Friday, November 26, 2010

ST:TNG, Law and Order:UK and Thoughts on Justice

A day of work started with Star Trek: The Next Generation. "The Best of Both Worlds", a two part episode in which captain Jean-Luc Picard is captured by The Borg. During the scope of the storyline First Office William Riker assumes the position of Captain and is forced to make a decision: destroy The Borg ship with Picard still on board or hold off an try to formulate a plan to save Picard and then, hopefully, defeat the far superior enemy.

For those who know, Picard cannot die and therefore it is merely a matter of following the story to see how Riker solves the dilemma.

It is the classic argument of the one versus the many, expect in this instance the many would be humanity itself. Resistance is futile, as you know.

What Riker does it fore go the crew's pleas for more time as he knows defeating The Borg is far more important than one man's life. In the end, however, it is the act of saving Picard which allows them to place a command into The Borg collective which causes the ship to self destruct.

I am by no means a Science Fiction geek, but I do love the philosophical problems that ST:TNG often presented. It was the my Philosophy of Mind class where we watched Commander Data on trial to determine his personhood which hooked me.

What I didn't expect was the Law and Order: UK marathon which BBC America was running immediately after "Best of Both Worlds". One of the episodes told the story of a youth who killed his friend. There were a few questions the show investigated. One was whether some people are born bad. In other words, can anti-social or criminal behavior be passed on from parent to child.

Nature versus nurture.

A more intriguing question was how justice could be found. The defendant, a 14 year old boy, had already been in the juvenile penile system. Being small in build made him as much a victim within the prison as his victims were outside of it.

The mother of the victim wants punishment: she wants the defendant in prison. But as one of the lawyers notes, what justice can be had by putting the boy back into a world which will only continue to teach him violence? Can he be saved by being in an environment framed by love and hope?

The real question here is who is justice for. Are we looking at justice for this single victim only or are we looking at justice for the society they both lived in? Is it not a greater justice to make every attempt to change this child's person?

The psychology of an adult compared to that of youth is significantly different. As we get older it becomes more difficult to change; either by choice or by ability. It would seem that justice would be more served by trying to secure the future of our society, if the potential exists, than simply satisfying an immediate need.

At the close of the episode one of the lawyers from the D.A.'s office meets with the boy in prison and tells him he is to young to be a lost cause.

It isn't an easy question and our heart will always go out to the victim. But victim and justice, no matter how we try, are not black and white terms. They also do not solely apply to or serve those who are subject of the crime itself. Unlike the clean finish where humanity is saved from The Borg, we can't really be sure what the lost cause is in "real life".

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