Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hell of a Thing

Note: This began as a Facebook message to the patently talented and tantilizingly pantless Kmork. Whenever I write a message more than a few paragraphs long, he admonishes me with the reply, "Save it for PK!" I have done so.

I'm a pretty big vengeance guy. If someone (an animal is a tougher call for me) were to harm a person/people close to me, I don't think anything could stop me from wanting revenge. I also, at least ideally, support the death penalty, although I admit that, because of all the innocent people sentenced to death, I can't support it fully. But if there is absolutely no question that a person is guilty of murder, I believe that they deserve to be killed. (I also acknowledge the quandary faced by the person assigned to perform that task if he/she is unwilling to do so, as well as the potential for their regret in doing so after the fact.)

Take Anders Breivik as an example. That motherfucker murdered 77 people, mostly teens, and yet he gets a maximum 21-year sentence. Granted, the Norwegian legal system contains a provision which pretty much ensures that the guy will remain in prison for life, but they also have perhaps the cushiest form of imprisonment in the world. Do you think that asshole regrets what he did? I'll bet he doesn't even feel put out the least bit in his daily life. I don't have any connection to what he did, but I would 100% hang him myself if I were able to. I might feel weird about taking another person's life, but I'm sure I'd get over it when reminding myself of all the trauma he inflicted on those kids and their loved ones. The same goes for Paul Bernardo in Canada. He raped dozens of women, then went on to torture and murder at least 3 young women, one of whom I grew up living less than a mile away from in an area that I and my friends frequented as kids. He's currently in segregated confinement. Apparently the fucker has his own TV.

The most common (or at least the most knee-jerk) answer to the hypothetical question of what one would do if he/she were able to go back in time and change something in history is "kill Hitler." I would do exactly that if given the opportunity*. Because I think human life is the most important thing in the world, and anyone who takes that from another does not deserve to continue living.

I will acknowledge that some people are simply born that way, however. A lack of human empathy is what leads serial killers to murder; and for some fucked-up reason beyond my ken there are people who are compelled to rape or molest children. I'm not suggesting that the pre-crime society of Phillip K. Dick's Minority Report or the eugenics-based one of Huxley's Brave New World are necessary in dealing with these evils**. More advanced mental health awareness, for one, is paramount; and while I personally am very cynical about the pharmaceutical industry, I wonder if someday there might be vaccinations that could largely eliminate or eradicate such societal ills in the same way that we have polio and smallpox.

But once a person goes from dark thoughts to black deeds, I don't believe they deserve to exist any longer. In my General Store of Ethics, I have a strict "no refunds" policy.

[Thank you for reading my essay.]

* Which is why I find Inglorious Basterds so great, because it vicariously fulfills that fantasy, although I realize that the film also poses a similar question that Kmork wrote about vis-a-vis vengeance.

** That's a loaded word, I know; but "problems" seems a little too milquetoast in this case.

1 comment:

Avis said...

I think this is a fairly common perspective. I, for one, have grown inclined toward mercy over vengeance. Not because I think that's what people deserve or that they will "have the opportunity to change" or anything like that. Mostly because I find it difficult to be committal to any person or persons being the arbiters of life and death, even in response to someone else having done so, and even in response to such horrific circumstances.

Which is not to say I'm any less angry than you are about the idea of someone resting out their days comfortably in prison--if that's how we want to view it--but in my eyes violence begets more violence (even metaphorically, because any trauma tends to lead people to pass that trauma along in one way or another whether they mean to or not), and the only way to stop that is for us to choose something different, angry as we may be. I just can't seem to justify killing in response to killing, regardless of if I think I can justify whether or not that is what someone deserves. And as you mentioned, who do we task with taking that responsibility on themselves, and what will the consequences of that be like? Frankly, knowing what we do about mental illness and trauma, it's hard for me to believe any of us could have enough insight into the history and depths of someone else to justifiably determine what another human deserves. It's probably not a popular opinion, but that's just me.