Stoics, Schopenhauer and the crime epidemic

Stoics, Schopenhauer and the crime epidemic

Hold the criminals responsible; they chose their path

It seems the topic of discussion just about everywhere in Alberta right now is the rural crime epidemic. It seems everyday we hear about another serious break and enter or theft, where the culprits are willing to injure, and sometimes apparently attempt to kill, people to avoid capture and arrest.

Any discussions I’ve had with people in authority about the rural crime epidemic still describe the issue as related to the 2014 recession. Alberta’s economy has not recovered despite what certain political parties preparing for next spring’s election may tell you. Apparently, there are still certain folks who used to make big money in the oil-patch, big enough money to feed their addictions, lifestyle etc. However, as the oil-patch isn’t what it used to be, certain people need to find other ways to fuel their lifestyle and stealing from rural folks appears to be it. Lots of us face challenges in our lives, but we don’t harm the community as we cope with misfortunes.

But I digress. Something that has really bothered me as this rural crime epidemic continues is the way in which certain people defend the criminals and their behaviour; that is, it seems we, as rural residents, owe the criminals something. We should make our property available to them because these poor criminals are coping with their addiction, owe money to drug dealers, want to buy a new dirt bike and have no money etc. And criminals should be handed weak, insulting sentences in court, if they ever end up in court.

As a reflective person, I often try to look at moral issues like this in terms of philosophy. Many of the great philosophers throughout history developed certain methods for examining moral dilemmas, giving us formulas for determining what is right and what is wrong. The school of thought I’ve always trusted in, and that I feel applies to the rural crime epidemic situation, is Stoicism.

Stoicism is a school of thought heavily based on teachings of the Greek philosopher Socrates. There isn’t room here to go into great depth on what Stoicism is, but suffice it to say it suggests that choosing to be a decent, moral person is more important than money, material possessions or titles. Stoicism states that a person’s choices are what define a person.

Too, the work of Arthur Schopenhauer I feel applies here. Schopenhauer was a German philosopher active in 19th century. Again, there isn’t room here to explore everything Schopenhauer wrote, but much of what he said revolved around this observation: Compassion is the basis for morality.

Schopenhauer, and this is the point I’m hopefully making, also greatly stressed personal responsibility and consequences for committing crime. He wrote, “…beside every possible motive for committing a wrong a more powerful motive for leaving it undone, in the inescapable punishment. Accordingly, the criminal code is as complete a register as possible of counter-motives to all criminal actions that can possibly be imagined.”

In essence what he’s saying is there are people out there more concerned about their personal gratification over compassion for neighbours. It is for these people there must be laws and proper consequences; else, if the consequences as we’ve all too often seen in the Canadian legal are lax or non-existent, it actually encourages crime because the criminals know they’ll face no punishment. A disturbingly large number of recent culprits also have the “violation of probation” charge, meaning they were ordered to stay out of trouble.

The culprits behind the rural crime epidemic are obviously anti-social; that is, their selfish behavior is harming the community as a whole, and it appears the criminals couldn’t care less. Then, if that’s the case, let them face the full consequences of the actions they chose.

Perhaps one positive we Albertans have going for us is the upcoming 2019 provincial election. People in positions of power in Edmonton who make their decisions based on a book of dogma most of time will actually be forced to listen to the plebs.

Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.