Non-denial Deniability

When someone is executed, there is a system in place whereby the executioner is given some kind of pass for deniability. During a lethal injection, there are two buttons which two people individually push. One of the buttons controls the poison, the other is harmless. The killer is unaware whether the button he pushes is the one that kills.

Perfect system huh? The job gets done. No one knows who actually did it. All of them —including the condemned— can sleep with themselves at night.

People are their most dangerous in structured groups. Systematic violence is more gruesome because so many participate willingly or unwittingly. The military? Decisions are made to initiate battle, whether it’s firing on an enemy base or a kill mission. The captain who ordered the operation isn’t fully responsible for the outcome. The squad that carries out the order isn’t entirely responsible; they were taking orders. Ultimate responsibility could be directed to the generals who issue directives that the underlings are supposed to fulfill. The war in general can blamed on the governments involved. If those governments are democracies, then the country itself shares blame, right?

Kind of convoluted. At the end of the day you have a pile of dead people and no one person who pulled the trigger, pushed the button or swung the axe.

This model can be applied to other facets of sociology. Businesses, government agencies and the criminal justice system. Innocent defendants are found guilty. Corporations make deficient products that harm and/or kill. Hospital procedures sometimes lead to mistakes, killing patients. We’re all aware of these side effects.

There is a foundational evil to human organization in how we handle the unsavory yet necessary tasks of justice, war and repossession. Our structure can turn those into injustice, murder and theft. We know some of the things need to be done, but no one wants their hands dirty. Some of these heinous acts are a latent dysfunction of our organizational processes, yet we don’t want to do anything to stop it because it might require reform.

It doesn’t work that way. We can all think that we’re innocent and claim “I’m just part of the system. I am doing what I’m told.” Sorry, we know better. We just choose to ignore it.

We want to create a system where we are all innocent.

In reality, we’re all guilty.

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