Thursday, January 12, 2012

Everyone is Sick: People Do the Weirdest Things When They Are In Love: Why I am Against the Death Penalty


"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread." ~ Mother Teresa
"Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence." ~ Eric Fromm
"At the extremes, people are considered, or actually are, nuts. But as time progresses, what used to be considered eccentric, is viewed as abnormal and in need of medicating, or at least worthy of employing members of the American Psychological Association to treat." ~ William M. Briggs
"When love is not madness, it is not love." ~ Pedro Calderon de la Barca

There's not a person in this world who isn't suffering from some sort of mental disorder. I have one. So do you. The most ill of all of us are the ones who are so vain and narcissist - or extremely ill - that they won't, or can't, admit it.

I think there isn't anything wrong with having failings. We are, after all, only human. Humans are imperfect.

In 1995, the religious cult called Aum Shinrikyo committed the Nerve Gas Attacks on the Tokyo Subway. After years of searching, one of the top suspects in that crime voluntarily gave himself up to police (that's an interesting story, in and of itself - the police didn't believe that it was him when he gave himself up, so they turned him away). The police had always been baffled how he was able to remain a fugitive for so long. Now, maybe we know.


A woman claiming to have lived with a senior member of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways turned herself in and was arrested Tuesday for helping him evade police for nearly 17 years. Akemi Saito, also a member of Aum Shinrikyo, gave herself up after Makoto Hirata surrendered to police on New Year's Eve, according to police and Saito's lawyer. Hirata has refused to explain how he managed to keep underground for so long despite being one of Japan's most-wanted fugitives. He is suspected of involvement in a cult-related kidnapping-murder in 1995. Later that year, Aum Shinrikyo released sarin nerve gas in Tokyo's subways, killing 13 and injuring more than 6,000. 

This is a weird story. These crimes allegedly committed by Hirata are heinous crimes and cannot be forgiven nor forgotten. That he would be protected by this woman, Akemi Saito, is the part that is probably most curious to the average person. But, I don't think so. Sounds like she probably loves him. She is sick. We're all sick. Modern society is making us all sicker by the day.

If she weren't sick in the first place, she would have never joined a religious cult. Agreed?

Now, let's extrapolate that thought. Let's consider Hirata. Is he a criminal? Oh, most definitely. Is he sick? Oh most certainly, without a doubt he is a very sick man. Most people can't even conceive of doing the things he is accused of doing.

Now that he's been caught, if convicted, Hirata will probably get the death penalty. 

It might seem that I'm getting off the subject here for a second, but let me state here that I am completely and unequivocally against the death penalty for any crimes. Why? Because of the finality of it all. Men make mistakes. In the history of the law, we have executed the wrong guy many times. Most definitely, many times, Japan has sentenced people to death only to find out later that they made a mistake (sorry link in Japanese only). In my, possibly errant opinion, I don't think the Japanese legal system would ever admit that they executed the wrong person. The United States has certainly executed the wrong person. A CBS report showed that, from 1973 to 1995, in 5,800 cases that resulted in capital convictions, there was an error rate of 68%! Is there any doubt to anyone that this sort of error has happened many, many times in our history? 


I am against the death penalty. Even if we know absolutely sure that someone committed a crime, we cannot make exceptions to the rule of law and change the law, or make new laws, for that individual. So, I am against the death penalty if only because having a death penalty means that, ultimately, we will someday execute the wrong person. I may agree that Hirata needs to die for his crimes... But, like I said, if we have a law that allows the execution of Hirata, then the law is on the books and that allows us the margin for error to, in the future, as in the past, to execute an innocent person. We must be a society of law and the rule of law. Not a society of mobs and mass disorder.

But I digress... This post is about Akemi Saito.

I think there are a lot of people like Akemi Saito running around Japan's big cities -  or any big cities around the world for that matter. Even though, in Japan, the cities are  bustling with people, they can be very lonely places. I've even read before that, when talking vending machines first came out, that they were popular with young people because they could at least hear someone's voice. I don't know if that's true or not. It is probably partly true, partly false.

But I do know that there are a very many lonely people here in these big cities...

Think about it; healthy people, in the first place, do not join cults. I would submit to you that healthy people may not even go to church at all. 

In Japan, often, church people go around to houses and pass out literature or ask for donations for this or that. But that word is not for me. 

I am always polite and kind to these people, and on blistering hot summer days, I sometimes offer them tea. They take that as a hint that I am interested in their church. I am not. Even so, I usually praise them for their selfless work towards their beliefs (I think that it is what they are supposed to do; "Spread the word"). Many times, these people will ask me to come to their church and attend services. I always decline.

At the front door of my house, I have a crucifix hanging over the door. Am I a Catholic? No. But when Mormons or Jehovah's Witness folks come by, they always ask me about it. People are surprised by my answer.

