Bitch on the Blog

June 5, 2016


Just listened to the news. The script said: ” … the shark responsible for the attack …”.

Surely, an animal can’t be held “responsible” since the concept implies a conscience?




  1. OoooH! Controversy …. love it…

    Comment by magpie11 — June 5, 2016 @ 17:28 | Reply

    • My dear Magpie, if one could get fat on “controversy” I’d be obese.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — June 6, 2016 @ 07:40 | Reply

  2. Which means people without a conscience can’t be held responsible either.

    Comment by cheerfulmonk — June 5, 2016 @ 18:40 | Reply

    • Depends on which premise we start from, Jean. Leaving insanity aside, what divides the human from the animal is that we process life in a way an animal doesn’t. What do they do? Hunt/graze, sleep, procreate, hunt/graze, sleep, keeping the species alive. There is no malice in an animal just as they have no compassion if you are their dinner.

      An animal does what an animal does. I like animals. There is something (as the Angel would say) “pure” about them. Humans? Now we enter a maze.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — June 5, 2016 @ 20:05 | Reply

    • Another thought, Jean. Why does the law distinguish between youngsters (under 18) and “adults”? Because conscience, and therefore ability to be “held responsible” for your actions, is learnt over time. What’s right, what’s wrong? Ethics. Morals. They are not a given put into your cradle.

      And that is what divides humans and animals. An animal just is. Morals and ethics don’t enter their equation. Oh, to be a majestic eagle or some such (though I don’t like swallowing voles whole). And I would miss the thinking part of my existence.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — June 6, 2016 @ 07:38 | Reply

      • You haven’t answered my question. Sociopaths don’t have a conscience. Does that mean you can’t hold them responsible for their actions?

        Comment by Cheerful Monk — June 6, 2016 @ 19:22 | Reply

        • Sorry, Jean, I didn’t realize your statement was a question.

          It’s difficult. Since even those with serious mental health problems (the sociopath you mention – psychopath by another name) are on a SPECTRUM I’d say you can only hold someone responsible who knows right from wrong. Which is, of course, what makes Hannibal Lecter so chilling. He was deemed a psychopath yet I can’t help thinking he knew perfectly well that what he was doing was wrong. Compulsive obsessive disorder one may say (insert smiley).

          I don’t know, Jean. This exchange, for the umpteenth time in my life, made me think about the concept of society punishing a perpetrator and what society actually wishes to achieve by locking up severely damaged cased. Obviously we do have an obligation to not only protect potential victims but the perpetrator himself from doing the wrong he can’t help himself doing, obsessive compulsively so.

          Prison? No. Prison (apart from being punishment) is deemed a “corrective” facility. If you are “mental” time spent in prison won’t correct anything. Psychiatric hospital? We all know that psychiatry has its limits, often not able to offer that magic “cure”. Of course, once upon a time by which I don’t only mean Hitler (Jews weren’t the only ones gassed) social euthanasia – in one form or another – was and has been exercised as long as humans existed. By way of example: Modern technology allows us to detect “defects” in a foetus before it’s born. If less than “perfect” we can, legally, abort. And people do. On the strength of as little as a “hare lip”.

          To further the argument, yet sticking with both “conscience” and “punishment”. What of those “crimes of passion”? That mad moment to be witnessed on a Stratford-upon-Avon stage or in a real life hot climate. Should a person be held responsible when the sun blinds you and red hot anger makes you knive the one you love? I’d say, yes, he/she should be held responsible. But not sent to prison for a ONE OFF (ie no threat to society). Sometimes just living with your conscience and bitter bitter bitter regret is punishment enough.

          Anyway, in my reply to you I am trying to weave several concepts together, that of conscience, what constitutes crime, what and which warrants punishment, and not very successfully so.

          Do let me know what you think.


          Comment by bitchontheblog — June 7, 2016 @ 09:03 | Reply

        • Nature/evolution doesn’t give a whit about our morals and ethics, so sociopaths are probably one extreme of the varieties of human experience. Genghis Khan, for instance, was highly effective, and I’ve read that a lot of the most successful CEOs are highly functioning sociopaths. So if we have the power we set up laws to persuade people to abide by our ethics. Good luck with the Islamic State.

          There’s an interesting case here in the US of a college boy, a star Stanford swimmer who had Olympic ambitions, sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Fortunately two bikers saw him on her and chased him off or it would have been worse.

