Falling Down – Is It A Justification For Crime ?


Our lives break sometimes, so much so that things can seem like they’ll never be “good” again.

Reminds me of Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” (1993) – “An unemployed defense worker frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society, begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them.” – IMDB

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It’s one of my favourite movies – for me an all time classic, Michael Douglas at his best.

A commenter on my previous opinion post brought the movie to mind. She had this to say :

Why do people do heinous things in order to acquire money? Perhaps it is because they cannot find a way to put a roof over their head etc by the normal means of working for money, or are burdened by all the taxes and restrictions placed by an ‘advanced’ society. A person’s most valuable financial asset is their ability to work. If that is taken away by economic circumstances, ill health, or govt restrictions, then the temptation to do ‘something heinous’ arises. Because others see these issues and see that the same thing could happen to them, then yes, a love of money arises, because that represents security. My parents/grandparents generation knew that if they worked well all their lives they could survive until a modest retirement. My generation can expect to live much longer, but be unemployable by the time they’re in their 50s. The next generation cannot exist on a minimum wage job. There is no security. Take away the security and people will naturally take measures to reinstate it.

Skyscapes for the Soul

She has many true points here – I can’t disagree with anything she says, she’s spot on. There’s many reasons why people may become disenchanted with society or very angry at the hand they’ve been dealt in life. Enough so to consider resorting to crime in order to get money, or just to “lash out”.

AND HARD NOT TO EMPATHISE – WE’RE ALL AWARE OF THESE ISSUES OR SIMILAR ONES THAT AFFECT US PERSONALLY.

I liked “Falling Down” because it explored how a person might react given a bad hand, a real bad hand in life. Bill, the protagonist lost is his job, his wife left him and he can’t see his daughter. HIS entire feeling of “security” entirely seemingly irreparably BROKEN. All through what he sees as “not his fault” – he blames just about anyone else he can.

My favourite scene from the movie :

Bill Foster: I’m the Bad Guy?
Sergeant Prendergast: Yeah.
Bill Foster: How’d that happen? I did everything they told me to. Did you know I build missiles? I helped to protect America. You should be rewarded for that. But instead they give it to the plastic surgeons, you know they lied to me.
Sergeant Prendergast: Is that what this is about? You’re angry because you got lied to? Is that why my chicken dinner is drying out in the oven? Hey, they lie to everyone. They lie to the fish. But that doesn’t give you any special right to do what you did today. The only that makes you special is that little girl. Now let’s go. Lets go!

– “Falling Down” (1993)

I especially like the “They lie to the fish” – always makes me laugh out loud, because it’s so true. We get lied to all the time. The problem arises when we build our lives on the lies, and then one day realise it’s not real, and that we don’t have *any* real security – this can make us very angry indeed … enough to spark off the rampage that Falling Down dramatically illustrates.

Life does throw shit at us, sometimes it’s a whole truckload. We get knocked down, the wind knocked out of us. It sucks, anyone who’s been there knows how it feels – totally rotten. Getting up can be HARD, really HARD sometimes. Age doesn’t make it any easier …

Crime is almost never an answer – I feel the same about it as I do about vigilantism (as I mentioned on my gun control update) :

We ventured into vigilantism, which was interesting and I gained a lot personally discussing. My conclusion is that vigilantism may be as bad or worse than the original crime, because of the repercussive consequences. An eye for an eye springs to mind, and that makes the whole world blind eventually. A possible outcome is anarchy if people go around killing others for revenge, retribution or “justice”. With lynchings or vigilante killings going on, well, who’s next, could be me or my loved ones or yours. This is why we have justice systems in most civilised countries in the world. And Police (and armed forces) to uphold the laws. I do appreciate the anger that people feel when justice isn’t served, there’s plenty I’ve seen that’s unjust personally. However I don’t agree that this is a justification for possessing a gun, or vigilantism, or lynchings.

UPDATE – USA Gun Control – Don Charisma’s Opinion

Falling Down – Is It A Justification For Crime ?

How do we come to terms with issues that frustrate us enough to consider stealing, violence, torture, lying, blackmailing, killing etc ?

Is crime ever “right” or “just” or even really “a solution” ?

I already know my own personal answer – but I’m leaving the floor open on this one … for debate, perhaps 😀

Cheers

Don Charisma

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45 thoughts on “Falling Down – Is It A Justification For Crime ?

