Art or Consequences

April 25, 2016

The Good and the Evil

Filed under: Diaries,Essay — Manuel @ 4:36 am

There are the good, the worthy members of society, the ones who bring progress to the world, who believe in the value of human rights, draw up those rights, promote them and observe their precepts. They enforce them.

And there are also the bad, those who could care less about the suffering of others, who lack empathy and seek only their own gain. To keep these people under control, to ensure that life is pacific and advantageous for all, a police force is created.

The good and the bad exist, policemen and criminals. Not all of those who are good are policemen. And thanks to the existence of the police, not all of those who are bad are criminals.

There are good policemen, who carry out their duty, who believe in the ideals of justice and rightness, who always act according to the ethical standards of the police, who never break any of the rules that govern the functioning of the police force. They treat criminals as normal citizens, because it is not their job to judge them.

There are bad policemen, who treat citizens like criminals, as if everyone were a potential enemy. They interpret the rules according to their own interests and disrespect the authority of their superiors. Some behave in this way to be more efficient, to improve their capacity to catch those who are known to be criminals. Others do so purely for their own gain, or because they feel like it, because they are corrupt policemen.

There are policemen who simply do their job. They obey the rules to the extent it is reasonable to do so. They don’t really care if the world is just or not, if the assignments they are given follow good or bad principles. All they want is for no one to make life impossible for them, to obey their bosses sufficiently to receive their monthly paycheck and not be expelled from the force.

Among the criminals there are also those who are good and those who are bad. Good criminals are those who have been forced to break the law because of the education they have received, because of the surroundings in which they have grown up, because of economic necessity. Life has made them into criminals. But they only take what they need, they try not to hurt anyone. They don’t hurt anyone unless it is strictly necessary.
Bad criminals, on the other hand, have no other principles but to further their own gain. They don’t care about killing, destroying people’s lives, if by doing so they obtain a small advantage, a bit more money with a bit less risk. Some even enjoy doing evil, to destroy people’s lives, both the good and the bad, even if it isn’t necessary to do so, perhaps precisely because it isn’t necessary.

The worst criminals, however, are those who appear to be good citizens. They pretend, for example, to be well-off, respected members of society and use social conventions or certain manipulations of public documents as smokescreens to hide their crimes. These crimes are varied and may or may not be covered by existing laws: the criminals have already made sure that existing laws do not cover them. Some believe that no matter what the existing laws are, regardless if they are obeyed or not, there are many who appear to be good citizens but in fact are not. It is perhaps not even possible to be a good citizen.

At any rate, among the worst criminals, among those who pass themselves off as good citizens, a number pretend to be policemen, those good policemen whose work it is precisely to bring an end to the criminal world. For example, some dress as policemen to commit their crimes with impunity, feigning to be policemen so that all doors are opened to them. And there are also those who infiltrate the police force, who study and graduate as policemen, but do so in the service of a criminal organization. These are moles. They appear to be policemen, even good policemen, but in fact they are criminals. Thanks to this ruse, they can acquire prior knowledge of police activity and alert their criminal colleagues, who reward them generously for each piece of useful information. Sometimes, to get this information, to demonstrate that they are policemen, they have to apprehend criminals, they have to catch and handcuff their own colleagues and send them to jail. By acting as irreproachable policemen, or at least as ones who do their job, they usually convince everyone. But they achieve their best results when they pass themselves off as corrupt policemen, because in this way they can infiltrate certain groups of the police force who are for the most part corrupt and thereby gather more valuable, more protected information. They also destroy or plant evidence, as any corrupt policeman would do, to avoid convictions or to distract the attention of the police to rival gangs.

A super-good policeman also exists. Paradoxically, the super-good policeman, to carry out his work, to be super-good, must appear to be a criminal. He is an undercover policeman, a sort of mole on the other side. His secret mission is to infiltrate the criminals, to gain their trust, to get them to give him important information about their criminal network and to be introduced to those who are ultimately responsible for the crimes. In this way, he can alert the police about when large-scale crimes will be committed or when the lives of innocent citizens or of an agent, are in danger. He can also gather evidence from the inside that incriminates the entire organisation, those who get the weapons or the drugs, those who collaborate with them.

The undercover policeman has all of the obligations of a policeman and additionally must face many other difficulties: he works full time, 24 hours a day, and in a setting of constant risk. The slightest slip would cost him his life. He can’t be himself, he must pretend to be someone else, he must think out each of his moves, however irrelevant they may be, to keep from revealing his condition; he must not behave like a policeman in absolutely any way and must appear to be a typical crook, one among others.

Despite the daily tension of behaving like a criminal and being forced to fake an arrogant, scrupleless attitude, to treat ordinary people, those with less power, with contempt, this is nothing compared to the emotional difficulty of behaving like a criminal in terms of what makes a criminal a criminal: committing a crime.

Indeed, in the role of a criminal, to serve a higher purpose, that of the good, the undercover policeman is forced to commit all types of crimes to show that he is one of the rest, so that they accept him in their midst. He must show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is not a policeman. A mole appears more like a policeman if he behaves like a corrupt policeman. But an undercover policeman cannot behave like a good person, a good delinquent. Such an attitude is dangerous, if not utterly impossible. Thus he robs, extorts, intimidates and hits. While such actions on their own demand of him enormous nerve and moral strength, he must additionally be forever on guard against overdoing it, against showing too much interest in demonstrating how bad he is, against trying too hard.

