Judgement is difficult. The final part of the Hippocratic quote I’ve been riffing on to write this series of essays. I can easily see in the word ‘indicium’ the root of our English word ‘indict’ which isn’t pronounced anything like it looks.
it is very difficult to stand in accusation. It’s one of the aspects of my planned career I worry over – sitting in a courtroom bearing expert witness in testimony is a awe-full responsibility, and if and when I have to do it, I will be fully aware of the consequences of my judgement. Fortunately, I will never be in the position of the prosecutors, who have to decide to pass judgement in the first place. It’s a position of much power, and with power comes potential for abuse.
I’ve written a great deal about the American justice system, which is simultaneously a beautiful piece of work, and deeply flawed. I don’t think that it could be otherwise. The system itself is elegant. Humans… are not. We can, and do, account for the human factor when we set up the systems. But in the long run the systems break down, and have to be reconsidered and redesigned every so often. I wrote a multi-part piece on the plea deal, looking at both the criminal, and victim’s side of that story. There are places – notably Alaska – that have attempted to outlaw the practice of pleas, but it still gets used in different ways, because the whole system would be overtaxed and collapse were every indictment proceed to a trial.
Which brings me to the other use of the word judgement, and the more personal side of this essay. Reformation of the justice system is an enormous task that will take many, many years and the input of people far more knowledgeable than I. Reforming a personal judgement, on the other hand… The more I study criminology, the more I wonder about how much judgement some people have. Some, obviously, have none. One only need search for goofy criminals who committed the stupidest crimes imaginable. Your browser search ought to yield hundreds, if not thousands of examples. But even ‘criminal masterminds’ seem to have little judgement, let alone what the rest of us ordinary everyday citizens would call ‘good judgement’ when it comes down to it.
Using judgement is difficult. I touched on this yesterday with the idea of our lives being an experiment, and last week with knowing what is an opportunity, and what isn’t. How do we judge what is going to be best, moving forward.
Due to construction in the lab, I lost my desk for the day. Part II will appear tomorrow.