          He was found guilty and the prosecutors asked that he be sentenced to six years in jail. The Father sent a letter to the judge saying that it was a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action and the judge sentenced him to six months plus three years of probation and to be registered as a sex offender. A lot of people are upset about that, but the kid has already messed up his life and the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of our brain, isn’t fully developed until about 25, so how much is the culture of sex and alcohol on campus to blame? How much is the boy’s family responsible? And the woman’s life is messed up too, but does she have any responsibility at all? I don’t know how old she is, but she’s out of college and went to the party because of her sister, so presumably her mind would be more developed.

          I mention the boy’s family because the woman didn’t remember anything and the boy’s family hired high-powered defense attorneys to get the son off, so the trial was brutal for the woman. That’s the part that bothers me the most, and the lack of remorse is why the prosecutors wanted a stiffer sentence.

          Comment by Cheerful Monk — June 7, 2016 @ 15:59 | Reply

          • Yes, the case you mention was brought to my attention, courtesy of the British Press, last night. By the way, as far as I can read, his sentence has been reduced not to six years but six months with three years on probation.

            That guy is not a sociopath. He suffers from “entitlement” syndrome as magnified by his father’s “twenty minutes of action” defense. Sometimes ONE minute can stretch to eternity (for the one at the receiving end of assault). Naturally, a lot is made of his athletic career and his attendance of the prestigious Stanford University. Achievement doesn’t make one exempt from the rules of civilized society.

            As you say, his utter lack of remorse is despicable. Many of us set a foot wrong in life, even if only in small ways – and for that we should atone.

            If I were that father I’d go deep into my heart and wonder where the hell I went wrong.


            Comment by bitchontheblog — June 7, 2016 @ 18:57 | Reply

          • The prosecutors asked for six years, the judge gave him the six months. Here’ the NYT article about it:

            It pays to be privileged.

            Comment by cheerfulmonk — June 7, 2016 @ 19:23 | Reply

  3. This topic is one that I obsess over often, since I only do my Open Water Swimming with responsible sharks, and as a Sunday School teacher I am the, um, responsible one for teaching responsibility. Do sharks respond better than children? You don’t want to know.

    But following up on Cheerfulmonk’s remark, I will note that in this political season we gleefully hold those politicians we favor responsible for the good that they had nothing to do with, whereas those we dislike are held responsible for the evils that others did, in spite of the fact that neither have a conscience. Also, if a thief breaks into my house and injures herself, I will be held responsible regardless of the condition of my conscience. I won’t pretend to try to understand the modern rules of responsibility that are currently being issued at Harvard Law School. Let’s just say that they have “evolved” a bit since Justinian issued his famous code of laws.

    Comment by Looney — June 5, 2016 @ 20:58 | Reply

    • Justinian was ahead of his time.

      As to your “politicians we favour” it’s called bias, Looney. Or, as I would say, “bent”, nay warped. It’s what we do in all areas of life; we cut cloth to our individual measure. Not, of course, that I would want to see Trump in the Emperor’s New Clothes – his visage is bad enough.

      As an aside: If there is one holy grail for human kind it’s “being objective”. It won’t happen. I think of myself as pretty much unadulterated yet even I have to concede that I see things the way I see them … Why? I don’t know. A mixture of what’s bred in the bone, upbringing, life’s experiences. The icing on the top a modicum of rationale.

      Good point about burglary. Take out third party insurance, Looney. Fully comprehensive. So that when you trip up or – heaven forbid – shoot a trespasser not only will your legal costs be fully covered, your burglar’s hospitalization, rehabilitation and lifelong compensation to not be able to burgle any more (loss of his livelihood) too.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — June 6, 2016 @ 07:20 | Reply

  4. if only they could proofread/edit before they make such headlines….”no not the shark” the other kind of “human-shark”

    Comment by cedar51 — June 6, 2016 @ 03:44 | Reply

    • Let’s not defame the sharks.

      Comment by Looney — June 6, 2016 @ 04:00 | Reply

  5. ?? I just wrote a long comment, but it hasn’t appeared. Is it because I included a link?

    Comment by cheerfulmonk — June 7, 2016 @ 17:10 | Reply

    • Sorry, Jean. Don’t know what happened there. Or why. Luckily I found your comment tucked away somewhere in wordpress admin. And (hallelujah) managed to put it where it belongs. Will now read it.

      Comment by bitchontheblog — June 7, 2016 @ 18:26 | Reply

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