Soul friends

Soul friends

8 March 2016

This is to spare a thought for all those women out there who are alone, in pain, oppressed, fighting for their life and their rights or working hard to provide for others, all those who walk through the door in silence, without a flower or a smile at the end of the day.

I met them on the shores of Indonesia, in public squares in Poland, and in Romanian villages, but also on the beautiful streets of Milan, London, Berlin, and New York. They have the same stamina and air of solitude everywhere. And the same sense of dignity. They give their life in so many ways, and never ask for anything.

If you are going out for dinner tonight, consider donating your desert to a women’s cause this year.

Thank you.

No soul to damn …

No soul to damn …

5 March 2016

‘No soul to damn, no body to kick’ – this is how Edward Thurlow, the 18th century Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, described an organisation. This is in perfect agreement with an old principle of jurisprudence, which says that societas deliquere non potest, meaning that a legal person (e.g. a company, an association, or any other type of organisation) cannot be held criminally liable, because it lacks the moral core, which can lend it to moral worth or blameworthiness – a sine qua non of criminal responsibility. The latter can only be ascribed to natural persons, who have the consciousness that makes them capable of telling right from wrong, thereby morally responsible.

The key element here is that of intentionality – mens rea, in law. Since it lacks a conscience, a non-natural entity cannot be ascribed any state of mind, let alone the intention to commit a crime. (Again, one of the key tenets of the legal tradition is that only a free and conscious person can commit a criminal offence; in other words, freedom, awareness, and intention to commit the crime are key elements of criminal liability; without these, no such responsibility can be ascribed to a person).

The main consequence of this legal philosophy is that companies cannot be held criminally responsible, no matter what they do. If, say, a few hundred workers die in a construction ‘accident’ because a faulty piece of equipment was not replaced when it should have been, and the whole management of the company knew about this and chose to ignore it – one would think, the company should be held to account. Not according to the old principle of societas delinquere. The company could only be fined – that is, held administratively (rather than criminally) accountable. But is that satisfactory at all? Are the families of those workers going to consider this an appropriate level of justice – no one assuming responsibility, no one saying sorry, no punishment? (Remember, a civil penalty does not as such amount to any meaningful punishment, because no ‘criminal’ (that is, deeply moral) blame is ascribed or assumed. Rather, a fine represents a settlement between the company and the civil court).

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