Saturday, 1 December 2007

Religion for bitter or better people

Left as kids and lost as adults

In the light of recent events, let us examine the matter of crime, punishment, rehabilitation and social consequence.

Our liberalising values have consigned the heretofore corporal punishment as a deterrent to children and juveniles to the moniker of barbarism as we try to reason with toddlers and attempt to bribe adolescents to be socially responsible.

Certain commentators would opine that discipline in our youth is a big problem and as we have come up with innovative ways of curtailing their freedoms they have likewise come up with more bizarre ways of thumbing their noses at society. The growing prevalence of gun and knife crime as well as social ills like juvenile drunkenness, pregnancy and anti-social demeanour has its roots in things we have left undone in the formative years.

Doing the law with flaws

One then questions the fairness of meting out strict, strong and extreme punishments for crimes committed as adults when as children the issues of actions, consequences and responsibility had been deprecated in favour of rights of the child over any other important aspect of upbringing.

The result is, we end up with bitter people rather than better people; this concept turns on the application of religious laws enacted in times when men were illiterate, living in feudal societies, subject to the whims of those in power who acted with impunity, when not much value was placed on life and self-respect was about knowing your place in society – a position from which you never saw promotion.

I worry about the gap between religious adherence and social consequence; one law would require that the hands of thief be cut off as punishment, another would suggest that he who steals should steal no more and engage in work – one executes wrath whilst the other embraces mercy – it should not take a social scientist to determine who would end up the bitter person and who would end up the better person.

Irreversible punishments

The person who has his hands cut off becomes a social misfit, unable to work as the law applied does not cater for rehabilitation to re-enter society, whilst the person is a sign; a deterrent – making examples of people without the recourse for possible reversal or correction is both barbaric and unjust.

There are however societies that remain backward and unprogressive, shackled to religious tenets that prevent the people from becoming part of the more emancipated global village.

No doubt public flogging is meant to humiliate, but having exacted grievous bodily harm in keeping with the letter of the law one wonders if there is a social element that help the punished nurse the wounds and regain self-confidence before they are caught in a downward spiral of infection, shame, depression, seclusion and isolation.

Leniency and mercy

There must be an element of mercy in the administration of punishments; not so much the leniency of cutting off one hand instead of both hands or reducing the number of floggings but total exculpation, with the person realising that they have been spared horrors and given another chance.

Unfortunately, some belief systems excel at punishment, manage aspects of leniency, grudgingly attempt mercy, fail woefully at forgiveness and know nothing of absolution. They make no provision for rehabilitation and do not accommodate societal changes that would entertain another perspective, they in fact, do much to make bitter men than better men.

Old teachings in new times

We need to check as see if the teachings we received of old have become out-dated in these civilised and modern times. The consequences of certain punishments may in the eyes of the conservatives look like justice but to observers might appear as mean, unpersuadable, illiberal, intemperate and usually quite immature.

If I got upset every time I was called names and sought to mete out the most severe revenge in the name of some perverse form of justice, I would be considered an impossible person without self-control – contrast that with being able to rise above it all – that is a sign of maturity and in some cases a high self-esteem.

Adherents really need to review their perception of their religious dogma and the laws they so fervently espouse more to visiting violence on others than stepping forward and boldly owning up to their own misdeeds.

In essence, one wonders if religious laws have a civilising effect on society or they just suspend endearing qualities of humanity which include reason, analysis and thought in the selfish need to maintain a strangle-hold on the people and keeping them in the dark from other humane perspectives

As a point to ponder, if there were better prosthetics, would the person whose hands were cut off be allowed to take that therapy?

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