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IF YOU COULD, WOULD YOU LIVE FOREVER?

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THE LARGEST RELIGION IN EXISTENCE is Christianity, pushing 2-billion plus adherents.[1] It’s followers represent dozens of sects and denominations that actually disagree on more ideas than most care to keep track of. In a broad sense Christians share a few core beliefs, particularly that Yashua – a peasant Jew from Nazareth – was sent as Son of God to enlist believers in him and to atone for a sin that God’s first man was talked into.[2] It’s in belief of Yashua (Jesus is what the Romans called him) that humanity gains eternal life. Yashua died on a cross and raised himself from the dead after three days.

So much can be added to that short summary of what the core elements of Christianity are, so many arguments could be had, too. Christianity is a theologically complex religion and is somewhat irreconcilable with itself as well as historical knowledge. Equally complex and irreconcilable are the 27 holy books making up the New Testament.

As a simple exercise, ask yourself a few fundamental questions – that implicate a variety of religions aside from Christianity. Why is eternal life an idea that is offered in exchange for adhering or believing? What is so fascinating about eternal life that roughly half of the world, mostly industrialized areas, find such an exchange fruitful? What exactly are some of the implications of becoming immortal ? Would eternal life be a suitable situation for you? Have you thought about it?

Personally, despite my own beliefs, I would psychologically and spiritually grow weary of eternal existence. I can confidently state that without having any concept or taste of any afterlife. Let’s say I died tomorrow, came into some phantasmal form. I could imagine initially being sad, then being amused for awhile. Going everywhere I’ve never visited, learning things I hadn’t previously had the time for. Yet, as years would pass, I would witness the loss of other loved ones – some of whom might not be so lucky as to obtain immortality. I would be helpless as I watched my people deteriorate, become sick, or grow old and struggle.

There I would be, eternally struggling with such loss, never needing sleep, never resting, only suffering for millennia.

Well, I don’t want eternal life, I wouldn’t want that for you either. After all, to compartmentalize loss, to bury emotion, to replace grief with eternal life, is tantamount to adopting sociopathy. A sociopath lacks a conscience, is distant from humanity; I wouldn’t want to turn into that, to grow cold as the universe, as it, too, finally freezes all light from existence. That sounds so lonely, living forever in a cold expanse.

As with many firsts, a first kiss, the first bite of an ice cream sundae, a first soda or any other possible vice, eternal life will – much like those – appear awesome and grand initially; however, as we experience more and more of something it will either kill us or grow less tasteful and unsatisfying.

But, then again, what do I know, right? Actually, what is known is that we have around five or so decades together – if we’re fortunate. We have now , the present, to do kind acts, to cry together, to laugh, to share memories at gatherings and share moments of accomplishment. We have now.
As for me, when all this is gone, when precious light fades from the back of my eyelids, I want to go in peace, I want to rest well knowing that I will leave this world to you in slightly better condition than when I found it.

Notes
1. Goldwag, Arthur. (2007). ‘Isms and ‘Ologies: The 453 Basic Tenets You’ve only Pretended to Understand. Madison Park Press. New York

2. THE BOOK OF GENESIS, Old Testament

Image: public domain customization

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LETTING GO: A RECIPE FOR THE FUTURE

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During the course of each of our lives we hear many things that cause us to listen. Some of these things are helpful, some disastrous, and between all that is conflicting advice. Take for instance, the concept of forgiveness. I have always been told by my elders to forgive people for their wrongs and accidental slights – no matter what these were. Few people have gone so far as to advise that, in addition to forgiveness, “to pray for them”, or “forgive, but don’t forget”. I’m sure I’m not alone in this confusing matter, so I’m going to briefly share what I think about it.

Forgiveness, at its very core, harbors the assumption that people will cross you, people will do you wrong, hurt you, use you, amongst all other manner of negative things. This means that forgiveness exists because people are capable of harm – directly or indirectly, and sometimes both ways.

