Complicity. What does it mean to be complicit?
If you merely look up the word, most of the definitions associate complicity with criminal or immoral activity. Is it possible to be complicit without wrongdoing?
One of my favorite writers of all time, Ralph Waldo Emerson has been quoted as saying, “You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” I don’t happen to think eating animals is morally wrong so I guess this would be an example for me where complicity in not linked to criminal or immoral activity.
I also don’t happen to think that prostitution is wrong, however that sentence can certainly open up a whole can of worms on the subject of criminal and immoral activity. Even though I wouldn’t choose to work as a prostitute in the pure sense of the word, I surely have worked as one in other industries, however, my complicity was not criminal in nature.
The other day, during one of my many trips to the Red Light District I came across this scene.
I do not know what it was about, but I can guess it had something to do with the police crackdown on closing brothels and giving the spaces to artists to “clean up” the neighborhood. Perhaps these were artists making a statement, perhaps this was a prostitute protesting, perhaps these were pro “gentrification” demonstrators, or perhaps this was a protest about Madonna’s latest album. Whatever it was, was I complicit, criminally in not stopping a public act of defacement? Or, was I complicit in agreeing that one has the right to such a protest? It made me think of the many ways we agree or disagree with our every action.