Thursday, May 5, 2016

We Need a Doctor, Not an Executioner

Edmundo lee, a friend of mine, wrote about a woman who was recently killed for having robbed several houses in a neighbourhood in Catarman, Samar, Philippines. He then proceeded to ask:

Does championing change have to mean death for wrongdoers who could be rehabilitated? What warrants death, and why do we take it upon ourselves to decide who dies? Who the fuck do we think we are?

It is malcontent that drives people to clamour for extreme measures. They are tired of the social system in place and the sluggish speed at which justice is served if due process is to be followed. People draw inspiration from divergent societies that elect to take justice into their own hands rather than rely on the courts and spend what probably feels like an agonising eternity of waiting for a decision to be arrived at. From a sociological point of view, they are doing this because they feel that they are in an extreme situation.

Let's examine historical cases of extremes:

When Poland left the clutches of the Soviet hegemony that imposed a violent Leninist and Stalinist brand of purely materialistic communism, they gradually took an acute shift into what it is today--a very right-wing nation that has removed the right of a woman to make decisions for her own body and has a Foreign Affairs Minister, Witold Waszczykowski, who dismisses vegetarianism and the usage of bicycles as socialist habits! They struggled to rise from the fire but have ended up causing themselves to freeze half to death. This is still happening right now.

As a result of Spain's long and violent struggle against its monarchy, they ended up with a totalitarian dictatorship under General Francisco Franco. Guess how well that turned out. The violence only ended with the return of the monarchy where the new ruling king took it upon himself to overhaul the country--seeking the people's help in turning it into a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament.

The Buddha left a life of wealth and luxury when he felt that it was not giving him true happiness. He shifted to one of severe austerity and allowed himself to be reduced to an emaciated mendicant, which nearly killed him. He left this life, too and later learned where the balance was. There, he found happiness.

If history teaches us anything, it's that jumping from one extreme to another only tips the scale the other way. It does not create balance at all. So, yes, the people clamouring for such extreme changes to the way our society works have their reasons, but their experiences do not, in any way, justify slaying our democracy and refusing to honour each person's basic human right to live. Retribution and violence are means to an end. True. But they are NOT ways to bring about justice. They are lazy short-term solutions that will not cure our social illnesses. Our country needs a doctor, not an executioner.

Remember:  One does not stop a disease outbreak by killing the afflicted.