Secondly, forgiveness assumes a therapeutic role – in that there is marginal benefit for victims and a vague notion that is to befall those unforgiving people. Resentment, negative expectations, deteriorated social relationships, spiritual stress, ailments, and sometimes deep-seated cultural morés, such as distrust in the “white-man” – or some such things – can be traced to unforgiveness.

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So, here I am, discussing forgiveness – an idea that most of my loved ones proclaim I should adopt, yet, they have such difficulty themselves with forgiveness. (This is not to say they are sociopaths.)

Perhaps the world I want to see doesn’t have forgiveness at all; a world where there are no people whose words trespass against anyone, and that acts are no longer harmful; eliminating all of those things that typically trigger the need for gifting or asking forgiveness. Of course, that’s not a reality; however, just as forgiveness does, we can also act upon our world in ways to preempt forgiveness: we can work to eliminate forgiveness. This idea may seem, at first glance, tricky, for us Indigenous people, having carried so much pain about the world in which our ancestors lived, a world near universally lost. But, if we can change our approach to how we are affected by others, we would do some real good for our next generation – freeing them from the weight of all that could have been.

😉

IN SERVICE OF PEOPLE, NOT GOD

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After this century began, I had the pleasure of reading an anthology of short-stories, stories that implicated the human role in the larger scheme of existence. Is human life an absurd situation, or is there any inherent purpose in life, at all? For a guy who, at the time, didn’t have any formal college education, the old dusty book posited interesting questions about how people behave in ways so that life has meaning. That struck me as very interesting! The book, published in 1963, is called The Existential Imagination.[1] Many copies of the book are still available via Amazon.com and for as little as a penny (shipping and handling, is extra).[2] Need I mention, I’ve owned three copies over the years?

There are many good stories in the book regarding issues unique to the human condition. I don’t necessarily have any favorite story because they are all good for very different reasons. I would like to share the plot from one of the stories, here, and hopefully it allows you to ponder about any philosophical or theological implications thereafter. Hopefully, you are curious enough to go buy a copy, then read the rest of the book yourself.

The story that I mean to share is called Saint Emmanuel The Good, Martyr. It is the longest story of the anthology at around 35-pages. It’s written in the form of a fictional memoir, a letter found by the true author. The letter is an account of an Italian woman, Angelita, who takes the reader through her life, beginning as a young girl who entered convent school – at her brothers bidding. She spends five years there – until at age 15 – before returning to her village, Valverde de Lucerna. There she introduces us to the true protagonist in her memoir: Don Manuel, the priest in her beloved village.

The Don is described as a healer, a saint, who chopped wood for the poor, the protector, and nourishment to the village. He is kind to all – favoring “the most unfortunate…especially those who rebelled” (102).
One of my favorite quotes came from this story. It’s great advice even if stemming from a work of fiction. It reads:

“We should concern ourselves less with what people are trying to tell us than with what they tell us without trying” – Don Manuel

Angelita, also wrote about a time when a man in the village sent his boy out into the woods in a heavy rainstorm to fetch a loosed calf. The Don, saw the boy wandering near the trees, so he went out in the heavy rain to inquire why the boy was out at such a dangerous time. The boy explained, his father sent him out for a lost calf, whereafter listening, the Don sends the boy home. He explained he would locate the calf and bring it home for him. Upon returning to the boys home (with the calf) the father went out to meet the Don, who was soaking wet. The man, Angelita wrote, was thoroughly ashamed of himself.

The story builds to denouement once Angelita’s brother, Lazarus, returns home from America. Lazarus was not Catholic, and further did not believe in God. However, Don Manuel and Lazarus spend so much time together that after Angelita’s mom died, Lazarus chose to take communion, thereby converting to Catholicism. The village rejoices, and because, Don Manuel, had yet again, performed a miracle!

