I’ve been silent this past month, mainly because it was way too busy, or way too fun (friends from America and Australia came over) and when it was not I was way too tired and thinking hurt my brain.
I’m a bit on a recuperating slope now and in between waiting for the next Game of Thrones episode and work, I watch old series I didn’t get to watch from the very start, but the premise of which I really like. Usually they are medical dramas/mysteries or police/investigator whodunnits that keep me entertained.
So a few minutes ago I finished watching Episode 10 of Season 1 of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, aptly titled ‘Enemy Within’.
Usually in a whodunnit like L&O, the guilty party is someone that doesn’t earn much of your sympathy. They’re usually a cold-blooded killer or some other flavour of psychopath, and you want them to get caught, even if the victim didn’t win any gold stars on being a decent human either.
The fellow that was guilty in this episode wasn’t exactly sympathetic as a personality either. But he was the everyman, a person trying his best for his family, being probably marginally middle class, maybe working class, surrounded by disgustingly rich people he was offering services to. What he did and how he did it wasn’t commendable or heroic or a win on the ethical scale even if the law demanded conviction. What he did was conspiracy to murder and he was pretty Machiavellian about it as well- but not more so than the aforementioned disgustingly rich people, who were also blatantly shown scheming to murder the victim.
The victim himself was an old man along the lines of a Scrooge type, fraught with paranoia and the like, who in a way also brought his death on his own self.
The episode played out just like any other in the series and it wouldn’t really have stood out if not for the very last few seconds, when the culprit was caught. During then, the marginally (or actually, your mileage might vary on that) abusive conduct of the victim towards his nurse (who was the culprit) is described and how he slighted him, even though the nurse had been the one making sure he could function through life. The nurse is charged with manslaughter and the detective goes to leave the interview room.
Then the nurse says “he owed me.” And the detective replies with obvious disgust in his voice “he only owed ya the wages he paid ya.” And fade out.
And that’s what really, really rubbed me the wrong way.
He just owed him money? What a crass and inhumane thing to say, within that context!
Theoretically, of course, if you think only in terms of buying and selling work and commodities, the statement is true. You don’t owe any employee you hire, or any clerk or retail worker you encounter anything more than the wages you pay him/her or the money it says on the price tag of whatever you choose to buy.
And that is a wonderful rule of thumb, as long as you remember that you’re buying the work or the service, but not the individual.
The episode portrayed the old man treating the nurse like he had actually bought not only the nursing services but the entire individual. He acted as if he owned the person for the time the nurse was on the clock. There was no respect, there was no consideration, there was no cordiality let alone any concern that the nurse was a human being. There was constant abuse, however subtly portrayed in the episode, blatantly obvious.
So no, Bobby the detective character in the first season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, the victim as an employer didn’t just owe his nurse his money. He also owed him respect and consideration, and even a little compassion. That is also part of law, unfortunately usually unwritten or slighted in everyday life. People should not be used as robots that offer services, if they happen to be pursuing dependent jobs. They should not be treated as things or as beings that are somehow inferior to the boss or the client.
Nobody should accept, tolerate or dish out this kind of entitlement, this endorsement that your money can buy you superiority over any one individual or the right to treat people like dirt.
We are parts of a human society and as such, we need to treat each other as humans, rather than treat only those with more money than us as humans, because in no time at all, the society will simply stop being human at all and will instead be a pyramid of drones, oppressors and criminals, and we will be entertained by human pain and agony which we will seek to extract from those with the stigma of less money than we have.
But someone always will end up having more money than you, and they will come for you and demand your human pain and agony while demanding that you grin and bear all the tongue lashing and abuse his money can buy over you.
And how will you call yourself human then?
Don’t be Bobby the detective in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Season 1 Episode 10, thinking in such callous terms of buying and selling a person along with the person’s services, like TV is in this case trying to teach you. You’re going to be part of the problem, both the culprit and the victim, and you will be unhappy in your life.
Don’t be the viewer that follows shows like this. You’re going to have your humanity stolen from you.
Don’t tolerate things like this to happen around you, so long as they aren’t happening to you. Life is such that at some point, something in these proportions will.
Then you can worry about just owing the damn wage.