Thursday, June 26, 2008

If it feels good, kill him.

The concept of punishment is inseparable in people's minds from the concept of justice. I have a hard time understanding either one. In the youth of our species, the notion prevailed that some sort of balance existed in the universe and that balance had to be maintained scrupulously lest the sun not rise and the crops fail. A more modern knowledge of the universe makes it a bit hard to believe in such things, yet we do. We do at least in as far as we talk about debts to society being paid in kind or in body part. Of course with regard to crimes of theft or property, the notion that justice prevails in the return of value to a rightful owner seems obvious, but in other cases where there is no value to be returned, such as in the case of rape or murder, the accounting model for justice runs into trouble. Does taking away a life provide a new one for the victim or the victim's heirs? Does inflicting pain and suffering or death upon the perpetrator satisfy any debt or does it satisfy the urge to kill we have inherited from our hirsute ancestors?

Being a person for whom the abuse of women and children is sufficiently loathsome that I would readily shoot someone to stop certain crimes, I still maintain that taking an eye for an eye repays no one but fictitious gods, and the universe continues to expand at the same rate and our little world goes on in the same trajectory. Yes, I would love to inflict a great deal of suffering on people who rape children. Given the opportunity I probably would, but I do not try to fool myself that I'm talking about justice. I want revenge because revenge feels good and if feels good because like anyone who reads this, I am an animal and the heir to a host of animal instincts and emotions. Instinct is expressed as the urge to do what feels good. Somehow I believe that justice needs more justification than that.

Short of denouncing judicial killings, the Court has ruled that "evolving standards" have made it less acceptable to kill someone for a lesser crime than killing someone else. While I agree, I would apply that same standard to the unnecessary ending of human life entirely. That strapping people to a cross and pumping their veins full of drain cleaner is tolerated in a nation fulsomely bellicose about its Christianity stretches the bounds of the term hypocrisy.

That's my opinion anyway, although I could be wrong. But I don't think so.


Georg said...

That's a very interesting way to explain crime and punishment.

We should find ways to protect society against crimes of all sorts
without revenge but without costly "early retirement", too.


Capt. Fogg said...

Crime rates seem to be as much or more related to factors other than the severity of punishment. Countries that do not execute people very often have much lower rates of violence.