Later in the evening, Angelita finds herself alone with her brother, to whom she asks, “What things did Don Manuel state to you, that caused this conversion?” She hugs him. Lazarus finally replied that he only did so for the people, not because he himself believed, nor to seek eternal life. The Don implored him to take up religious life so to set a good example for the people, by taking part in religious community life. But Lazarus explains solemnly, that he also asked the Don, why he seemed to ask that he live a lie, adding, “Do you, believe, Don Manuel?” The Don, looking out over the lake, silently wept. After a few moments, the Don said:

“The truth, Lazarus, is perhaps something so unbearable, so terrible, so deadly, that simple people could not live with it,” and, “I am put here to give life… to make [people] happy, to make them dream they are immortal – and not to destroy them. The important
thing is that they live sanely, in accord with eachother…with my truth they could not live at all…”, “…let them live…”, “with the illusion that all this has a purpose”
(120).

So, there were tough questions, indeed, utilizing deep human conflict, one that many people have grappled with over the millennia. I, too, have often looked to the stars, asked my elders, and sought the answer to the very questions this story outlines, namely, Is there a God, and what does that mean for us? If there is no God, what then? Is life a pointless marathon unto death? Maybe it’s not so bad that we are left to answer this question alone? The greater point is that it’s a wonderful journey trying to figure it out for yourself. As I believe Don Manuel would say: At times, you might feel sad, or liberated when pondering the meaning of existing only a short while. Life may seem very lonely in that view. Whatever answers you come to, I’m sure you will be fine when choosing to live for others; according to one priest, it is exactly the same as living for God.

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Notes:
1.Karl, Frederick R., and Leo Hamalian, eds. (1963). “The Existential Imagination.” First Premier Books/Fawcett. NY

2.https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000GRFJYO/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1465370579&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=the+existential+imagination

3. Images, public domain, customizations

EMPLOYING YOUR PERSONALITY

Employing Your Personality

In today’s atmosphere, applying for a job entails providing a large amount of personal information to prospective employers. Health records, medical documents, and psychiatric records, are – in the vast majority of cases – protected information beyond the reach of anyone without direct written authorization. This helps to prevent specific discrimination as exemplified by the 1990’s film Philadelphia. [1]

At any rate, savvy employers may not necessarily require a direct peek into health information as a few carefully worded questions can give any HR Department insight into what type of people are applying for jobs. This way businesses can weed out those applicants – who despite meeting qualifications – are simply not the kind of worker the business desires. Let me exemplify how questions could be posed to applicants in the near future by recalling a few ethics scenarios that I encountered in my college days.

The first scenario presented to you, goes like this:

“Imagine you’re a train conductor on a runaway train. The brakes have failed, the horn does not respond and you have come to a fork in the tracks. On the right side of the tracks – the side you and the train are – there are five Girl Scouts crossing the tracks headed to an adjacent neighborhood to sell cookies. On the left side of the tracks there is a hobo who has fallen asleep on the tracks. You have only enough time to either A) pull a lever to switch the course of the track, saving the five little girls, but killing the hobo, or B) do nothing, whereby the five Girl Scouts are killed, but saving the hobo’s life. Which action do you take?”

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That was a rather common ethics question; one I have proposed to my own students over the years. I have heard everything from, “I’m not answering that”, to “I need more information”, and even, “I’m just jumping off the train”. While their responses are simply attempts to avoid responsibility, for class, this was OK, but mostly, for others, the question is a great point of deep contention and leads to discussion that allows students to get to know one another early on in the course.

Let me give another scenario.

“Imagine you’re a mute walking along the sidewalk at a roadside festival. You are part of a small crowd of people where only you notice an oncoming vehicle that is about to ram into three women at a high rate of speed and kill them. The women are beyond your reach, but there is an elderly man between you and the girls such that if you were to instantly act, you know with certainty that A) pushing the man into the girls would create a domino-effect which will save the lives of three ladies, but would kill the man by placing him in the path of the vehicle, or B) do nothing whereby the three women are killed. Which choice would you make? ”

If you compare the two scenarios, there is a basic distinction that produces answers that could be of keen interest to prospective employers. While the vast majority of businesses will never request access to protected health information, answers to scenarios like these are not protected, and may reveal more about “the real you” than a physical exam. In fact, one retailer, KMart has used actual personality assessments. These are used to determine likelihood of deception in answering, or perhaps an inclination to steal, or embezzle money. The practical usefulness of assessments are unknown, but answers are compiled to hopefully reveal more about you than what you present in your history.