  1. I will be 64 in a month and in my lifetime of seeking truth have come to find out that much of what was taught were factual lies. By the time I was able to actually divine the truth my view of life was much like The Matrix or They Live; in that it is gloss over the true evil based underneath.
    Evil is not like in movies and books, evil is propaganda, control, oppression and deliberate unjust cultural imbalance – an invisible monster that you cannot fight – it is too big and powerful and the days of protest and “pen mightier than the sword” has been proven ineffective against the powers that be.
    I recently stated in one of my posts that “Unfortunately, the atmosphere is far more oppressive and dangerous today than back (in the 1960/70s) when we thought we had it bad. Evil was still on a learning curve – today it is a perfected science.”
    Falling Down is a movie that millions have not seen but are surely living.
    Just do not forget that we live in a Police State and in a Prison Nation – more than any other country on the entire planet. Justifiable Paranoia is our sixth sense. Use it to your advantage. 00individual speaks Tribal Truth.

  2. I don’t think society views much as black and white anymore, we live in a world of grey…
    So many points I’d like to comment on in this but unfortunately have to return to work.. lol
    Have to say though, this is also a favourite movie of mine 🙂

  3. By living in the United States, by continuing to be a citizen, you are agreeing to accept all laws. Being a citizen means obeying any laws the government of the country sets. It doesn’t mean you get to pick and choose which ones are just and which ones are corrupt. The idea is that you, as a citizen, choose which representative you want to represent you in the government – both in the House and in the Senate. These representatives are supposed to create laws that are beneficial to those they represent. Of course, mistakes are made because as everyone knows, there is corruption in Congress. That is why we have a three branch government – so that if Congress passes a law that interferes with out Bill of Rights, then the Legislative Branch steps in to decide, is the law actually unconstitutional? If the Supreme Court decides it is, then the law no longer applies. Then you go back to Congress to make new laws to correct the situation. The President has some say in this, in that he can veto things but he does not make the laws or decide if they are acceptable.
    Having said this, that you are a citizen, which is in itself an agreement to abide by all laws of the country – you are also not a prisoner. If you do not agree with nor want to abide by the laws, you are free to leave the country whenever you choose and seek citizenship elsewhere. If you choose to remain a citizen, then you must act like one. That means you don’t get to take the law into your own hands and be a vigilante. As a citizen, you agree to let the elected officials (Sheriff, Prosecutors, etc.) determine for you, who is guilty and who is not and whether or not a crime was committed by a person. That is why you elect certain officials – to do the exact job of identifying criminals and punishing them. If you feel these elected officials are not doing their job correctly, you do not have to elect them again.
    Aside from vigilantism, let’s say your family is starving and homeless – does this give you the right to commit a crime to feed them? Again, you are citizens which means you are entitled to the government’s assistance with your needs. Part of our annual revenue taxes are used to pay for programs that assist those in need with getting food, acquiring housing, getting jobs and other things. You just have to do the work to receive the assistance – which means you have to go to that government office, fill out all the paperwork, do all the interviews and then follow up as required. By not taking advantage of these programs when in need, you are making the conscious choice to stay hungry and jobless – you don’t get to go around stealing because you don’t feel like going through the hassle of paperwork and interviews.
    In it’s theory, the government is set up to work for the people. It allows citizens to decide who they want to represent them to make laws, who they want to enforce the laws, who they want to judge the laws, who handles their specific county’s money, who runs their particular city, who runs their particular school system and pretty much everything else. The system is also set up to assist anyone who needs help for whatever reason. If everyone did their jobs as citizens and voted, made use of assistance programs when needed and obeyed the laws, there would be no ‘need’ for crime.
    Now, the problem lies in the fact that yes, the government has corruption, as all positions of power are prone to have. Greed interferes with the smooth running of the system. Large corporations have more of a say in laws and in running of the government than they should. People who need help often don’t know how to find it. But none of these things is justification for crime. As I said, the government is made up of elected positions. If you are unhappy with the government then change it, vote new people in rather than doing nothing but complain that the system is broken. Change is always possible in a democracy. Committing crime on the other hand only further weakens the system.

    1. I like your comment. It is articulate and touches on some important aspects of crime in a democracy. I nearly completely disagree.

      The principles you speak of such as representative government and voting rights are parts of the whole. But so are a vigorous spiritual / religious freedom, enlightened self-interest, rugged individualism, and an understanding that “the system” was never a static thing: It was meant to continually evolve. Telling people they should get out if they disagree with government decisions is completely counter to these fundamentals.

      The right to bear arms (2nd amendment, USA) is a perfect example. The spirit of this idea is that people could form militias and wrest from power a government that became unrepresentative. This process was supposed to be grassroots, deliberately i.e.: It was not something people expected “the government” to do to itself. The 2nd amendment is also a good example of something that has evolved: It is no longer a feasible idea for people to overthrow the US government if they have a problem with it.

