Saturday, December 21, 2013

file that thought

This is why I carry my camera everywhere I go.

One of the first pieces of advice I received from a fellow blogger (islagringo) was "never leave your camera at home."  When he told me that, I didn't quite understand what he meant.  During my first year or two here, I was constantly shooting.  Why would I ever forget my camera?

Then, something happened.  I started taking my surroundings for granted.  After all, they were just my surroundings.  That shot of the family of four on a scooter was not so unusual.  In another minute ir two, a family of seven would speed by. 

Everything is ruined by repetition.  What was once fascinating became
blasé.  The camera started staying at home.

On my camera-less jaunts, I started looking at things a bit differently.  Like a journalist.  An essay writer.  And what seemed expected offered a new perspective.  No matter how often I have seen something, there is someone who hasn't -- and who just might find it interesting.

Take this photograph.  After filing my burglary report, the three of us walked across the courtyard to the magistrate's office.

Those are legal files.  Some almost two decades old.  Stored on open shelving in a room that opens up on a public walkway.

What struck me as unusual, though, was not the filing system.  It was the file content.

Everything is paper.  Crumbling paper.  Tied together with twine.  I would not have been surprised to find a royal charter signed by Cortez on one of the lower shelves.

My clerk friends at the Clackamas County courthouse in Oregon City would be horrified.  After all, their system is completely computerized.  But it was not that long ago that legal transactions in Oregon were consummated with decaying paper.

To our eyes, this looks anachronistic.  And it is.  There is much about Mexico that is about fifty years behind The States.  And some of that is good.

I suspect this is not so good.  The look reflects Mexico's antiquated continental legal system.  Poorly-stored documents often lead to poorly-maintained rights.

The stories I have heard from my Mexican neighbors about the methods used by the police to obtain confessions are a bit unnerving.  They may be stories.  But they reflect how Mexicans regard their legal system.

And that raises a good point.  For a moment, let us assume that a lot of confessions are obtained through torture.  If that is true, would it be moral to participate in a prosecution (as a witness, mind you) to help the state obtain a conviction?  Especially, if that is the only lawful avenue to obtain justice.

I have thought about it.  Fortunately, I have not yet been faced with the dilemma.

Instead, I have offered you a photograph that is far too symbolic of a system in the midst of reform.

Maybe we should wait a few years to see if the caterpillar will become a butterfly.

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