Part of the point is that you have to pay close attention to the changes in the law as relates to applicant-prospective employer relationships, but more importantly, that you occasionally remind yourself of the kind of person you truly are. Reread the two scenarios I presented above. If you have any trouble answering, then perhaps you could benefit yourself and everyone else around by taking some time alone to hopefully figure out why that is before applying for that job.

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Notes:
1) HIPA ( The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191)

• Images: public domain customizations

CONSTRUCTS of REALITY

CONSTRUCTS of REALITY

IN LIFE THERE ARE MANY EVENTS that force us to redefine our reality. Think back to that childhood moment when you realized that Disneyland was in California, and that California was over a thousand miles away, or that Santa Claus did not exist! What was to be done with that “new” information? How are white lies incorporated into our morality – especially the one about an elderly do-gooder, dressed in red, who sneaks into our houses to leave gifts and eat our cookies? What is realized when we come to understand mom and dad aren’t going to pack away the family for a week of fun in California when simply getting to school some days remains a challenge?

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Aside from these seemingly trivial matters, I’m sure we have all had thoughts along these lines, shared the developmental milestones that opened our consciousness to a society filled with grey areas and the realization that the “real world” is sneakier than we imagined. Obtaining what we want in life – for many of us – begins exactly with a strangely dressed bearded fellow purportedly steering a reindeer sleigh – and evolves into truth: success takes time, patience, hard work, which includes a lot of planning – not simply socially accepted behaviors as  reinforced through economic coercion and wrapped gifts. Additionally, these consciousness milestones allow us to question deep-seated cultural and family practices such as bases for religious ceremonies and customs, and a belief in a single immortal being whether called God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Allah, or Yahweh.

With religious ideas, it can become less clear with age just how to maintain these conflicting precepts, especially in our busy lives. Also, the more intelligent we Earthlings become, the less we can honestly conceptualize any divine place. For instance, we now know with complete certainty that “heaven” is not a place behind the clouds, and the “underworld” is neither a place below the Earth’s crust, yet these facts still have the strength to tug at our sense of place and at our family or cultural loyalties – more so than when we discovered it was our lactose intolerant dad who would drink the milk we set out for the burglar we called Santa; and that mom and dad were, in fact, collectively, Santa !

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It’s true, no matter the constructs of our beliefs (or disbeliefs) – these ideas are our own. So long as these ideas do not advocate hatred or violence we do ourselves and our communities a service by welcoming diverse views of the world. After all, we can never honestly know how difficult it is (or has been) for those who maintain or adopt ideas we know to be false. Fresh ideas push evolution in consciousness – as our loss of Santa and the knowledge we would never reach Disneyland did. We are a better people without the illusions, and a more empowered people knowing we can influence the mindset of future generations. What do you think? What do you believe?

FAMILY VIOLENCE: AN ANCIENT ENEMY

Family Violence: An Ancient Enemy

Among ancient people, intimate partner violence occurred for reasons similar to many rationalizations that modern humans provide: jealousy, anger, food, mating privileges and so forth. The most obvious reasoning that intimate partner violence occurred among ancient humans is the physiological rule: that is to say, the larger an animal, or more physically imposing partner/group member would have been more likely to use force or inflict violence upon another smaller one (essentially bullying). After all, which smaller ancient individual dare challenge the larger attacker?

Tuning in to any nature channel, such as National Geographic, we can see the physiological rule of violence play out in the animal kingdom as day-to-day business: the silverback gorilla, or the alpha wolf imposing their wills and sizes upon others. Here, too, intra-group violence occurs for many of those same reasons given by modern humans: challenge to mating privileges, territorial disputes, food, threats to immediate family, etc.
But rules are meant to be broken, often by those we least expect.

This physiological rule is also countered by nature itself, an opposing force of smaller size, such as we find in the snake – whose various venoms can easily subdue or kill a being one-hundred times its size. This is natures answer to predation (bullying). An even smaller, similar situation is provided us by the ignorant mosquito – who, in conjunction with the many viruses and diseases it carries, such as malaria – kills billions without any thought of malevolence.

