Tracing culpability

My colleague alerted me to this recent judgment in Singapore of a man accused of drug trafficking. It made me think and wonder quite how we conceptualise, construct and then attribute culpability.

In many sense, our laws tries its best to identify evidence disinguishing intention from the outcome when it comes to crimes. This is why there is a difference between murder and manslaughter. So there is some kind of penalty both in terms of intent and outcome; and they compound.

Now the point is that intention is hard to tell; if a person fails to achieve an outcome, it is not always easy to be able to demonstrate his intentions. On the other hand, it can be hard to think that an outcome wasn’t driven by some kind of intent. And there is the intent that is long-developed and the one that emerges on the fly. They are all different.

So to what extent do we take responsibility? When we consume electricity from the grid, are we responsible for the emissions that were produced in generating the power? What if we tried to switch to green electricity but the solar panels aren’t generating so we are consuming from the grid? Who should be responsible of making sure supply chains are free of corruption and exploitation? Is the ability to shoulder responsibility based on financial capacity? Knowledge? Or other resources?

At the end of the day, if we managed to reduce our carbon footprint to zero as individuals and yet our fellow man continues to emit and eventually climate changes and affects all of us, are we being held culpable for a crime we didn’t commit and an outcome we did not intend?