Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

Simple Killings

This is the third “serious crime” proceeding I had to scribe, and the second “murder case”. In the previous instances, when I encountered serious crimes in my “line of work”, I was left shocked, amazed and pensive. This time, I must say that I am not too impressed or moved at all. Blah, blah, blah, can’t speak of what actually happened, fast forward.

This was a case of murder. The people killed were simple people, the people doing the killing were simple people, and most importantly (hence the perfection of this post’s title): the motive for the killing was simple.

The truth of the matter is that a person was killed, a real young man was killed, because of words he said, expletives he uttered. A simple man produced grade-school level profanity and as a result, was simply killed by a simple person.

Newspapers in Israel enjoy making fabulous headlines at their “pointless murder” column. I’m sure they won’t call it that, but there’s not a day that goes by without some “redundant violence article” published in the paper. I’m pretty sure it’s not a local phenomenon, too.

I find myself not only unimpressed by such stories, but also completely unsurprised. People who have nothing but their pathetic and miserable street credibility wouldn’t think twice before killing a man who destroys it or even merely undermines it. Honor, as “simple killers” refer to it, is probably all they have, and reckless violence the only tool for them to keep it. Without that, they reckon, they’re as good as dead anyway.

People who have been forged in a lawless fire where there’s nothing but the width of your shoulders and the peak decibels of your voice to show your prowess in are going to be violent and probably murderously so. It is only a big astonishment to self-righteous and arrogant bourgeosies who obviously have many other alternatives to violence when confronted who find hopeless ignorants to be murderously violent.

Anyone who thinks this is a patronizing argument has obviously not spent a day in his life with poor ignorant people. When I say “ignorant”, I do not mean morally inferior or even stupid – I simply mean that a lot of people who are of very limited means are also ignorant of the fact that there’s more than one way to screw a light bulb other than shooting the technician in the foot, getting him to screw the bulb, and then shooting him in the head. Um, figuratively speaking, of course.

There’s nothing I can learn here of human evil and very little I can study about human behavior: idiots with guns (yeah, idiots with guns, if anyone’s thought of me as patronizing so far, he can credit to himself the fact that he disagreed with me referring to murderous idiots with guns who kill for the dumbest reasons and chose to disagree with me when I refer to them as ignorant) – those idiots with guns use the only means possible for them to protect their well-being and their future, the same people who might have chosen to do otherwise were they aware of plausible, working alternatives. It’d certainly efface their “idiot” title, to begin with.

The only significant thing to learn from this incident is that it’s important to remember, no matter how fat, hedonistic, in excess of knowledge and means and secured we might get, a lot of people, not too far away, are living lives that are not too different than the lives animals in the wild: meaning that like animals in the wild, they have only two rules: what they can do, and what they can’t do. (Yep, I totally stole that from Pirates of the Caribbean)

A human tragedy

Lady Justice in bronze

Lady Justice in bronze

Last night I was working on a transcript of a another serious crime. The Israeli court of law, probably like most courts of law, deals with various types of crimes and usually handles them differently. This particular crime is the second severe crime that I was to “witness” as a scribe.

The first time I worked on a serious offense left me digusted and shocked at the evil that humans are capable of, and the ability of lawyers to defend even the most vile criminals.

This second case intrigued me because of a much more depressing reason.

Like I said, I could lose my job and be prosecuted if I actually write about what happened, but fortunately, the actual event is of no consequence to the conclusion I drew out of it.

Firstly, I want to note that this particular crime is so heinous that I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with the soft-hearted anyway, and I ain’t sure about the “hard-hearted” either. The really bowel-churning thing about this case, however, is really not the actual crime.

Let’s put it like this:

Human beings are amalgams of emotion. Sometimes we find ourselves incapable of controlling our emotions, sometimes we find ourselves incapable of thinking straight because our emotions cloud our judgment, make us hesitate too long or in some cases, push us to make rash decisions and act recklessly.