      But crime is a far wider concept than a person doing something against the law. A very good definition of crime could be “when someone or something hurts someone in an undue way.” Taking this as the definition of crime, what would we say about the treatment of North American Aboriginal nations? These people were systematically, and individually harmed in the worst and most undue ways. What about the fight for civil rights? That was only 40 years ago- 100 years after the end of slavery! These sorts of things have happened to people round the world as well, so I’m not beating up the US alone.

      Laws are not inherently correct, and crime is not inherently wrong. Many historic heroes have also turned out, through hindsight, to be total villains.

      1. I agree with your broad definition of crime and with the fact that yes, many people throughout history have been cruelly treated. In a wider view, not all laws are correct and not all crime is wrong, however, my point wasn’t about the overall concept of crime in general.
        In the specific system of the US government, as a citizen, you agree to the laws. Crime is clearly defined as breaking of any laws. These laws are made by people for people – with the intention that those who make the laws are acting on behalf of their constituents.
        The laws are far from perfect, hence, as you pointed out, we have an evolving system. Things people thought were acceptable at one time later are shown to be unjust and incorrect. These laws are then corrected – such as the repeal of prohibition, the laws giving women the right to vote, even those decisions to attempt to right some past wrongs such as the returning of land to some Native tribes, the money offered to those victims of forced sterilization due to mental illness and so many other things. Wrongs of course can never be corrected in all reality. A wrong once done is done, nothing can change the past. All we can do is move forward as best we can and attempt to vote people into office who will represent us and pass laws that are just for all.
        Really, I am not attempting to place a universal definition of crime or of right or wrong. I am merely saying that citizens of a country have an obligation to obey the laws. If they do not agree with the laws or they feel lied to or cheated – they don’t have the right to kill anyone that wronged them nor do they have the right to take away the rights of others or harm others in any way. What they do have the right to do is make changes.
        As I said, if they truly feel the system is broken, they have several choices: 1. They can leave the country and take up residence elsewhere as some do. 2. They can attempt to overthrow the government, which is unfeasible unless they have not just their own army but the assistance of several other country’s armies, an endless supply of money and supplies and the knowledge and skill to take on such a project along with an extremely large number of people fighting with them who are willing and able to set up a new government if they win or 3. They can change the government through their rights as citizens. It is within the power of the people to completely change the government by refusing to vote in one of the two dominant political party candidates – they could choose their own independent candidate, their own independent representatives. It is probably unlikely to ever happen but it is possible if citizens stopped fighting amongst themselves and united to make the needed changes.
        To me, crime in a country with a changeable, evolving government is the same as saying to everyone else in that country, “I am above the laws.” In an alterable system, if one is unhappy, they have the option of going through the system to make changes to the system.
        The only exceptions I can think of are when crimes are committed in the process of enacting change. The founding fathers of the US were committing numerous crimes by meeting in secret to plot a revolution. Rosa Parks broke the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white person.
        In relation to such crimes committed in the name of change, all I can say is that these seem to me to be more along the lines of civil disobedience. The founding fathers plotting revolution did not harm anyone. Yes people died fighting for independence but those that did so chose to be a part of the fight. They chose to endanger their lives for what they believed was right. Rosa Park’s action did not hurt anyone other than herself. Both of these actions in the end, resulted in drastic changes in the laws.

      2. @robertchuck – @jcckeith gives a very detailed explanation of “the system” and how it can work … you’ve presented the counter argument, which I like too … a good debate guys 😀

    2. @jcckeith – that pretty much mirrors my thoughts on “the system”. Whilst it’s never perfect, there are ways for people to help themselves cooperatively within the system. 😀

  4. I think sometimes keeping our lives from “breaking” is as basic as giving ourselves permission to change our expectations. I joined the corporate world once, knowing that climbing the ladder was all that I would ever want. When I thought that world had broken me, was the moment I found out what I REALLY expected of myself, and it definitely wasn’t the corporate “succeed at all costs and humanity be damned” environment. I think we can make good use of what the corporate world teaches us but use those skills in an entirely different and much more helpful way.

    1. I’ve been in the corporate rat race too, so I think I get it … and yes, amazingly pertinent point, I’d almost forgotten … breaking point can be a turning point … something to do with a change ACTUALLY taking place at the point at which we feel we “break” 😀

      Very well said my friend … and very wise

  5. Don, I don’t even know where to begin on this one – there are so many points I agree with. The comment about not being able to get a job when you’re older than 50 hit really hit home. We treat our not-even-there-yet seniors like throw aways. In contrast to Japan where elders and their wisdom is treasured. I hope sometime our country will come around. Maybe if the millennials can’t do it.

