Saturday, December 30, 2006
Note: I do not belong to any political or cultural movement, social activist movement, nor am I a follower of any religion. What I am writing here are just my personal deductions and opinions, hopefully not influenced by any a priori view of what is wrong or right.
The human nature is constantly struggling between the basic animal instincts that are embedded in our bodily existence and the heights of the creative mind. What the mankind has generally associated with the concept of "evolution", through evolution itself, is the increasing predominance of the creative mind over the bodily existence.
Although neglecting the fact that we are still, and we'll always be, flesh and blood is a blind act, the mankind is moving towards the recognition that the flesh and blood we're made of is merely a biological machine whose ultimate goal is that of promoting the mind it generates. The mind is not disjointed from the body, as the body constantly generates the mind through chemical, biological and nervous precesses; so the importance of the physical human body cannot be neglected. Yet, mankind has come to call "evolution" the recognizance of the human body, and of the physical nature of the man, as a MEAN to perpetrate its mind.
More than that, we have come to call "evolution" the recognizance of the existence of a social interdependence, of a social level of the human nature. Evolution is ultimately to be aware of the collective entity we're generating and that is being called "mankind"; that is, a creature formed of interacting human minds, which are generated by interacting biological organs and processes, which are generated by interacting molecular processes and so on.
Once gained awareness of this fact, death penalty becomes naturally seen as a wrong towards mankind.
If we consider an heavy guilty person as a failure for the mankind, as an error to be eradicated, as a virus to be destroyed, then we might, for a moment, find pleasurable the idea of removing that wrong, killing that virus, so that the bringer of the guilts may be removed from the mankind, and its guilts with it.
But mankind is an organism of interacting minds rather than interacting bodies. Our minds come from our bodies, but our mankind comes from our minds. Removing the item that caused so pain in that organism of minds will have no direct effect to the organism itself. It is exactly like removing a poison pill from a body after that the poison has spread.
On the other hand, a capital execution has the effect to inject in the mind of minds some of the original defects of its constituents. Vengeance, hatred, hate, resentment, and other emotions that are by no mean bound with the idea of "evolution" are injected in the collective mind. Continuing our parallel with a human body, it would be like destroying the poison pill that caused an intoxication using a poisonous solvent. Instead of curing the disease that the pill has caused, we'll destroy the physical empty and useless envelope of the poison, and we'll get more poison in the process.
Vengeance is futile; hatred hurts its bearer; hate kills the hater. These truth are so natural to an evolved mind that I am not going to explain the nature of those relations, except for pointing out that they are bound with a primordial survival instinct that was useful to our ancestors, but has become less useful with evolution. Apart from that, who has tasted vengeance, who has felt hate, who has been bit by hatred knows how much painful those emotions can be on his very own skin. If I don't want to feel and feed those emotions for myself, why should I be eager to cast them on the mind of minds?
One last objection may be raised at those arguments: there is people that suffered from the action of the guilty, and those people alone are in the right to ask for the life of the person that caused sufferance in them. This is a point, for sure, but first of all the poison pill envelope paragon we've been playing before still applies here. What good the death of the empty shell of their pain will ever pay to the people that suffered? How could ever they feel better? For the ones that will feel vengeance, won't that feeling be hurting as the pain they already felt?
Apart from this, there's another point that must be considered, and I take it on an egoistic/egocentric point of view. Saddam's unnatural death deprived me of the right to hate him. Hate is no good for me, that's true, yet I do many things that are no good for me. In example, I ate too much chocolate in this holidays. But I am an adult, and I know that a little dose of unhealthy things can actually be good, provided I am able to draw a limit to it. I wanted to hate Saddam. Really. At least a bit. At least up to the point where I recognized that my hate was vain, and unhealthy to me, so that I could stop on my own will. I am sure that there are many people in the world that are feeling like me.
So, if we talk about what's good for mankind, we know that death penalty is useless poison. If we talk about the right of the victims to feel vengeance, we must ask ourselves if we're really healing rather than poisoning the victims more. And if we're in doubt on this point, we must consider the good of the few and compare it with the grief of the many. Of course, we are to decide that there's no balance in this game.
So, without backing up any ideological position, be it religious or not, I state that death penalty is evil to the mankind as a being, to the persons that are victims and to the persons that are unrelated to the fact. It is perpetrated only by immature beings which aren't able to distinguish the point up to where vengeance, hatred and hate are dangerous and painful for themselves.
Smoking is harmful; actually, not to everyone, as there's people that will be able to smoke without too much damage for themselves for their whole life. But there are also people that will die of an illness related with passive smoke, being exposed to just a fraction of the dangerous substances a smoker is exposed too. At the same rate, hate is dangerous. There's who can live with it for the whole life, and there's people that will get ill when just feeling a bit of hate.
There's people that won't stop smoking even when they know that they are in an immediate danger because of it. And there is people that won't stop asking for vengeance even if they know that they are just following a primordial, self-destructive instinct. If this impulse is violent enough for them being not able to control it, or if they are not aware enough to control it, they will still ask for it.
And there's a good reason for autocratic (or even democratic) regimes to back up this weakness. A dead prisoner won't talk. A dead innocent will be "just" an error. A dead opponent won't oppose anymore. A dead jailed person won't require care nor will be a weight for the jail system balance account. So, the fact that there are democratic states still backing up this instinct is not, by any mean, a positive argument for death penalty.
Besides, is to be noted that the distribution of countries where death penalty is applied is strangely leaning towards non-democratic regimes. Among the most advanced countries, only USA, Japan and Russia, with Japan taking no more than 3 execution per year, and Russia having taken a serious international commitment of not employing death penalty, and having actually not exercised it in the last 10 years.
I've already drawn a conclusion, but I will resume: death penalty is poison for mankind (and even smaller human groups) and for unrelated persons as single entities; it's also harmful for victims, but I have no precise statement on how much harmful it can be. And all this, regardless of ideologies or religious views, but only considering a merely utilitaristic reality.