My crucifix

"Well, that was a present from a very high ranking Catholic priest from the Vatican who was once my friend long ago. I haven't seen him in years. He went back to Italy. I didn't know what to do with it, and I don't want to throw it in the trash can, so I hung it over the door. I figure any 'extra insurance' couldn't hurt." 

Hard core religious people are usually very surprised by that; worship of idols and all that...

Fact of the matter is even though I think these religions are all the same, I respect them all. If I had a Koran or a Torah or any other religious artifact or book, I feel guilty about throwing them away (my psychological quirk) so I don't want to accept anything from these kind people. (If someone cherishes something, I don't want to crumple up that and throw it in the trash... Perhaps I am too sentimental...)

They again ask me to attend their church, I always reply, "Sick people go to hospitals. I am not sick enough to need to go to a hospital now. If I do get that way, I will go. For now, the church in my heart is enough for me."

But I drone on. The point? I think that people are all sick. I think that people who go to church do so for a longing. It's not a bad thing; it's a good thing. To each, their own. It is human nature. I think that people who really get hard core into it, may be very sick and lonely. I think it might be a contradiction that today's society makes people sick... So, if you think about it, in today's world, being sick is the new normal.

Like I said, I'm sick. You're sick. Hirata is very sick. The sickest ones are the the people who won't admit or refuse to see that they are sick. Akemi Saito, the woman who "loved" Hirata (or what he represented) and hid him for all these years, how about her? Would you say that she is sick? I would.

These two are very sick and lost people.

These people need help. I hope that they don't sentence Hirata to death. I hope that Saito isn't sent to prison for decades. These people need help. 

Akemi Saito should not be sent to jail where she becomes a guest of the state (and a tax burden on you or me) she is sick. She should be in a mental hospital where she is a burden to her family and her insurance company. Hirata will, unfortunately be sent to death, which will cost the taxpayer millions. But he should be sent to an insane asylum for the criminally insane and be the likewise burden to his family and insurance company (if he had one).

I know the Nazi's did it, but I'd like to think that our civilized society doesn't imprison or execute mentally ill people.

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NOTE: Even though I think these people are sick, I do not think that we can blame society. Everyone is master of their own destiny. That being said, is it anyone's doubt that finally, our political and legal system is broken? The government claims that we have the death penalty as a deterrent. But, history shows that this deterrent doesn't work. Why? Even with the death penalty, people commit premediated murder or mass and serial murders. This proves that the death penalty doesn't work as deterrent.

I suggest an economic solution to the problem. Say an insurance based one. Insurance companies insure everyone. If they insure someone, and that person commits murder, the insurance companies pay millions and that person loses everything in retribution (their home, bank accounts). You think that their family and loved ones losing their homes wouldn't be motivation to not commit crimes? I do. 

If someone is deemed a bad risk, they can't get insurance. No insurance? No car, no home, no job, no family. Sure this economic solution may sound draconian or like a utopian dream, but the political solution that we've been using for so many centuries is not working well.

Anyone with any other ideas? 

6 comments:

Mr. Nobody said...

Hello Mike,

The hits keep coming.

It seems strange doesn't it, that modern society has increased almost everything, except our humanity to our fellow man, and love?

Was Saito Akemi certainly sick at the beginning? Only G*d knows, but it seems everyone knows she was sick at the end. In many instances people are the master of their own destinies, but as your example shows, sometimes they are not.

When does the Japanese government ever admit to being in error? It seems that they have replaced deifying the Emperor, to deifying the government. As everyone knows, by definition, G*d is perfect, and cannot be in error.

As the joke goes, why does the government hate Aum Shinrikyo so much? They don't like the competition.

That being said, I think that most people in general, and Japanese in particular, don't trust a murderer or accomplice in society, with the exception of in government or big business. Why is it Aum Shinrikyo gets people so fearful, but not Japanese gov/business practices that in all likelihood maim and kill far more people? Again, why if government and big business collusion, cause so much trouble, why are they so popular?

Is there a logical jump in your statement of, "we must be a society of law and the rule of law," if one of your standing leitmotivs is the belief that government is the problem, and that laws and the rule of law, are just ammunition in their arsenal? Also, without laws, isn't a libertarian fundamental belief, that without laws, we won't revert to mobs and mass disorder, that governments and laws actually cause more mobs and mass disorder, than they hinder? Finally, isn't the Japanese government practicing the law, when they engage in capital punishment?

I am against capital punishment because I don't believe that most people have a fundamental core, or center, a rock from which they cannot be moved. They can usually be moved, their actions and emotions can change and most importantly, be changed from external forces. I think many people are sick, but more so, most normal people can temporarily do sick things in sick situations, which can affect others and themselves for their entire lives.

