April 12, 2010
Crime and criminals are typically looked at from the outside as being a social problem "othered" by those combatting and/or suffering from it. In order to successfully address the various phenomena of criminal activity and especially criminal behavior as a whole, it is necessary to understand the motivations and methods of criminals in a vocational sense - as with any other labelled career - as well as examining the societal underpinnings and various psychological explanations of their appearance within the population.
We are all familiar with specific manifestations of crime, whether from personal or secondhand experience, television shows, movies, sensational fiction and "true crime" accounts or the daily news, be it local or metropolitan. Everyone has their views and opinions on crime and criminals and what is to be done with them by society, as well as some differing perspectives on what exactly constitutes a "crime" in the first place, or what crimes are worse than others and deserve worse penalties, or which are overblown and do not warrant the punishment they receive. To be a criminal is not so distinct a state of activity-defined identity as being a doctor or a dancer or a physical therapist -- and yet, what should prevent us from considering it as a valid, though illicit, vocational area of pursuit and examining it as such, especially when it occurs as a personal pattern through life?
Even among those who are themselves engaging in criminal activity, the subject itself is - in reality as opposed to fictional stereotype - a largely dissociated one, in which the matter of "crime" itself is not so much thought of as are differing degrees and proficiencies and blame attached to specific activities within the larger field (such as the near-universal disgust and abuse of pedophiles within prison society, for the latter).Criminals do not really think of themselves /as/ criminals and recognize other criminals per se as members of the same species: there is no such thing as a self-stated criminal organization cf. the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (X-Men, Marvel Comics), or THRUSH ("The Man From U.N.C.L.E."), or KAOS ("Get Smart"). It simply does not happen that there's such solidarity among the broad category of "people who do things that the supermajority of humanity defines as objectively bad and societally harmful" - let alone that they proudly assume the title to themselves in guild-like fashion.
"Criminal" is a word that is near-exclusively used by those who are apparently law-abiding citizens to define those who are not: it defines the "other," never one's own self. As opposed to the term "sinner," which can appeal to the full range of unworthy words, deeds or thoughts in anyone's psyche, whether secret or exposed, "criminal" is defined in such a technical sense that it is infinitely detachable from one's own self-awareness - whether planning a crime or committing it, and even after being arrested, tried and convicted so as to fully warrant being outwardly defined by one's disobedience to the common law. No one defines themself as being a criminal; all have some rationale or agenda that justifies self-exclusion from the category. And yet, in order to examine criminal behaviour as a whole across its categories, it becomes necessary to look at criminality itself in an avocational light, as having similar traits and potential courses of progression to the seeds of any career or calling -- even though it remains, even in full manifestation, 'the profession that dare not speak its name.'
Before we examine this, though, we must settle upon a working definition of criminality that is broad enough to cover all relevant bases while not including personal or consensual behaviors that are merely frowned upon by society. In order to be defined as "criminal" for the purposes of this particular vocational overview, an action must directly...