    1. I don’t think it’s any different in the UK … In Thailand I read they won’t take people over 35 for IT jobs … I don’t know why … but yes ageism is in effect, and very demoralising for people who’d like to be earning a living and contributing …

      1. Which incidentally was my solution … after I fall down, I work out what I can do, then do do it … oh and get back up, after a little rest LOL … blogging, writing books, astronaut … whatever …

  6. Who is it that defines what a crime is? Is the system committing a crime against the society? Sometimes the people in power, are nothing more than criminals themselves. You have to take a stand on certain issues. That will never be pleasant but it is definitely worthwhile. So as long as you are true to yourself.
    Leslie

    1. Interesting perspective – Progressive thinking ? The logical extrapolation seems to be that you agree with committing crimes provided the person is being true to themselves, based on the assumption – “who are others to define what a crime is”. With the justification that the system is corrupt as are the people in control of it … or did I miss something ?

      So in front of the judge on a murder charge, and in your defence, you’d say “I was just being true to myself, taking a stand for XYZABC and who are you to tell me what murder is you corrupt asshole, the society you represent commits crimes against me” … and that would make everything ok ?

      Good luck with that Leslie … or perhaps I missed something …

      1. It would be similar to the character in the “Outsider” by Albert Camus, who basically assumes full responsibility for murdering someone, without trying to make excuses. He therefore also accepts fully whatever results come from that decision.

      2. Thanks, and yes that makes sense, it’s taking responsibility … in his mind he’s justified in the murder … however in the eyes of others he’s not ?

      3. Now that was an extreme that I hadn’t anticipated. We had a system at one point that clearly reflected the will of the people. It isn’t quite like that any more. I’m not advocating murder because an individual thinks it is right. I’m not advocating murder at all. (However, there are a few heads I wouldn’t mind seeing roll.)
        Our democratic system has been eroded by the multinationals. They are laying claim to certain DNA and other such things and our local democracies are threatened on a regular basis.
        I let it go at that.
        Leslie

      4. LOL … yes, I surprised myself too, creative debate writing ! And yes a few heads I wouldn’t mind seeing roll too … there’s plenty of injustice and corruption around … perhaps I’ll get you writing my opinion posts, sounds like you’ve got plenty of topics to stir the mind ! D

      5. True enough, just makes sense that it would be in your mind at this moment …

        BTW you need a colon “:” in front of the “D” to make a big smiley like this one -> 😀

  7. Crime or vigilantism, by any means, can never be justified. If we have a society thriving on crime then what becomes of that society, and it’s future generation. Lawlessness becomes the order of the day. We would have innocent people losing their lives.

    I remember sometimes back I almost got lynched on mistaken identity. This opened my eyes to reality … not everyone who gets lynched by a mob or a victims of vigilante groups are always guilty, but still they lose their lives unjustly. 😦

    1. The death penalty was abolished in UK a long time ago. The last man hanged was later found to be innocent.

      And yes, I can see how being nearly lynched would make you think about it – a lot !

  8. Is breaking the law right, do we have the right to break the law? One persons acceptance of what is right is never everyone’s opinion. I have to agree with sonniq, that it has to do with a failure to cope rationally. I was a functioning alcoholic for many years, but it was that bad choice that took away so many missed opportunities in my life. I guess I could have blamed advertising or something, but the fact remains that I had a choice to do right or wrong.
    To answer the question posed, No. If anyone can claim that they hit their rock bottom and justify themselves, society would be in a spiraling swirl down the toilet. Much worse than it is.

  9. It’s what happens when people don’t have a coping method in place, which is a lot of people. When people have no way to be able to understand their lives then they have no choice but to place the blame on other things – they become the victem and try to change things by lashing out. They feel life is unfair. They don’t deserve it!! There is no concept for the law of cause and effect or if you are a Christian, “You reap what you sow”. They can’t understand how life works. They, like most, never had the opportunity to really learn it.

  10. I like the post. Crime is a fascinating subject and one that ahold be discussed. An individualistic approach to or definition of crime tends to ignore other, fairly invisible crimes. White collar crime is invariably the most socially damaging type if crime, because of its magnitude. Consider the phenomenon of Enron, which was not at all a singular event, but rather evidence of a whole culture of white collar crime that has become the norm in unchecked capitalist systems. The entire collapse of the stock market and housing market in the USA in 2008 was propelled by near sociopathy and criminal misconduct as a culture within those industries. This is not a political view, but rather a sociological one.
    The individual kind of crime you are discussing ( crime of passion, crime of necessity, individual property crime) is the most reported most feared and yet least impactful kind of crime.

    1. Makes sense, and yes I was affected by the white collars messing up everthing for everyone … pretty big impact actually … not sure that I agree on the impact, but I understand the sentiment and respect your point of view 😀

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