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Vigilante Injustice

18 June 2014, 08:42

Recently an article was published on News24 titled “Dog dragged behind car as punishment – report”.  What was remarkable for me was the type of punishment people wanted meted out on him, ranging from naming and shaming him, to dragging him behind the car, and more. While I do agree that justice needs to be meted, I think that although most people won’t carry this through, it is this type of thinking that perpetuates wars and violence in the world. It has a face of justice, but truthfully it is lawless and savage and perpetuates exactly what people are blaming the perpetrator for.   

Everyone has a right to a free trial and to stand innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the reason why we have a legal system and people in it that have been studying for years in a very competitive industry to become the best of their profession. We as a society have put these people there, because if truth be told, if we had to preside as judge, jury and executioner, many innocent people would be harmed in the process. We need them to be able to do their jobs and we need to a certain extent to keep our grubby hands off.

It is the places in the world where a country’s judiciary is undermined and not supported that crimes against humanity and atrocities are committed. A strong country is one where its leaders and citizens are subject to and respect the judiciary. Dictators often fire the judiciary and make new appointees of a bunch of yes men who get paid to agree with them. Even in our country at times it seems as if the powers that be get away scott free, or, at least with lighter sentences than the rest of us.

Nevertheless, the chaotic opposite is a much worse prospect than the current injustices with in the legal system. This is where wars begin. When instead of working towards healing and restitution, we resort to violence and retribution.

I was quite excited about the Arab Spring because I know that there were great violations under Muammar Gadhafi and some of the other despots. I cannot help but think though that things have turned for the worst since they have been over thrown. Millions of people have been displaced, hundreds of thousands murdered, Islamic fundamentalism is rife and I honestly do not see hope for positive change the next few decades – it’s a mess.

There must have been a better way to deal with this. I think that Mahatma Ghandi was great because he had influence, and though he had it, he did not use it to exert violence. I believe that even if he had done so and had prevailed, the consequences would have been unprecedented sectarian violence very much like we are seeing in the Middle East, but probably even on a greater scale. There needs to come a time where we lay down our arms and embrace each other. Violence should be the last outcome, not the first.

Even our prison systems should be there to rehabilitate and not just punish. The recent revelations about the corruption and rapes going on in our prison systems show it to be a breeding ground of crime where inmates come out more damaged and more dangerous than when they entered in the first place. It is you and I that are responsible for this. We create and perpetuate a world where we do not want to deal with delinquents. Never mind the fact that 40% of people awaiting trial are found innocent at their hearings, we want them to stay there and for the keys to be thrown away. We do not consider that if something is not done to liberate them from themselves that it is us that will suffer tomorrow. There needs to be a way that prisoners can find a sense of purpose in their incarceration, that they can be constructive, learn a trade, and contribute to the country’s growth. They need to be made to feel safe and not ostracised through society. When we reject them and ostracise them, the violence increases and we end up with hardened criminals formed and forged through our prison systems.  

We are not separate from people who commit crimes. We need to look inside ourselves, and yes while it is right that justice needs to be meted out fairly, we need to find a place where we can find mercy for the unlovable and find a way that they can live a purposeful life and make restitution for what they have done. It is the same for anybody that has wronged us. I’m sure that many terrorist groups have started with some sort of reason for retribution and they feel it is their right to carry out the crimes that they commit. Just this week in Kenya over 40 men were killed in front of their spouse and told by the Al-Shabaab militants it was retribution for all their own people that were being slaughtered in Somalia.

The war against terror is not eliminating these group, but is rather growing them and giving them more of a reason and more purpose to keep doing what they are doing. War is a messy business and the collateral damage caused radicalises innocents to a point of being willing to lay their lives down for a cause they believe to be greater than themselves. I don’t blame the West for this. I blame human nature and a lack of leaders with insight and the ability for true diplomacy, not just hollow word spewed out so as not to rock the boat, and then when it is too late to speak with bombs and ultimatums.  If Putin understood this then he would have had a much better relationship with Ukraine than the tumulus one he is experiencing at the moment.

To conclude in the article “Dog dragged behind car as punishment – report”, someone suggested that these people spend community service with the SPCA or other types of animal shelters. To my mind this is a good punishment because it does not just make an example of the perpetrator, but gives him a chance to make restitution, to grow and to hopefully contribute in the future. There is a saying that he who has been forgiven much, loves much.

We need to temper our need for justice with mercy, and hopefully the time when we need it, that mercy will be meted to us as well. Retribution is a sickness that grows to destroy our very souls. Retribution is the religion of rapists, thieves and murderers. When we embrace it, we perpetuate the very thing that we hate and become more part of the problem than the solution. There are punishments to fit the crimes and I believe compared with many countries we have a really sound constitution and judiciary that we can trust to mete out punishment, and where they fail, I can promise you that we will not do a better job of it ourselves, not in our country at any rate. Personally, I would not want that job on my conscience.

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