This is only human. I can easily forgive a word said in anger but I will never forgive a cold-hearted sin. Human emotions are often good enough an excuse for me, especially when they cannot be controlled and are the result of external factors. If someone has a shitty day and takes it out on me a bit, I recoil, and completely ignore the unwarranted personal attack. People sometimes need our help the most when they’re being nasty to everyone.

That said, the tragedy I wish to write about in this post is the fact that it doesn’t, in fact, require people to be evil in order of them to do evil things. I see “evil” people, disregarding the somewhat subjective and complicated definition of the word, as people who perform evil deeds without a hint of guilt. With malice, with an utterly greedy and self-centered motive and with unhindered intent.

These are people who have, for some reason, made the decision long ago to take what’s not theirs from people who can’t defend themselves or what they own. These people do not see themselves as evil. They see themselves as smart enough to know how to get richer on the expense of those who can’t keep their wealth.

The case I painstakingly transcribed yesterday was not about such people. In fact, it doesn’t even matter which side was “right” on the subject, because in any case, the assailant was this particular brand of “evil-doer” that I’m lamenting about here. There was a crime that was committed not because a person was evil. In fact, the person committing the crime was probably a good person, by any definition of the word.

The truly tragic element in this whole wretched story is the fact that powerful, innate, and incontrollable emotions held the people involved hostage, and twisted their minds and eventually, their actions, in such catastrophic measures as to motivate them towards doing horrible things to each other.

Love, for example, is an emotion that is sometimes so powerful, it can backfire on either side of a loving relationship when things go awry, as they sometimes do. In cases like this, perfectly normal people are perpetrators of a crime.  (in this case, I will disclose that a large number of character witnesses were shocked at what happened and testified in court that the people involved are not the kind of people who’d they ever thought will be)

The truly amazing thing is that it is even a fact that in this particular case, the aggressor had no prior criminal record. This is a case of something that erupted with volcanic fervor simply because of bottled up, incontrollable, and most importantly, human emotions.

The conclusion from this case is that no matter how good you are, no matter how loving, caring, gentle, thoughtful and peaceful you may be, you are subject to the same emotional constraints that every human being is subjected to. Because of that, every man is a potential criminal. Every man can be shaken up so bad as to do horrible deeds he will later live his entire life to regret. I should know.

I remember constantly reminding and reiterating to myself throughout the script that I am NOT like this. That I will never inflict such violence on anyone, no matter what provocations I will have to endure or what kind of emotional torture will motivate me towards acts of anger and violence.

But at the end of this horrible case, I figured that I truly don’t know. When mom died last year, I did some horrible things to everyone I cared about (and some people I didn’t care about) simply because I was bottling up emotions and was suffering so bad from PTSD that I was completely powerless to stop my journey of self-destruction. My escape of self-destruction, actually, is still somewhat of a miracle. I might write a post about that some day.

At the end of this case I figured that no one can really tell what’s his breaking point. No one can really tell what kind of pressure can be applied in order of which to make a person like him or herself become violent, become a thief, become evil. There might be a certain emotional volume in every person that will deluge his senses with grief and anger in a way as to transform a perfectly sensible, good person into a thief or a killer, and this is a fact that I found truly troubling about this entire case.

That there are evil people and evil deeds happening in the world is not particularly new to me, and even though this crime was heinous, I’ve heard, read and witnesses evil enough to swallow the information without much emotional contusions. The truly heartsinking element to this story is that yes, for some given value of emotional torment: It could have been me doing the crime, it could have been everyone.

So the moral of this tragedy is that perhaps it is best to prepare for times that test us and specifically, test our limits. We must constantly remind ourselves that regardless of a possible turmoil – whether it is the infliction, even of death, of someone we love, be it betrayel and acts of aggression, physical or not, by someone who hold most precious – we must never reduce ourselves to violent beasts. Traitors are to be scorned and neglected. Killers are to be subdued and are to receive due trial.

But we must never let the beast take over, because once that wall breaks down, it all breaks down, and eventually we’re going to look at the mirror after we’ve turned into the unimaginable and see a monster staring back at us.

