Re: Murder most foul

Martin Cohen (mcohen@UCLA.EDU)
Thu, 3 Oct 1996 14:59:14 -0700

>-- [ From: Timothy Mason * EMC.Ver #2.5.02 ] --
>Martin Cohen says
>> As for murder, I am afraid that while it does occur in tribal life, and
>no doubt did in the past, we are >the leader.
>Whilst I agree with most of Martin's arguments, he is wrong here. An
>interesting place to look for a discussion of this question is "Homicide" by
>Martin Daly and Margo Wilson., Aldine de Gruyter, 1988. Right at the moment,
>Columbia may well top the lists - well ahead of the USA.

You are of course correct. I don't suppose it helps much to say that I was
really into the us/them - primitive/modern scheme that Cooke insists on.
However, by that definition of "us", I do include the events in Columbia.
In fact, most of the killings there are associated with organized crime,
and result from the drug trade and other components of modern world
capitalism. Not to mention the recent revelations of CIA past (and
possible present?) involvement in this mess. And don't forget that we are
the largest market for their product. We supply the wealth that makes
murder a reasonable business activity there.

Killings in many
>tribal societies have been of greater frequency than in the US. Oxford, in
>England, in the 1400s was a far more dangerous place to live in than is
>modern America. This is not to deny that there are less violent societies
>than your own.
Of course Oxford in 1400 had an agrarian village organization under a
feudal kingdom and was hardly tribal. But yes, they beat us. Violence
does vary tremendously from society to society, and does not seem to
directly follow any grand scheme of cultural evolution. Our own murder
rate is much higher than in Western Europe, for example.

>As an afterthought, I wonder what you make of the following argument, which
>seems at present to have some popularity in law-enforcement circles. The
>claim is that *if* you subtract from the overall homicide total the number
>of drug-related ghetto killings, the US murder rate is not at all
>exceptional - so (unspoken but probably understood as read) we don't have to
>worry about it too much.

The moral implications are, of course, horrific. As to the idea that this
means it is not our murders, but theirs, that is nonesense. Inner city
misery does not exist in a vacuum. Urban poverty, and the crime that goes
with it may vary in degree from one state level society to another, but it
always does seem to be present. This is a "modern" phenomenon, it only
exists in urban society.

This brings us back to Cooke's idea of "modern consciousness". Of course,
he will just tell use that while this is a "modern problem" it has nothing
to do with "modern consciousness." Oh well.