Log in

Morality Tale (a ranking question) - outcomes - Into The Abyss Of Suburbia [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
...and the stains drip between fingers...

[ website | FF.Net ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Morality Tale (a ranking question) - outcomes [Feb. 3rd, 2016|06:57 pm]
...and the stains drip between fingers...
[Tags|, ]

The different morality ranking responses to this story were absolutely fascinating.

James is a forty-year-old businessman. James has been married to Marie for fifteen years. One day, James collides into a young woman wearing a waiter’s uniform in the street, Caroline. Caroline and James start talking, go on a date, and sleep together. Caroline then tells James that she is underage and she deliberately set out to blackmail him for money, or else she will tell the police and his workplace. James tells his wife Marie about the blackmail. Marie murders Caroline by poisoning her. Marie’s brother, George, is a police officer who covers up the murder.

These were the tiny statistical sample of six (worst to least worst).

gehayi: Caroline & George, James, Marie
houseboatonstyx: Caroline, Marie, James, George
speakr2customrs: George, Caroline, Marie, James
morbane: Marie, George, Caroline, James
LateToTheParty: George, Marie, James, Caroline
blueinkedpalm: Marie, George, James, Caroline

Most likely to be worst: George (3)
Most likely to be least worst: James (2), Caroline (2)

Total character scores (4=worst, 1=least worst):
George: 4, 1, 4, 3, 4, 3 = 19
Marie: 2, 3, 2, 4, 3, 4 = 18
Caroline: 4, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1 = 15
James: 3, 2, 1, 1, 3, 3 = 13

(Above results 100% scientifically unreliable.)

Ethical priorities that came up in the discussion:
George - breaching duty, loyalty to family, responsibility to society
Marie - protecting husband, protecting herself, whether impulsive or premeditated, whether considered alternatives
Caroline - premeditated, underage
James - cheating, whether knew/suspected underage, whether moral responsibility to check

I found it pretty interesting that motive was commented on in the responses, since I don't think any character had a defined motive in the story. The reasoning each character had behind their criminal acts was up to the reader.

My personal ranking ended up pretty similar to the average gaol times for the different crimes committed - Marie for murder, George for accessory after the fact, James for statutory rape, Caroline for blackmail (committed while underage). (Blackmail is very bad though - the corpus of Agatha Christie and DL Sayers provides a few instructional examples, as does JK Rowling's CUCKOO'S CALLING.)

I guess that makes me something of a consequentialist.

[User Picture]From: heliopausa
2016-02-03 08:15 am (UTC)

"Publish and be damned"

True, about Sayers and Christie - but then at the time blackmail (except for murder, when murder was necessarily a capital offence) was going to hit hardest at the middle classes which is squarely where both the authors target their writing.

The very rich and powerful are not nearly as threatened by blackmail, even for murder; the wealthy have better access to lawyers, or better chance to simply disappear. (Lord Lucan?) The Duke of Wellington was able to make his famous retort to his ex-lover's blackmail attempt because he knew quite well that his very powerful social position rendered him invulnerable to such a small-beer scandal attack. (Personally, I think the less of him for his response; a gentleman would have seen her settled with a decent, modest pension.)

Similarly, those with nothing much lose (no job to be sacked from, say, and no reputation to speak of) aren't going to be prime targets for blackmail, except for murder. Hence, it's a crime which primarily threatens the middle classes. Perhaps not now, as much as when Sayers and Christie were writing, but still - the availability of real wealth for a very good lawyer (if the blackmail's over a criminal matter) would make a big difference to how vulnerable someone would be to blackmail.

Edited at 2016-02-03 08:16 am (UTC)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: blueinkedpalm
2016-02-07 08:47 am (UTC)

Re: "Publish and be damned"

This is great. I hadn't thought of blackmail in those class-based terms before, but you're right about the different vulnerabilities.

"Ah!" said the K.C. "There you've put your finger on Society's sore place, where the Law is helpless. Speaking as a man, I'd say nothing could be too bad for the brute. It's a crime crueller and infinitely worse in its results than murder. As a lawyer, I can only say that I have consistently refused to defend a blackmailer or to prosecute any poor devil who does away with his tormentor."

"H'm," replied Wimsey. "What do you say, Colonel?"

