“‘Oh, I have taken too little care of this!’ King Lear cries out on the heath in his moment of vision. ‘Take physic, pomp; expose thyself to feel what wretches feel.’ ‘This’ changes; in Shakespeare’s time, it was flat-out peasant poverty that starved some and drove others as mad as poor Tom. In Dickens’s and Hugo’s time, it was the industrial revolution that drove kids to mines. But every society has a poor storm that wretches suffer in, and the attitude is always the same: either that the wretches, already dehumanized by their suffering, deserve no pity or that the oppressed, overwhelmed by injustice, will have to wait for a better world. At every moment, the injustice seems inseparable from the community’s life, and in every case the arguments for keeping the system in place were that you would have to revolutionize the entire social order to change it—which then became the argument for revolutionizing the entire social order. In every case, humanity and common sense made the insoluble problem just get up and go away. Prisons are our this. We need take more care.”
The Caging of America. Why do we lock up so many people?, by Adam Gopnik, New Yorker, January 30, 2012
Plus ça change, but in a good way.
California votes to end the death penalty this year and that’s the best news I’ve had in a while. Maybe a step in the right and revolutionary direction, too (please, God).