In humans, we have developed two of the most potent forces against the physiological rule. The first is the brain itself – the most advanced brain we have known among creatures of the Earth. The second force being the social group itself: the norms of civilization. We primarily came to understand that it was wrong to obtain things we wanted, whether for psychological satisfaction, or biological urges, through unjustified force. We have the greatest treasure of higher intellect and greater reasoning ability over all the creatures in the animal kingdom, though like them, we have not been able to irradicate intimate partner violence (family violence) from our cultures.

Families are the cornerstone to any great society. Currently, however, there exists a sad social problem of violence within families. One fairly recent study of families shared that 74% of children younger than five were hit or slapped by their parents (n1). A 2004 study of sexual abuse of children showed a drastic decline in reported cases toward the end of last century, though the remaining 89,500 cases occurring every year, is 89,500 cases too many involving this type of violence (n2).
In 2005, the National Crime Victim Survey (NCVS) produced a number of reported instances of intimate partner violence at 690,100 cases (in America), (n3). Of those figures, 16.2% of the victims were males. Obviously, males committed the remaining 83.8% of instances – another likely example of the physiological rule of violence at play in modern humans.

Can it be anymore obvious- that no matter how we define family violence, wether as emotional, physical, sexual, or instrumental – modern humanity relies too heavily upon it. Violence is outdated software, so to speak, as it is assumed we have moved beyond instinctive reactions and drives as primary motivators in behavior. Humans can develop machines to analyze planetary bodies in deep space; we can construct telescopes to see millions of years into the prehistory of our universe; we cure disease, yet we cannot seem to irradicate the most ancient of our behaviors which is violence among families.

If there’s nothing else you do in life, if you reject voting, if you do not volunteer in your community, or do not give to any charities, or fail to pay sufficient taxes, there is one thing you should honestly do to create a better world and that is to reject violence. This can be taught by example – through the power of diplomacy, leadership, and empathy. By failing to perpetuate violence, we can finally evolve into the civilization I see we can become. Reject violence, that is our first step for a better tomorrow.

Lean more about family violence at teachyoung.org, or through researching any of the references below.

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(N)otes:
1. Gallup Organization. Disciplining Children In America: A Gallup Report. Princeton, NJ. (1995)
2. Catalano, S. Criminal Investigation, 2004. Washington, D.C. (2005)
3. TeachYoung.org

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT and the BROAD IMPEDIMENTS to CORRECTIONS

THE PENALTY OF DEATH

Modern forms of execution consist of firing squad, hanging, and the electric chair, with the most current method being lethal injections. Do we absolutely need such a punishment? In what ways is it needed? Before the questions are answered personally, let me explore some of the history of the utilization of the death penalty.
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THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA was the first state to utilize lethal injection, a procedure which began in 1977. Oklahoma is the same state set to tragically put to death Richard Glossip, this Wednesday (he was granted two-week stay 5-hrs before today’s execution: 9/16/15). Currently, the federal government – including 31 other states permits judges and juries to kill people, specifically, people convicted of murder (Ross, 2015).

Early American executions were routinely accomplished on lesser criminals: people such as robbers, or for rape convictions, and more aptly for treasonous acts. Though this is no longer done, except for treason, the manner in which industrialized societies have elected to killed people did not always appear as seemingly clean, quiet, and distant from the public as a lethal injection.

Background

The Romans publicly crucified criminals, most notably, Jesus of Nazareth. Before criminals were crucified – in ancient Rome, the condemned persons were sometimes given a drink mix of wine and myrrh – a mild narcotic concoction called galla. When condemned did not partake of anesthesia, as Jesus did not, the tortuous activities could be a most gruesome spectacle. Even crucifying ancient humans, occurring in the thousands, did not deter crime.

