I am writing this because a man I recently mentioned to it said it was “a great insight.” So if you think it sucks, blame him. You don’t need to know who “him” is. Just as long as it’s not me.
Okay, so here it is.
“A Jury of Your Peers.”
A longstanding tradition.
With a strong adjudicatorial rationale.
Or so it appears. (ACCOMPANYING “SARDONIC CHUCKLE”, ENCOURAGED BUT OPTIONAL)
Let’s set the contextual stage here.
THE YEAR: 1792.
Leave me alone.
One of your peers is on trial for committing a civil or criminal crime. Let’s call him Clem. As a member of the jury, you are listening to what happened so you can make a fair and equitable decision.
While the facts are presented, you inevitably wonder,
“Would Ido that? (“That” being the illegal act Clem is charged with having committed.)
“If Clem didit, was he understandably justified in his actions?”
“If, as Clem proclaims, he didn’tdo it, do I believe him?”
If, based on the situation and your personal knowledge of Clem, the answer to those questions is “No”, “No” and “No” – “Guilty as charged. Take the prisoner away.”
If the answer to them is “Yes”, “Yes” and “Yes” – “Case dismissed. Sorry for the inconvenience. Although you really looked guilty. Though come think of it, Clem, and I have known you a long time, you alwayslook guilty.”
That’s the advantage of “A Jury of Your Peers” in 1792. You know the people involved. You know their experiences. (Because they are also yourexperiences.) And you know if their sworn word can be trusted.
All of which colors your ability to decide.
“Y’know, I once went into Clem’s hardware store to buy some nails. I say, ‘Clem, I need thirty-seven nails.’ He says, ‘Comin’ right up, Henry.’ Clem counts out the thirty-seven nails, he slips them into a paper bag, I pay for my nails, and I walk out of the store. That night, I’m home eatin’ my dinner when there’s this ‘knock-knock-knock’ at my front door. It’s Clem. He tells me that while he was slippin’ those nails into the bag, one of them accidentally dropped on the floor. The man walked eleven miles to bring me my full compliment of nails. That’s Clem.”
CUT TO: TODAY
By which I do not mean no more scrupulously honest people. I mean no one beyond family and a few close friends that we indisputably know and trust – or do nottrust – that we can therefore unequivocally vouch for. Or its opposite. Vouch against?
By diametrical contrast, in today’s highly populated metropolises lacking all aspects of communitarial “glue”, we are intuitively connected to nobody. We don’t know their characters. We are unaware of their proclivities. We are alien to any shared experiences.
Everybody’s a stranger.
And yet we persist in the charade of
“A Jury of Our Peers.”
Why do we do that?
Try thison your harmonica.
Years ago, the Israeli army hired psychologist Daniel Kayneman to develop a test that would predict the future success of the assembled recruits in combat. Years later, in an evaluative follow-up, it was discovered that, as a predictive indicator, Kayneman’s test was entirely useless.
The Unbelievable But True Punch Line:
The Israeli army kept using the test.
Why did they continue to do that, although it demonstrably didn’t work?
Because that’s all they had.
Does that sound crazy to you? It’s like, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”
The idea of “A Jury of Your Peers” was a viable concept in the homogenized communities of 1792. (And in feudal England, where it originated.)
In the anonymous, urbanized culture of today?
We don’t know any of our peers.
Yet we behave like “A Jury of Your Peers” like it’s a still viable approach.
Why do we do that?
Because that’s all we have.
“And that, Your Honor, is why I feel unqualified to participate in Jury Duty.”
So what do you think?
About my “great insight”, notmy just-came-to-me excuse to escape Jury Duty.
Although, come to think of it,
It’s a pretty good excuse.