terça-feira, 8 de janeiro de 2019

Crimes, sovereignty and world government

I have highly illustrious precursors, including Kant, when I never tire of insisting that, to an ever greater extent, nations need to renounce large portions of their sovereignty in favor of a global democratic federation, in order that the world may be less chaotic, unjust and self-destructive (see pollution).

This is not “mere” idealism; utopian propensity; fanciful optimism (in the style of J. J. Rousseau, where man is born essentially good and subsequently corrupted by society); altruism and the like. Man is both good and evil, in varying proportions, according to genetic makeup, education (formal and informal), the cocktail of beatings and caresses received since childhood and assessment of the legal and social advantages or risks that surround his activities. If it is advantageous to be good, either here or in the afterlife, he is, even if basically not so. He dances according to the music being played. But that’s enough of generalizations; the reader has no time to waste.

When a law student, I was highly impressed by the fact that a foreign citizen, duly sentenced by the courts of his country, was able to move freely about Brazil, make a Brazilian woman pregnant, father a son and, as a result, free himself from the threat of extradition and completing his sentence. It seemed to me to be the easiest and most enjoyable preventive “habeas corpus” in the world. At liberty thanks to a gratuitous, illiterate, but for all that extremely effective, unqualified attorney, the respected “Mr. Spermatozoid”.

Ronald Biggs, an engaging Englishman, who took part in the multi-million pound Great Train Robbery of 1963, was one such case. After serving a few months of his prison sentence in the United Kingdom, he scaled the wall and fled to Australia. As he certainly did not feel safe in that country, which has strong ties with England, he ended up residing in Brazil, after becoming aware that several benevolent legal concessions exist here that are well-suited to his case. He became emotionally involved with a good-hearted nightclub dancer, made her pregnant and, as a result, guaranteed that he would be able to stay in the country. The British government sought his extradition, however, as Biggs’ son was his dependant (of course...), and no extradition treaty existed between the two countries (the old problem of sovereignties), the fugitive continued to live here for as long as he wanted. Free and (according the respective Wikipedia webpage) charging anyone who so desired sixty dollars to have lunch and a chat with a “celebrity”. According to information provided by the fugitive himself, his portion of the loot had been reduced to a minimal sum, as a result of attorney’s fees and other expenses related to his fight against returning to prison. Nevertheless, when his longing for his homeland became unsupportable, he returned to England and ended up being imprisoned. Now old, sick and debilitated, photos of him aroused compassion in those of a more sensitive disposition and inclined to pardon.

What is interesting here (someone needs to write an academic thesis on this sociological phenomenon) is that a large portion of society, principally Rio society, even adulated him, considering his personal appeal and audacity for having participated in a robbery the current value of which is equivalent to more than one hundred million reals. “Success”, in any of its forms - political, economic, sporting, artistic or “congenially criminal” - legitimizes any kind of act. In the First World, male cinema artists, in order to reinforce their reputation as “tough guys”, liked to be seen at shows and restaurants in the company of high-ranking members of the Mafia. The affectation of adding an air of shadowy danger to their status. This occurred in the case of Frank Sinatra, Alain Delon and other inflamers of female hearts. A fictional English politician, feeling that he was being more than a little blackmailed by the person who was speaking to him, mentioned, wishing to impress, that he had contacts “in high places”. To which the other replied, with assurance, that he also had contacts, but “in low places”. This is something far more intimidating, as evil can be inflicted with the power and speed of a lightning bolt, without any bureaucratic hindrances.

That which was mentioned regarding extradition only goes to show, in summary, that in the difficult harmonization of sovereignties, crime very often goes unpunished, or very nearly so. This, at least in theory, would not occur if there were a global federation or confederation, with worldwide jurisdiction.

