Political Crimes

I love this excerpt from Rajeev Barghava’s essay on truth commissions. He explains the difference between a political cirme an an everyday crime. A political crime aims to undermine someone’s sense of or title as a member of a political community, as someone worth hearing and heading.  Such seems to be at work in instances of racism, sexisim, et cetera.  The root problem is, as I think Barghava suggests, not bigotry per se but the attempt to silence all who challenge the prevailing power structure.

  • A person who is robbed on a highway or systematically exploited on agricultural land or in a factory is a victim, but not a political victim. Political victims are those who are threatened, coerced, or killed because of their attempt to define and shape the character of their own society, and to determine the course of what it might become in the future. When political victims suffer violence, they are not merely harmed physically, however. The act of violence transmits an unambiguous, unequivocal message, that their views on the common good—on matters of public significance—do not count, that their side of the argument has no worth and will not be heard, that they will not be recognized as participants in any debate, and, finally, that to negotiate, or even reach a compromise with them, is worthless. In effect, it signals their disappearance from the public domain. (Bhargava 2000, 47)

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