And so, at the most difficult moment of the mission he is forced to do things that are completely contrary to his ideals. He may even have to kill a fellow policeman if circumstances force him to, if the fact of not shooting a colleague were to endanger the life of one of the criminals and thereby reveal that he values the life of a policeman over that of a member of his gang. In such a case, his own life might be in danger; in other words, he would be forced to save either the life of his fellow policeman or his own.

Over a brief period he has participated in so many horrors, in things so far removed from what first led him to join the force, that he himself seems to forget that he is a policeman, that he is in fact fighting that ignominious world, that while he carries out those detestable acts, he is also, on a another level, preventing more horrible crimes from being committed, that so much degradation is in the service of something good. He wants to think that the eviler he is, the more he behaves like a criminal, the more trials of this kind he goes through, the better policeman he is, the greater the good he is doing for society.

The undercover policeman doesn’t benefit from being super-good, from undertaking such a committed and dangerous job, from dedicating his life to police work. It isn’t merely a question of economic benefit, which, if the police force ultimately decides to grant this to him, if he finishes the work alive, he will, at any rate, only receive once he’s finished the mission: he likewise receives no personal or professional recognition, because his identity is completely secret. To share his work with his police colleagues would compromise his safety. Someone might say too much in a detention, or buckle during an interrogation with a pistol pressed up against his temple if he is caught by criminals who, above all, want to know who has betrayed them. A colleague might be tempted to sell this information, knowing that he would find eager bidders. The colleague with whom he shares this information might simply be a mole and thus the entire operation would be lost. Only the boss who has decided the mission can know his true identity. It’s important that all of the other policemen take the undercover policeman for a criminal, for one of the worst criminals; they must despise him and be ready to shoot him on any occasion. The undercover policeman suffers these humiliations and this extra danger with resignation, in the hope that one day everyone will learn what he has done, that symbolic justice will be done and that everyone will say they’re sorry and congratulate him. With the narrative of these future expectations, the boss manages to encourage him to continue the mission at moments when his determination weakens. And his determination weakens often, the more so the more time goes by and his real life seems further and further away.

The mission is so secret, in fact, that any of his fellow criminals could also be an undercover policeman, a second undercover policeman assigned to the operation, perhaps to protect him, without his knowing it. In fact, if one thinks about it, all of the criminals in his gang could be undercover policemen on missions assigned by different police departments, working on the same case, investigating one another without knowing that they are actually fellow policemen rather than fictitious partners in crime. And perhaps all of the crime in the city is being committed by undercover policemen, who rob and kill to protect their cover, to appear more ruthless than their colleagues, in an escalation of violence that has lost all reference to reality. These speculative reflections torment him at times and lead him to think his work is pointless.

What is certain is that in his life among the criminals he does indeed receive money and honours. Every so often, after a good job, the boss of his gang hands him a wad of bills as thanks and payment. He doesn’t have to pay taxes on it, he doesn’t have to declare it to his boss in the police force. He of course uses it only as a criminal would use it, as one of his fellow criminals would, thereby reinforcing his cover. This means, for example, reserving the best tables at restaurants, smoking expensive cigarettes, drinking without moderation the finest liquors and frequenting luxury whorehouses with his fellow criminals. In all respects he is an appreciated and recognised criminal. The other crooks constantly congratulate him and greet him affectionately and admiringly. There is good reason for this: his life is entirely dedicated to feigning wrongdoing, free of all outside concerns such as family, children, life plan or pension plan, which can interfere in the carrying out of certain operations and affect other criminals. All of these life concerns have been suspended until the mission is over and he recovers a real life, his life. He is thus an ideal criminal, perfectly dedicated to wrongdoing, better than any other. Also, in terms of morality, it can be said he has fewer scruples and limitations because, after all, everything he does, he knows, serves a higher purpose, a noble purpose.

Because of this excellence in his work as a criminal (which is also, or, above all, excellence in his police work) the gang bosses welcome him into their homes, they invite him to eat with their families, they wine and dine him and make him feel like one of their own. They develop affection for him. They also confide in him the most protected secrets of the organisation. They reveal to him, for example, the identity of one of the moles in the police force and the names of the corrupt policemen with whom they collaborate, the money they give them to make them look away, to eliminate evidence and plant other evidence, to investigate among their colleagues and discover whether there are undercover policemen like him operating in the criminal organisations. He learns who among his colleagues would willingly sell him for a handful of cash.

What enormous moral strength an undercover policeman possesses! He endures a life of tension, the moral degradation of participating in crime, lack of recognition, the scorn of his fellow policemen, the disgust he feels for his corrupt police colleagues, who also scorn him, who dare to scorn him. And he must also resist the attraction offered by the good life of the criminal, the easy money, the recognition of other criminals, the affection for them that begins to take hold of him. All of this makes him doubt himself, whether he can remain pure for much longer, whether all this pressure won’t make him become precisely the worst thing of all, a traitor. His boss in the police force, the only one who knows his situation and knows how tough his working conditions are, even he sometimes doubts the undercover policeman, because he finds it hard to believe that somebody can be so devoted, can suffer so many humiliations for uncertain future benefit and recognition. To a certain extent, he envies him for being a policeman with more merits than him, despite the fact that he is a mere subordinate. And he questions whether the benefits he gains from being a criminal haven’t already definitively transformed him, and that in fact he truly enjoys those cigars, those women, those delicacies and luxury cars, which he is supposed to only pretend to enjoy.

Both the good and the bad, good policemen and bad policemen, corrupt policemen, policemen who do their jobs, good and bad criminals, moles and undercover policemen, all of them are good. This is clear when they are compared with terrorists.

However, there are also good terrorists and bad terrorists.

 

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