Another example facilitating impunity lies in the setbacks faced by state prosecutors when they are overruled or delayed in their attempts to recover large amounts of money deposited abroad. Given that the money can be transferred to another bank or even another country in a matter of seconds, with a simple mouse click on a computer, the diligent prosecutor almost always arrives too late with his petition for freezing deposits made by those availing themselves of public money. While the prosecutor studies the banking legislation of the country where the money is to be found - wrestling with a language in which he is not fluent - and once again prepares a request for its return, the money in question has already been sent to another bank. And so everything starts all over again. Even the private creditor of a millionaire debtor, who has financial resources scattered all over the world, cannot manage to make demands or even subpoena the important debtor, making his credit – even if judged to be without further recourse to appeal – a very nice sum without any real significance.

Extraditions are subject to the influence of the international prestige of the countries involved. In the case of the Canadians who were arrested and sentenced for kidnapping a famous São Paulo businessman, the Canadian government managed to arrange that they be repatriated in order to serve their sentence in their own country, with probably benevolent consequences. If, however, a group of Brazilians were arrested, in Canada or the United States, after carrying out kidnappings, it is highly probable that the Brazilian government will not be able to extradite them. With Bush as president, it would certainly not be possible.

Even horrendous homicides end up being almost unpunished as result of this “excess” of sovereignty, with each country living in its own isolated world – pure political schizophrenia.

Look at the 1981 case of the Japanese Issei Sagawa, who, in Paris, killed and “raped” (in fact, he technically violated a corpse) an attractive female Dutch student, a colleague of his at Université Censier in the city. He did this because the Dutch girl (who assisted him with translations at the time, in his apartment), refused his advances full of passion and libido. Issei, who has the appearance of a somewhat developed dwarf with a large head (I’ve seen a photo of him), was 1.48 m tall and weighed 44 kilos, very much less than the Dutch girl. The girl, seeing him as only a colleague, ordered him to concentrate on the work they were doing. The Japanese got up, took a 0.22 caliber rifle out of a cupboard behind the girl, and shot her in the back of the neck. Following this, he had sex with the cadaver and then cut off the lips, nose, breasts and private parts, storing them in the freezer of his refrigerator for future consumption. And he actually ate a large part of this flesh prior to being arrested. He had this strange compulsion, associating the sex act with the act of eating. The case in question is briefly described in the book written by Canadian writer Max Haines, in Book V of his series entitled “True Crime Stories”. The story appears on page 121, in the chapter “Fantasies Turn to Cannibalism”. It’s a pity that this series has not been translated into Portuguese.

After cutting up the girl’s body, the accused placed these mortal remains in two suitcases, which he transported by taxi. He intended to throw their macabre contents into a nearby lake. In the street, on leaving the taxi, he noted that people were looking with mistrust at that small Japanese figure dragging two suitcases that were much too heavy for him. Startled, he abandoned the suitcases on the sidewalk, thinking that there was no evidence of him being linked to the homicide. The police only found him because, on reading the newspaper headlines, the taxi driver remembered this strange oriental man and took the initiative of informing the authorities.

Following the gathering of irrefutable evidence against him (found in his small apartment, principally in the refrigerator), Issei confessed to the crime but was considered to be crazy and not responsible for his actions, even though he was a cultured and intelligent man. He was fluent in German and French, present in France for his doctorate degree in Japanese influence on French literature. The judge determine that he be committed to a psychiatric institution.

Issei was the son of a rich Japanese industrialist. After spending three years in an asylum, his father managed to arrange for his extradition to Japan, under the condition that he remain confined in a sanatorium for the mentally sick. However, following 15 months of internment, he was discharged. The Japanese doctors concluded that he was normal. France could do nothing as each country has its own sovereignty. And, after all, what does being “crazy” really signify?

After his release (according to Max Haines), Issei Sagawa wrote several books on his favorite topic - cannibalism. It is likely that the victim’s family (whose name I will not mention here, out of respect for the suffering of others) does not have a very high opinion of either the seriousness of Psychiatry as a profession or those intimate with the pompous word “sovereignty”, generally pronounced in a solemn tone of voice.

On the other hand, the family of Issei likely thought that everyone deserves a second chance. After all, the Japanese guy spent four and a half in asylums for the mentally sick as someone “normal” according to the psychiatrists of his country. In all certainty, there will be those that think Issei became crazy as a result of unrequited love. Someone once said that “Man is the fire, woman the tow, and the Devil comes and fans the flames.”


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