Please read Christopher Glazek’s “Raise the Crime Rate” in the latest issue of n+1Posted: February 14, 2012
It’s not very often that I read something that pierces me straight to my core. This week I’ve had the fortune and pleasure of reading two: Mike’s moving, uplifting tearjerker of a post on adult cinema and Christopher Glazek’s latest muckraker in the most recent issue of n+1, “Raise the Crime Rate.”
Glazek’s piece, an indictment on this country’s criminal justice system, is expansive. Here are some highlights:
In short, our prisons are moral “blind spots” absent of justice or compassion, where abuses run rampant. The entire system is founded on racism, classism, and corruption, both historically and presently. Glazek’s conclusion is that we need to abolish our entire system of incarceration and deal with the ensuing ramifications. Whether or not you agree with his extreme position, you cannot shake the damning evidence he presents.
Like all great muckraking pieces, this essay had me fuming, irate, fist-shaking. For those who know me, I’m no fan of the war on drugs, which is in practice an undisguised racist war on the poor urban class in this country. This is hardly a radical position, especially urbanites who adore The Wire. But it renders me pretty helpless when confronted with the truth that the decrease in crime and correlated increase in safety in New York City (and I assume in other parts of the country) are directly correlated to a whole new set of injustices: those done to our incarcerated population. I’ve always had my doubts and criticisms about our criminal justice system, but those were vague, generically leftist, not wholly-informed biases, and I’d never been presented such condemning evidence; it had never been a priority on top of the myriad of problems facing our country: political corruption, financial chicanery, environment crises, a decaying public infrastructure, a lack of rationality and a profound anti-intellectualism in our civil discourse, a fundamental absence of decency in our treatment of others. Throw this one on top of the innumerable list of shit to fix. I’m feeling pretty gutted right now. What the fuck kind of world do we live in?
I’m leery, weary, and very aware of the fact that my last two posts are painting me as a holier-than-thou, Mitch-Albom-type eager to criticize the flawed and decaying world around me. I lead a pretty cushy life and can rail against the 1% while patting myself on the back because I’m “in the know” and can be self-righteously upset. God knows that, as an educated, gainfully employed male somewhat comfortably ensconced in the (lower) middle class, I benefit from a whole lot of the injustices done around me. I live in a nice part of Brooklyn (DUFL, what?), I eat lavishly at neighborhood foodie restaurants, and I buy new wing-tipped boots without batting a (shoe) eye. But how much injustice are we, am I, willing to buttress my lifestyle with?
On a final note, Glazek’s piece really brought to my mind Ursula LeGuin’s short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” If you’ve never read it, please do so.