Crucifixion means a victim is nailed to two sections of crossed-wood beams. Nails seven-and-a-half-inches long, we’re used to hold a sagging body of a full grown adult. Once the person was nailed to the cross it was positioned upright, for all to see – including carrion eaters. Neither blood loss nor shock was the primary cause of death for those who were crucified; it was a helpless suffocation. The two rebels who were crucified next to Jesus, had their legs broken in order to expedite their deaths, so their feet could less be used to prop their damaged bodies up (Cawthorne, 2006).

The Romans also practiced beheading, but this was typically done to Roman citizens considered military deviants – and an honorable death, likely too quick for Roman tastes. The rare instances of Christians being beheaded publicly occurred at the behest of Emperor Caligula (ibid, 34).

While contemporary America does not engage in the type of spectacle as ancient Romans did, the implications of state-sanctioned death penalty now, reflect a spiteful and conflicted people.
2,000-years removed from Rome, philosophies have not really changed. Marked consternation and the power of everyday distractions among America’s voters deters coalition and activism. Until a sizable majority refuses to enforce this penalty, we, to some degree resemble ancient Rome, and our rationalizations of deterrence, punishment, and humiliation remain pitifully in place. These arguments are ineffective. Voters have all the power to act.

The death penalty is a remnant of sins against a God, remnant of a theocracy; thus, a peculiar ideal under an American system advocating and otherwise practicing separation of church and state. The death penalty – as used against treason – during times of war through early history held a rational argument for its temporary use. This is because the future of budding democracy – as in colonial America – sovereignty and existence hung in the balance. A single spy, or traitor could crumble the gains and sacrifices of millions. The death penalty, as used during the infancy of pre-industrial civilization had a practical and philosophical argument of a specific deterrence: true “national security” interest.

America

“… nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” -Amendment 8, U. S. Constitution.

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The men who ratified the United States Constitution through the late 18th-Century, after years of war, incorporated the heart of our civil liberties, a special section called the Bill of Rights – the first of the ten amendments in our Constitution. 200-years later, in Furman v. Georgia (1972), the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as was then utilized in Furman’s case was unconstitutionally cruel and arbitrary – contravening the 8th amendment protections. America enjoyed four brief years’ freedom from state-sanctioned killing.

A few years after Furman, 1976, the court revisited the death penalty – again through the State of Georgia. The majority held that the “arbitrary and capricious” elements within the procedure used in Furman’s case, had been remedied, and once again, America began tragically murdering its citizens. Justices Brennan and Marshall, however, believed “capital punishment…inconsistent with contemporary values… ” (Smith, 2009).
This writer wants to believe that.
We are no longer a budding tract of colonies, teetering on extinction.

Moral Perspectives

“To understand criminal justice, it is necessary to understand crime. Most policymaking in criminal justice is based on criminological theory, whether the people making those policies know it or not. In fact, most of the failed policies (what doesn’t work) in criminal justice are due to misinterpretation, partial implementation, or ignorance of criminological theory. Much time and money could be saved if only policymakers had a thorough understanding of criminological theory” –T. O’Connor, in Crime Theories

One of the oft-touted rationalizations for use of the death penalty today, is retribution, which means, in short, that punishments for crime “…must match the gravity of the offense” (Barlow, 1996), and that criminals must be punished. The idea of An eye for an eye, life for a life, a poetic maxim, came down to us through religious ordinances from the Code of Hammurabi. Religious ideology still influences our politics despite rhetoric. In America, most assume we are not forced to believe this way, and in fact, have some sort of say so built-in to our representative form of government, to determine which punishments fit which crimes. Is this true? When has the death penalty (human life) been a relevant enough topic in your life that you interacted with your representatives about it? A majority, while strong in number, does not equate to being more correct than any minority view. And a silent majority is immorally incorrect.

Deterrence

Punishment must, as a utilitarian belief, serve to prevent the majority from suffering crime. In order for deterrence to be effective, so it goes, punishment must particularly be shameful enough, and in some way, debilitating – whether by restricting personal freedoms or through the application of unappealing economic sanctions in order for a malefactor learn her lesson. If we do not attempt to deter crime, we are in a sense accomplices after-the-fact, we are unjust. In a less dramatic fashion, we unapologetically acquiesce to the idea that we value nothing, outside of perhaps anarchy. We cannot let crime go unpunished. Yet, we can be totally and irreversibly smarter!

