Punishment, consequences, sanctions, responses are all terms we use in way to define the reactionary nature of many of us in western society post colonialism. It has ingrained into our psyches, has become the default position in response to harm. It is in essence the antithesis of mindfulness.
Many of the readings in this unit I felt too strongly attempted to pigeon hole punishment into a capitalist, construct. It is the fault of the greed driven, economic ruling class that has its thumb on the poor and disadvantaged. While I do not disagree with this on one level, it allows us to abdicate our humanity and throw up our collective hands in futility. Punishment is convenience. I repeat even for my own awakening. Punishment is convenience. It is quick, “objective” and standardized. If you do this than, we do that. Punishment is the ultimate in conditioned responses.
By using punishment as the standard of practice, specifically codified consequences, we allow ourselves to disconnect from the harmful behaviour. Humanity which is at the core of all behaviour is then able to be removed from the equation thus justifying the use of harm to deal with harm. In simple terms punishment allows us to feel justified in doing harm.
The Judeo-Christian ethic that dominates our western society further reinforces this justification. “Vengeance is mine” is ingrained into our societal DNA. It is a learned behaviour established at the earliest of ages. Centuries of dominance by one philosophy (and due to its common genesis one can include our Islamic brothers) has resulted in a learned consciousness of retribution and its normalization. In short we have been rewired to respond to harm with harm (an eye for an eye).
Writers and philosophers such as Deepak Chopra and Ekhart Tolle speak to what is called a cosmic consciousness. Cross-denominational teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh have stressed that adherence to a single “school of thought” limits our ability to connect with our humanity. I chose to see harm in a way that a doctor sees disease. It is a symptom of our disconnectedness. Using punishment only serve to fortify this state of disconnect. The question is, (for those much more gifted than I) “How do we reconnect with our shared humanity”? How do we forge new bonds between people? What model re-connects us on a more personal level? These are the reasons I have taken up the study of this restorative model.
What do you think is the rationale for using punishment in a democracy?
In one simple word, my answer would be ease. Humanity and in particular our urbanized construct has provided for us so many of the ready-made solutions. Everything is “on hand” it is easily assessable, so why not our response to harm. Helen Keller was quoted as saying “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” If we are to be re-connected and able to truly address harm and seek harmony we as a society need to look at “working” to reconcile conflict. This means going beyond the black and white evidentiary system. It means shining a light into a place we would rather not go. It means giving up our security of isolation from our communities and placing our trust in a reactionary system of “justice”. It means connecting again as members of a human family.
A standard dictionary meaning of democracy is: a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. In my view. (dictionary.com). I find it interesting that the first part of the definition has been subjugated by the second. If we are to truly look at healing and reconciling harm in a meaningful way, then we as a society must become more engaged.