How many Japanese rice farmers would bomb and murder innocent people in 2012? How many would do so in 1942? Even if they have a fundamental core, I believe most still alive from 1942, have spent a good portion of their lives coming to terms with what they did temporally. The question is, was the rice farmer turned bomber in 1942 sick, or was the situation and society sick?

As to sending her to a mental hospital on the family's dime, why should they have to pay? Is it a case of "we Japanese" are never at fault, it must be her family who is at fault, and who must impoverish themselves for their sins of having her born into the family?

As to whether of not the death penalty is a deterrent, I think to some degree the answer is cultural. In many cultures, when the death penalty was abolished the murder rate went down, but in a few I believe it went up.

I think the that putting someone on a remote desert island, and say air-dropping them provisions provided that they couldn't escape, would be an idea that most people could get behind. It would probably only cost a few thousand dollars a year, and it would reduce the fear amongst the public of repeat crime.

As to what is just... It is strange isn't it, most people have an idea of what is beautiful, love, and just, but it is so difficult to define, and different for so many different people.

It also seems strange that almost nothing gets under most people's collars more than the sense of injustice. It is strange isn't it?

Marc Sheffner said...

Aikido founder, Ueshiba, apparently kept a picture of Jesus pinned to his "butsu-dan" (a student of Ueshiba told me).

mikeintokyorogers said...

Thanks Marc! That's a weird one....
Mr. Nobody, you keep asking me these wonderful questions that make me think about my positions... Gee, maybe I am wrong? Maybe I am right... I have to think about (ponder) what you ask as these are tough questions.
1) Do you blog?
2) Do you live in Tokyo?

Ryu Oni said...

Very interesting post, thanks Mike! As to your solution at the end;
"I suggest an economic solution to the problem. Say an insurance based one. Insurance companies insure everyone. If they insure someone, and that person commits murder, the insurance companies pay millions and that person loses everything in retribution (their home, bank accounts)" - What's the difference between everyone paying into a government-based insurance program (the person then committing a crime and losing all their belongings, etc.) and a private insurance program with the exact same result?
At least with the government based program, the monthly insurance fees won't be nearly as high as private ones (therefore not making innocent people pay as much for things they haven't done).

Now...my long reply to the interesting reply Mr. Nobody gave...

"It seems that they have replaced deifying the Emperor, to deifying the government." - I think almost every government tries to make it so they're supported no matter what terrible acts they do. The best example being the American government.

"why does the government hate Aum Shinrikyo so much? They don't like the competition." - There is and was no competition from Aum. It was a terrible attack, you could say it's the Japanese equivalent of 9/11. By the same logic you could say that Al Qeaeda is competition for the American Government.

"Also, without laws, isn't a libertarian fundamental belief, that without laws, we won't revert to mobs and mass disorder, that governments and laws actually cause more mobs and mass disorder, than they hinder?" - I, personally, am against the hardcore libertarian mindset because I honestly see no differene between true Libertarianism and Anarchism. There should be laws to uphold order which can be protested against democratically. However, in saying that, I don't believe government should have any influence in our personal lives, saying what we can and can't do- but I do think that the government should be there to protect the best interests, saftey, healthy and education of the people (which is why I say yes to nationalized health care, free education, etc.) But I -really- don't want to get too much into a political discussion, it usually ends badly.

"As to sending her to a mental hospital on the family's dime, why should they have to pay?" - I agree. I also think that health and education should NEVER be for-profit.

"I think to some degree the answer is cultural. In many cultures, when the death penalty was abolished the murder rate went down, but in a few I believe it went up." - Doesn't that just prove that it's not the Death Penalty which deters crime, but rather a cultural, societal thing?

"I think the that putting someone on a remote desert island, and say air-dropping them provisions provided that they couldn't escape, would be an idea that most people could get behind" - Yeah, it's called Guantanimo Bay.
However, Prisons are a good and bad thing, in my opinion.
For serious crimes, they're great and I'm fully behind them. But for low-level crimes, all they tend to do is surround normal people with criminals which can influence them to do bad things when they leave. Low-level criminals (drug addicts, petty theft, etc.) should be rehabilitated, high-level criminals (murderers, rapists, peadophiles, etc.) should be incarcerated.

Please don't misunderstand to mean I disagree with everything you [Mr. Nobody] said, for the most part- I agree, these are just the parts where I diverge.

mikeintokyorogers said...

Ryu,
No. The government is not an insurance company. The government shouldn't be doing any insurance at all. There is no way that the government can do it for cheaper than a private company... The government can't even fix a hole in the road with out it being over budget and past deadline... Evidence? Just look at the government red-ink surpassing 229% of GDP. Any private company would be bankrupt running things this way.

mikeintokyorogers said...

PS: The government is bankrupting the nation with these social security schemes.
The situation we have today is proof of that.