When is vigilantism acceptable?

Let’s just stop for a moment and take a fictional situation…….
work with me here………………..

Your daughter comes home for the first time in her life, drunk. Or at least she appears drunk.
The following day she’s obviously distressed, you assume it’s because she’s ashamed about her behaviour the day before. Everyone has that first drunk hangover….   right?
The following day she disappears. You report her missing to the police and several days after that they tell you that they’ve found her. That she has left home to be with her boyfriend, who she is now living with.
In Copenhagen.
Your daughter is 17 years old, which means that in Denmark she’s old enough to do anything she wants.

So, are you going to get on that plane and head off to Copenhagen? To the hippy colony of Christiania, where according to the police she is staying.

And, if you do take the plane, then what are you going to do when you get there?
How are you going to find your way around?
Supposing she’s moved and you can’t find her?
Suppose, just for a moment, that when you get there you can’t get to see her?
The men she’s with refuse to let you see her…….
They’re aggresive, threanening even….    physically threatening, you begin to fear for your physical well-being.
The police are at best unhelpful….   In your worry and frustration, it enters your mind that they might even be complicit.
What are you going to do?

Take the law into your own hands?

This scenario is taken from my new book Svetna.
In addition to using Svetna as a tool to spread the word about Human Trafficking and sex slavery, I wanted to challenge/question some standard social rules that have become prevalent of late. By way of example, our attitude towards Capital punishment and vigilantism.
Because while many of us would support the abolition of the death penalty (As of April 1, 2008, the Death Penalty was authorized by 37 US states, the Federal Government, and the U.S. Military) and would, under normal circumstances, never dream of harming someone else, there are instances when we all know, we would take action.
They would be extreme situations. But if forced to we would protect those that we love. Especially our children.
Given that a large percentage of girls/women forced into prostituion in the sex slave market are under 16, and that they most certainly are somebody’s daughters…..   I find it strange that more isn’t being done to help them……
In fact in many instances these victims are imprisoned instead of receiving the help, care and understanding they deserve, while the real criminals get away to take advantage of another child.

So ask yourself……      when is vigilantism acceptable?



  1. Thanks, John for your comment on my blog post on whether the promotion of children’s rights is instrumental in anti-social behaviour http://www.melmenzies.co.uk/blog/2009/09/anti_social_behaviour_is_it_the_result_of_legislation_promoting_childrens_rights which included an excerpt from my novel, A Painful Post Mortem.

    Having read your piece here, it sounds to me as if we are both driven in our writing by similar themes and motives. Keep up the good work. I shall certainly buy a copy of your book, and I’ll follow your blog.

    Thanks again, Mel

  2. On a purely material, physical level excluding nonmaterial concepts such as morality, rights, etc. what is the difference between an arrest and a kidnapping? What is the difference between the government and a vigilante group if say the vigilante group actually went to the trouble of following the same procedures for arrest(probable cause, miranda rights), putting together a jury, allowing the defendant effective legal representation, and having it proved he committed the act beyond a reasonable doubt, and then putting him in a prison where he is cared for enough that by SCOTUS’ standards it is not cruel and unusual punishment?

    There really isn’t any. It is hypocritical that the government allows its agents to commit the same acts that it criminalizes for others. If you consider something right for yourself but not others then you are being a hypocrit unless there are physical, material reasons for an exception. A “status” or “label” such as “government” or “state” is neither physical or material, it is a social construct.

    The government should allow others to do the same as it does provided they follow the same rules, they only arrest people for the same offenses(or less if there are offenses they disagree with being illegal or just want to focus on a certain kind of crime), provide trials as fair as the government or fairer, sentence as strong as the government or less, and allow themselves to use the same equipment the government uses to enforce the law or less equipment.

    • An interesting view Anako…..
      For myself, I believe we should rise above what the government may legislate and set our own moral code. My experience is that most of theirs is usually based on greed, self-interest and nepotism.
      But taking your points above specifically with regard to the death penalty – are you saying that because 37 of the US states kill people (death penalty), that it’s alright for citizen’s of those states to go out and commit murder (or that it should be leagl)?

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