Dharun Ravi Convicted of Cyber Hazing Tyler Clementi: A Masquerade of Justice
"When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."-Nietzsche
"A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials."- Seneca
We live in a bizzaro nation: The Thought Police watch us, Big Brother tracks our every move, and if we believe the wrong thing, the Political Correctness Police will put us in prison. But the Wall Street criminals who have impoverished us all walk among us unscathed.
No, this is not 1984, Stalin's USSR, or even the dogmatic right wing of the Republican Party. This is the modern day neoliberal state, and identity politics has criminalized what we think ("Student guilty of hate crimes for spying on gay roommate"):
A former Rutgers University student who used a computer webcam to spy on a sexual tryst of his roommate, who later committed suicide, was found guilty of hate crimes on Friday in a case that put a national spotlight on gay bullying.
Dharun Ravi, 20, faces 10 years in prison on the most serious charge of bias intimidation against Tyler Clementi, 18, who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge three days after learning his gay encounter was seen by webcam.
Predictably, for advocates of identity politics, or better yet, vanity politics, this is a signal moment to triumphantly proclaim the verdict as a victory for justice ("Even Nonviolent Crime Needs to Be Fought" by Hayley Gorenberg):
With regard to the Ravi trial, our legal system recognizes that not all crimes draw blood. It’s possible to strike deep at one’s core without a bullet or a knife blade. Whether or not the proof is mustered to a New Jersey jury’s satisfaction, justice is served by a system that has properly acknowledged that if hate is a legal factor, it should be recognized in all of its most virulent forms, including those leveled at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for who they are.
The fact that Mr.Clementi is dead is a tragedy, but only one person is responsible for that fact: Mr.Clementi. He is the one who decided to commit suicide, and only he should receive any blame for that fact. I know that gay men and women bear a difficult burden and have much higher rates of suicide. My point is not to minimize that struggle or that Mr. Ravi is a good person, but to send Mr. Ravi to prison is no different from the KGB sending a political malcontent to the Gulag. That Mr. Ravi may go to prison is vile, and it is an example of how far our nation has degenerated.
No one should ever go to prison for what he believes. No one should be punished for anything other than for what he has done. But no longer are the ups and downs of life to be tolerated and overcome. No longer do we endure hazing as a right of passage. Instead, we are all victims and if our feelings are hurt, someone must pay. I blame Oprah, Nancy Grace, and media's promotion of the cult of the victim, self-pity ideology. I blame modern culture that insulates and shelters children without the slightest attention paid to self-reliance and overcoming.
But most of all I blame the modern, neoliberal establishment that equates vanity politics with social justice. But social justice and vanity politics are not, however, as Professor David Harvey has repeatedly made clear, necessarily compatible ("A Brief History of Neoliberalism"):
Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multiculturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power.
It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities.
For anyone who wonders how the so-called 1% maintain control over the rest of us, the so-called 99%, this is exactly how they do do it: divide and conquer by way of vanity politics. Instead of a nation that is united in its pursuit of social justice, every single particular group, whether it be defined by sex, religion, race, orientation, etc... looks out for itself. No longer are working class Americans, as was the case during the New Deal, the War on Poverty, the Great Society, of all races, sexes, religions, identities united to provide our nation with the highest standard of living attainable for all its people. Instead, we are all just looking out for number 1.
But that hasn't always been the case. The great economist John Maynard Keynes, the architect of the post-War World Two middle class democracies, was essentially a Christian Democrat, even though he was gay and an atheist: "Western civilization of which the institutional foundations are... the Christian Ethic, the Scientific Spirit and the Rule of Law. It is only on these foundations that the personal life can be lived." ("Hayek versus Keynes: The Road to Reconciliation" by Robert Skidelsky)
While the Ravi/Clementi masquerade of justice was on-going, a former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith exposed the Wall Street hog for what it truly is (see "Why Greg Smith Is 'Dead Right' About Goldman Sachs"). But this is our nation now, Mr. Ravi goes to prison for being a jerk, but the Wall Street hog goes unpunished. I wonder how many Americans committed suicide after they lost their jobs and livelihood as a result of the Wall Street meltdown, but yet, not a single Wall Street criminal is in prison.
And while I am no fan of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, I hope he does the right thing and either pardons Mr. Ravi or commutes his sentence to no prison time. If you agree, you can tell Gov. Christie that by tweeting him at @GovChristie. Below is the tweet I sent him. You can send your own or retweet mine.
Please do the right thing and pardon Dharun Ravi. America is not the USSR @GovChristie http://www.azcriminallawsexcrimes.com/social-justice-politics/dharun-ravi-convicted-for-hazing-tyler-clementi-a-masquerade-of-justice/
UPDATE: There is a interesting story in how racism is on the rise in Europe as a result of the economic problems ("European Network Against Racism (ENAR) said in its annual report that economic crisis incites racial discrimination)":
The most common victims of racism are African nations. General public believes that migrants and ethnic minorities have caused the high unemployment and poor working conditions at the time of the economic crisis, ENAR activists explained...
In Great Britain, for instance, black people are at least six times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person, ENAR stressed in the report.
I cite this report to make the obvious point that civil rights can only advance when the common class isn't worried about basic surival. It is no coincidence that the civil rights movement started in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, in the heyday of the post-War World Two Keynensian economic miracle. The fact that it did not happen before then, as in during the Great Depression or the Gilded Age, is not because Americans were less charitable or there were fewer civil rights champions around, but because the common class was impoverished and in no mood to care about racism.
We should remember that lesson now: let's fix the economy, get average American of every identity a decent job and life, and mabye then, if ever, focus on identity politics.