Shenanigans

This is a post written in English that is going to be followed by a post translating it into Hebrew. I’m making points in this lengthy, yet, I promise, interesting post that I wish both my Hebrew-reading friends to enjoy easily and any English readership I might attract here.

It’s been quite a nasty day for me yesterday. I don’t usually write blog posts like diary entries, even though I do write personal posts, but something that I did yesterday caused me to do a lot of thinking. Really disconcerting, nasty, shocking, sickening things usually do.

I should probably add it to my “about me page”, but for now, I’ll put it here that my “job classification”, if you could call it that, is a “freelancer English/Hebrew/Sign Language interpreter and transcriber”. It’s a very high-paying job for an untrained student and, more importantly, since I freelance, I can supply my services when I want, to whom I want and to what extent I want. So when I’ll be busy with exams, I’ll have the legal privilege to simply work less. It also means that I negotiate my payment before every job and I get a lot of experience with a huge variety of subjects.

I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now, ever since I was 17 and my dad needed me to come and not only translate for him, which was something I got used doing and never actually expected payment for it – but he also asked me to transcribe for him too because his regular transcriber was sick. Transcribing to deaf students is simply to sit next to them in class and try and type whatever the professor says. My dad was having a course in auto mechanics and he had government funding for either a typist/transcriber or a sign language interpreter. In my case, since I’ve been living behind a keyboard ever since I was 5 (when I got my first 286 computer) and by now have achieved sonic typing speed, and because I’ve been interpreting for mom and dad all my life -Dad got both.

So, needless to say, Dad was extremely pleased. Whenever the lecturer said things that he had to memorize or explained really complicated ideas, I wrote them down, word-for-word. Most people, fortunately, don’t talk faster than 80 words a minute, which is about how fast I type in both Hebrew and English. I even managed to write down some comments and questions from the other students and the answers the professor gave. I really gave dad the feeling that he was really IN the class, aware of everything that’s happening. Even today, the knowledge of this makes me cry.

When dad simply wanted to understand a concept, or, after I wrote down what the professor said, to ask a question, I removed my fingers from the laptop social security gave me and I started interpreting to dad in sign language and voicing my dad’s questions to the professor.

In that respect, I think I became and might probably still be the ONLY transcriber who is ALSO a sign-language interpreter. After my dad finished his course (he got like 98 or something! woohoo dad!), I was just about to graduate and I had thoughts of actually getting a job so that I could save up some money. I had about 2 months in which I worked in telemarketing, delivered newspapers and there was one more thing I don’t even remember… Until one day, my dad told me about a deaf student he knows who majors in special education. He said that he thought I was really good at transcribing and being able to sign is a huge bonus for any deaf student. I reluctantly agreed to accompany this girl for one semester and it was just amazing. First of all, I was making about triple minimum wage. That is, I made twice as much money as any of my friends in half the time. All the while, having complete access to academic courses and almost the entire week off. I worked 3 days a week, about 10 hours in total, and they paid me so friggin’ much, I simply couldn’t get why. This “business” took off as more students heard of my “special skills”. By the time I joined the army and had to stop working, of course, I had 2 more long-term jobs: one was with a girl who studied dental hygiene and another who learnt marriage-counselling. Needless to say, I was exposed to information I probably would never have been exposed to.

During the army, I did a lot of jobs “in the black market”, because Israeli soldiers aren’t allowed to have jobs without a special permit, which I wouldn’t be able to get because my family wasn’t poor. So I had the opportunity to go to court with deaf plaintiffs, transcribe official hard-of-hearing conferences and even professional lectures by foreign lecturers in technical subjects such as audiology. I gained so much information that I have no current use for that it’s kinda funny. Of course, a soldier doing this “on his free time” – I got paid in cash and no one was any wiser. I helped a lot of people with my services, so I think anyone with an IRS-oriented morality should just leave me alone, at that.

