There has been an increase, recently, in the sexual crimes recorded around the world. While any of these criminals might not be related to us in any way, it’s not untrue that they could have been. The man who raped his own daughter could have been our uncle -— these people, these criminals could have been someone close to us.
The Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig, noted in a recent On Being republication that “finding out that a friend, ally, mentor or loved one is an inveterate predator — the sort of recalcitrant, incorrigible offender who no longer has hope of reform — is likely deeply disturbing, and rightfully so”.
To buttress her point that it isn’t necessarily the case that someone who did bad things is a bad guy or that they’re irreverstibly evil or that everyone who has ever known or supported them must be expected to abandon them, Bruenig closed her short article thus:
There are certainly circumstances where I can imagine total disavowal and abandonment being appropriate; and I don’t think the victims of particular offenders should ever be tasked with carrying out their abusers’ reform. But as a general rule, I think that those who still maintain relationships with people who have done wrong have the capacity to help them reform themselves and perhaps even repay some of their debts, and I don’t think oblivion is the only answer going forward, even if it is the simplest. “As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose,” Dostoevsky wrote: “And we ourselves are, too.”
Check out the full article to get the whole premise of Bruenig’s idea or complement this reading with Grant Andrews on the model for the ingrained-self, a thought on what influences the influencer of human actions.