I’m not one to partake of the news a whole lot. Generally it seems to recycle a perspective I don’t find helpful, mainly one of hate and cruelty or vapidity. It also seems overly focused on the concepts of punishment. (or vengeance)

Again there is tragedy on constant cycle. Nebraska has hit national news due to capitol punishment in the past month.

In daily life there are the demonstrations of punishment that are more common. The withholding of work hours, extra chores, sanctions, fines, the list plays on. We seem to be very good at punishment.

But do we ever stop to ask: How far is too far?

It seems when we do, the answer moves the bar. More punishment seldom equals better behavior in the long term. Sure we get compliance in the short term but eventually it is less effective and we have to ramp it up to get the same effect.

I work in a field where I see substance use issues. One thing is punishment doesn’t lead to long term abstinece. Second thing, our love affair with punishment parallels chasing a high of some sort. We want bigger spectacle. (Gladiator rings and dystopian televised games are easy to foresee) We will break the law to get our fix. We dehumanize those we are punishing.

And that to me is the scariest part. We dehumanize those being punished. And we start that at an early age. Parents punish children. Older children punish younger children. One caste punishes another caste. Money punishes poor. Strong punishes weak. All because we believe we have the right to do so.

imageHuman punishes human. And we all become a little less humane.

Instead of trying to punish the bad out of someone, why don’t we try to tend to what is right. Why don’t we humanize, enhance what is human about those who act in a way counter to society. Maybe we could help break down barriers rather than create more.

And sure, maybe some people may reject the offer and contiue to act in a way that is endangering to others and need time away from society at large. But maybe sentences can start off less punitive and more align with coercive or restorative principles. This would provide opportunity to lay out expectations, with valid reasons, and setting up tools and situations to facilitate compliance with those expectations.

Whatever the solutions are, I think we as a people can do better than becoming vigilantes and crying for blood when tragedy strikes. We can do better than letting our fears run amok.  We can do better than cling to archaic means of control.

We can create a better world where we respond with compassion toward victims of tragedies. And we don’t try to pass the accountability for a failure of society to instill our basic values of humanity onto mental illness or bastardized them into ploys to reduce rights or trump up fears to serve some agenda.

We can do better.

Thanks as always,

With civility ~ Brian

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