Anyway, after I discharged from the army, I got an official “card” and”opened up a business”, and I’m only writing that in quotes because it feels ridiculous to write it without them, and, well, got myself a name, a reputation. I started working with private companies, those who REALLY pay big bucks for broke, young, discharged soldiers. And here I am now. Now I mostly do the most difficult type of transcribing, but I do it from home and on my own terms, which is great because it means I can work whenever I want. The most difficult part of transcribing I just mentioned is formal government and judicial material: conferences/meetings/law suits/commities, etc. They’re all of a very similar vein: all exquisitely recorded, all requiring a lot of experience as a transcriber.

Now that I’ve finished droning on how I got into transcribing and interpreting (something, admittedly, that I did less and less when I got into transcribing for private companies for a lot more than what the government pays interpreters), I’ll get to the point of what happened to me yesterday and how hard it shook me.

I got a new “supplier”, or “well”, as I call them, for transcription jobs. A solid, good, credible company with lots of work that was recruiting new transcribers and translators in English and Hebrew. The first job they gave me was yesterday, in which I completed transcribing two hours of audio. Now, there’s a legal agreement that prevents me from saying exactly what happened in that piece of audio, mainly because it was of a closed-doors serious crime law-suit and even if I could, I don’t think I’d have the balls to really tell what happened, just that listening and writing down with my own fingers the course of those two hours was such a horrible, nasty, sickening, bowel-churning experience that it simply screwed up my mood for the rest of the day. I was supposed to go this geek party thing afterwards and simply didn’t. I stayed up alone, drank too much and tried really, really hard not to think about human evil.

But the actual serious crime itself wasn’t the only thing that made me so battered.

Well, yeah, first of all, there was the part that I literally stopped working in some cases where something simply unbelievable was said by someone (things were said that shocked me so much that I simply froze for a few minutes and literally had a physiological response to it, I could actually throw up.), but in the aftermath, and after, somehow, getting used to hearing really horrible descriptions from the witness stand, something else REALLY bothered me. Notwithstanding the fact that horrible, nasty, incomprehensible evil is alive and kicking on this planet, there was also the fact that when people investigate witnesses, be they the victims, defendants, or anyone else, lawyers, being what they are, are capable of twisting words and using verbal gymnastics in a way that would make almost anyone believe almost anything. I found this extremely troubling because on the one hand, I heard a victim depicting what has happened to him/her and then, when cross-examined, the lawyer actually did a REALLY good job at discrediting the witness.

I know it’s his job, but it’s as if the guy had absolutely no sympathy, he was doing his job like there’s nothing else in the world but defending his client. And when I listened to what he said, I was shocked to realize that at some points, I almost believed him. I believed him when he discredited the witness. And then I shook my head and realized that serious criminals get to walk away so many times simply because of people like that lawyer.

Some serious crimes have very little evidence to support them, and in that case, the only thing left to investigate is the witnesses. That said, people who are confused, scared, have been suffering from many years by the same person and can’t recollect and reproduce events in the far past – they all give screwed up descriptions of what happened to them. Possibly, to the extent where they say one thing at the police and another in court, simply because they’re too emotionally wound up to be completely consistent. This is also, sadly, enough to discredit almost ANYONE because in cases of serious crimes that are well-hidden, there’s usually discrepancy even between what the victim says and what other people who confided in the victim say. It’s so… dirty, the whole business.

I finished working yesterday feeling, more than any sympathy that I felt, more than any pride I felt in taking a small part in something this important, I felt sick. I felt sick with the fact that humans can twist words any way they like and with that allow such evil not only to exist, but also to escape judgment. I wouldn’t assume to be both judge and jury, but hearing what cross-examination is like in cases like this, I can be almost certain that sometimes, lawyers help the bad guys walk away and then the bad guys continue doing bad things. It is a failure that humanity suffers from that I find so heart-breaking and mind shattering,

I do not know how to reconcile this with myself, and I know that there’s very little that I can do.

It is quite amazing what evil lurks in the hearts of men. In some, insanity or an unrestrained compulsion drives people to destroy other souls or even to take them. But in other cases, it is greed or indifference that allows for such visceral evil to exist. I can’t make which evil is worse.