"A man like that's a filthy pest," said the little warrior stoutly. "Shootin's too good for him. I knew a man—close personal friend, in fact—hounded to death—blew his brains out—one of the best. Don't like to talk about it."
- DL Sayers, "The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker". I'd be remiss not to link to AJ Hall's absolutely fantastic fanfic in this vein, The Principled Affair of the Compromised K.C.

Another Sayers blackmail story I'm fond of is "The Fountain Plays". And Henry Cecil wrote an absolutely brilliant humour short story on blackmail, about a child who's sent to an expensive but odd private school and comes home a blackmailer. ("Free for All", "Brief Tales from the Bench")

Edited at 2016-02-07 08:47 am (UTC)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: heliopausa
2016-02-17 04:06 am (UTC)

Re: "Publish and be damned"

Thank you for the story recs! I have read "The Fountain Plays", but a long time ago,but I'll look for the others. :) (From memory, I'm pretty sure a good lawyer could have picked big enough holes in the evidence of which bits of pavement were wet and which were dry!)

The excerpt from Sayers is a fun example of how to stack a rhetorical deck! Sayers sets up two "opposed" character types (the austere K.C. and the "little warrior") has them both agree, persuading her impeccable hero, on very dodgy grounds ("the Law is helpless"? No, blackmail's a crime, definitely, with a pretty high custodial sentence rate. "Shootin's too good..." Really? Death penalty is too soft? What is suggested, then? Torture?). It's clever writing, all right.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: blueinkedpalm
2016-02-20 10:05 pm (UTC)

Re: "Publish and be damned"

It is interesting how blackmail's no longer so feared/loathed/despised these days. Maybe the internet makes it difficult for things to be concealed in the first place, let alone blackmailed over; maybe an improvement in custodial sentence rates; or a decline in various social stigmas.

The CUCKOO'S CALLING brought blackmailing the murderer back with a lovely twist to make the blackmailer seem less suicidal, I think.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: speakr2customrs
2016-02-03 10:45 am (UTC)
I wonder if the difference between ages of consent in the UK and USA affected the rankings. Caroline wore a waitress uniform when she collided with James (presumably an engineered collision to kick off her blackmail scheme). To me that gives James every reason to assume she is over-age, without question; with the age of consent being 16, if she's working she's over-age and she must have donned the uniform (which couldn't be her own) deliberately for purposes of entrapment.

In the USA, where ages of consent vary and is (for instance) 18 in California, she could be legitimately wearing her own uniform whilst still being under-age. James is more culpable for not checking that she is of age, and Caroline is not as clearly shown to have set out to deceive even before the initial collision.

I'm not sure it would have changed my ranking but it might at least have caused me to consider ranking Caroline below Marie.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: morbane
2016-02-03 08:10 pm (UTC)
That is interesting. I personally assumed that because she planned on blackmailing James, her plan partly depended on deceiving him as to her age from the very beginning. So I assumed that either HE assumed OR she misled him (but that does not necessarily exculpate him).

Could a waitress not be, say, 15 in the jurisdictions you cite? Caroline could be a waitress in New Zealand, my own country, and be underage: http://dol.govt.nz/workplace/knowledgebase/item/1340 - however, her restaurant or cafe would have to be one that didn't serve alcohol*. (If her uniform was clearly that of a restaurant/cafe that DID serve alcohol, and James recognized it, I suppose the situation is different.)

*Edit - and even then there are some "exemptions on serving meals", whose fine print I didn't read.

Edit again - Though, in this discussion, it occurs to me I'm sustaining a weird paradox - in fandom/writing discussions, so often the default legal standard is taken to be American that I have taken to mentally translating "fandom underage" as "under 18". So when people say "underage", I think "not real underage", because for me, 16 is the age of consent - I forget to examine a problem "as if" "real" underage parties were involved.

Edited at 2016-02-04 02:28 am (UTC)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: blueinkedpalm
2016-02-07 08:58 am (UTC)
Agreed - Caroline's age is "less than X", and if X is high in your country, it's possible to place Caroline as "Old Enough To Know Better".

My country's laws are similar to morbane's - you can have a job and wear a uniform before you're legally old enough to have sex. Whether Caroline actually has a job is a separate question.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)