems with him being executed by lethal injection, electrocution, poison gas, decapitation, hanging, impaling, dismemberment, or any other way possible. And then I'd like his head mounted on a pike, with his genitalia stuffed in his mouth, as a warning to future generations that some things are just beyond the pale. I'd wave... sorry, got sidetracked into Babylon 5 there.

But there's a third set of laws at play here, one that the outraged parties simply don't address. And that's the unwritten law, the law of Nature, the law of the world, the law of the jungle. And that law says that if one is careless, if one takes chances, if one engages in risky behavior, sometimes you will pay the price. And sometimes that price will be the ultimate one.

(Cro, feel free to insert our favorite Robert Heinlein quote here.)

Under legal and moral laws, that law is utterly unjustifiable. It is despicable. It is completely and utterly wrong -- but it is also completely and utterly immutable. There are no appeals.

To bring back my favorite, less emotionally charged example, I give you crosswalks. Under the legal and moral laws, the pedestrian has the absolute, immutable right of way. Cars MUST yield to a pedestrian. Under every legal and moral law, a pedestrian is completely in the right if they walk up to the curb, step into the crosswalk, and walk forthrightly and unhesitatingly across the street, without looking in either direction, fully confident in their legal and moral right to do so. And they will get away with it most of the time.

But if they do get hit, what will be the first question people ask? "Why didn't they look?"

That's not blaming the victim. The driver of the car was clearly going too fast for the circumstances, because the law demands that they pay close attention for them and be driving slow enough to stop in time. The pedestrian has no legal or moral responsibility at the crosswalk beyond staying within the markings.

But they have a duty to themselves to look out for themselves, because the legal and moral laws are not the only laws in play.

Those who ignore those laws will get away with it most of the time. But not every time. And I hope it's some comfort that they went to their graves having done absolutely nothing illegal or immoral or unethical.

Comments (8)

that's right, heh. <p... (Below threshold)
diversity day:

that's right, heh.

kind of like how those crazy danes publishing those cartoons that were designed with mathematical certainty to enrage muslims. they just had to go and spit in the face of that "third law", right?

you can't have it both ways.

Diversity is apparently cha... (Below threshold)

Diversity is apparently challenged in some manner.

Okay, take the Danes. Suppose the third law, the law of nature and the jungle, says that the cartoons would enrage muslims (actually they didn't, additional "cartoons" of a supposed Muhammed in a pig outfit and bestiality, added by a deliberate aggitator, pushed the issue over the top). Jay's whole point was that the third law does NOT negate the 1st and 2nd laws.

So where is the conflict, diversity?

Or are you saying that admitting the 3rd law negates the 1st and 2nd laws... which is exactly what Jay was accusing "one side" of doing when they called in to Boston talk shows?

And EVEN the third law does not excuse, in any way, the actions of a rapist-murderer or the violent protests over the "cartoons."

People can certainly chose free-speech with the knowledge that they risk themselves. In fact, many people have done that.

Women (in particular, but men too) have to decide how much they are going to let risk affect their lifestyles. There will always be risk. A person may well refuse to make any accomodation to that risk. It's their choice.

Personally, there is a limit past which I will not accomodate risk. It's the point at which my freedom is impacted more than I'm willing to trade freedom for safety. Yet it *is* a trade.

You don't understand, but y... (Below threshold)

You don't understand, but you will


He's not trying to have it ... (Below threshold)
Big E:

He's not trying to have it both ways diversity day. Are you saying the Danes deserve the muslim rage and violence against them? I don't hear Jay saying that the victim in this case deserves what she got. So he is perfectly consistent, you must operate with knowledge of the law of the jungle but that doesnt mean you don't punish the wrongoer or try to change that law or at least publicize that the law exists.

The danes and the girl did nothing wrong but their actions contributed to their troubles. What good does it do to ignore the fact that young girls should be careful about being too drunk out in public or that muslims are prone to violence when they are offended or provoked? It is a true law of the jungle and only hurts truth and understanding to pretend they don't exist.

We as human beings accept v... (Below threshold)

We as human beings accept varying amounts of risk. For example, we accept the possibility of getting into a car accident every time we drive. To most, this risk is acceptable. It seems to me that the chances of being killed by a serial killer must be pretty low comparatively, so maybe her behavior this night wasn't even all that risky. The chances of having *something* happen are probably much higher, i.e., rape or being mugged, but the chances of that happening may be lower if this was a one-time instance of stupidity...and being raped or mugged, while terrible, are not life-threatening, though they're things to keep in mind when you go out at night...

You should minimize risk when the cost is right, but you can't completely hide from risk no matter how hard you try.

Imette was drinking, and probably not in the proper state of mind to be making these kinds of decisions, and her safety net--her friend, probably wasn't either. It's not like she went out alone with the intention of getting drunk alone, going home alone, etc.

"Those crazy danes?" The wh... (Below threshold)

"Those crazy danes?" The whole country is now at fault?

The two are entirely inapposite.I don't think Jay's point could have been stated any clearer, and yet it still excaped diversity entirely.

wave,You can lead ... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:


You can lead a horse to water...

You spoke truthfully and wi... (Below threshold)

You spoke truthfully and without guile. There was a time when the truth would "out" and be recognized by all. Unfortuately we live in a day of unrelenting obfuscation by everyone with a political agenda. Our educational system no longer grounds us in the classics so many of our citizens, like diversity day, cannot even recognize the truth when it stares them in the face. No matter, keep on speaking out because many will listen and see.






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