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Patanjali Sokaris

Politics

Vigilantes – heroes or loose cannons?

Much is made of people who take the law into their own hands as being heroes who are not bound by restrictions that weaken the police's ability to protect us. But what are we unleashing here?

Vigilantes seem to cut through the red tape and complexities of modern societies to get rid of the bad apples that disease our existence. They seem to break out of the limits society places on them to do what we wish we could. They are the modern equivalent of the maligned outlaw, shunned by the elite of society, but revered as heroes by the rest.

Of course, all this is just some romantic notion of justice in action. A lot of our laws have evolved over time because of the many who were supposed to protect us exceeding their authority. The times of unfettered so-called justice were not safe, and people were generally thankful for leaving those times behind them for the safety of civilised and law-driven society.

Given the last century and a half of fictional celebration of the wild west of the USA, it only lasted two decades because people who lived through it wanted real peace and safety. But that relative safety has required a lot of preventative laws to shepherd our behaviour to be less aggressive and violent, especially by law enforcement.

So, in to breach the gap between dealing with societies deviants and the capacity of law enforcement to deal with them comes the vigilante, ready and willing to meter out real justice. But what drives such people? Why are they willing to risk their life to clean up our streets and neighbourhoods?

From the writings of those who have perpetrated mass shootings, reactions to incidents in their own lives has started them on a path of thinking about violence as a solution, but finding writings of others about who to blame for society's problems has led them to justify avenging their own suffering as part of some wider effort at correcting society's ills.

And this is where the problem with vigilantes begins. They are pained individuals looking for justification for being violent, so what happens when they deal with those they may have had grievances with, but which has not satiated their need for vengeance? Who is to next on their hit list?

These are not sane and balanced people, but are emotionally unstable and violent. They may very well be ready to see that there are other people that deserve wiping out, and some of those may be the very people who were cheering them on. We are sanctioning a killer to act on their own cognisance, and who is likely more adept than any AI android we could dream up at this stage.

Society will not be protected by some whack-job with a gun, but by sane people making sane laws and sane and well-trained police enforcing those laws. Of course, to get to there, we will have to vote in those who will root out corruption, and are willing to address the root causes of the huge inequalities that enable the despicable to thrive and torment others, whose suffering is the breeding ground for resentment, thoughts of revenge and violence.


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