Punishment

Torture is illegal , deportation cannot be applied to natural-born citizens, suicide cannot be forced, nor can allegiance to a god or goddess be thrust upon us; however, citizens can yet be killed in some states – as a punishment.
In this writer’s naive opinion, it seems that the death penalty needs to be abolished. There is a tragic, though steady rate of murder that exists in society, and this cannot be remedied by further killing. The idea of deterrence is supposed to work as it does in firefighting, analogous to what is called a firebreak. A firebreak is a line that is burned at some safe distance between the firewall and path of destruction, so that there is nothing to burn or fuel the fire once it reaches this point. That is a figurative use of deterrence, which actually works. For prevention works best. The death penalty will never work. The death penalty has never worked. Social attention to others, and creating “firebreaks” will aid us just the same.

Rehabilitation

While seemingly cliché, contemporary punishment does not possess the aspect of reparation of the offenders as may be assumed. People who can get released, do so without skills and precious time out of the workforce.

Budgetary excuses aside, the persistent reliance on sensationalist broadcasting has provoked mass fear of a plague of violent crime – which has interestingly gone down across the past handful of decades. Unfortunately, as have rehabilitative efforts.
It’s drug offenders who create most of the “violent crime”, drug offenders have to protect territory, collect debt, fend off robbery, require countless conspiracies just to get to the point to sell, and are the most resistant to new behavior, primarily because money they make from drugs far exceeds any legitimate venture. Thus, how can one repair a value? So, recidivism is high…

• Corrections simply do not pay sufficiently to attract urban elite professionals to work – often in the middle of nowhere. This barrier is built in to the system.

• Local politics ensure that political reps are “hard on crime” such that a single 600+ bed facility can basically subsidize the local economy surrounding the prison. Why rehabilitate that?

• Additionally, programming cannot be implemented because staff-to-prisoner ratios prohibit it, and staff do not have the education for the most part. So, what’s left is an extremely bored criminal left to his own devices and, again in Oklahoma, there were 6-men recently killed across a 3-month span. Death should not be included in any sentences. Doing nothing for them shouldn’t be either.

• Rehabilitation cannot occur in corrections industries programs where prisoners work for pennies supposedly to develop skills for a workforce that largely doesn’t exist – America is a service economy. Additionally, the industries located at medium security facilities use prisoner labor from prisoners who have more than 20-years to complete on their sentences, which means any skills they develop will be useless at age of release and likely obselete. Punishment needs to include all these factors, when it does not have legitimate ends, prisons become arbitrary and capricious and cruel.

Conclusion

Crime is a failure as much as the death penalty is. We must try to first determine criminogenic needs of offenders, so as to cure the ailment(s), the suffering, addressing criminogenic needs during/before punishment. Most all murderers feel guilt from taking another person’s life. And sometimes one becomes a murderer by accident, where the heightened risk of death is imminent, but not obvious such as in a car crash while drunk, or in a felony murder, such as in a botched bank robbery or accident where the victim falls and breaks a neck. Sometimes punishment is, in fact necessary, but the emotion needs to be separated from its application.

The handling of murderers as deviant should not, in my opinion, be the immediate province of the judicial branch of government. The proper form in which murder (and sex crime) should be treated or handled should fall to the psychological or medico-psychiatric community, then judicial. Here again, we will never eradicate murder this way, or even deter murder, as murder is primarily spontaneous. Using this rationale; however, the idea is to study the perpetrators of the crime, repair problems, and allow treatment of the human to prevail, using results to assist countless others. After all, most murderous and all violent crimes (notwithstanding extremely rare serial-murderers/habitual sex-offenders) will never recidivate again – even without such treatment. And, yes, some may not be reached, but this we will know and we can prepare for long-term treatment. Housing mentally-ill with neuro-typical prisoners does create more negative issues and abuses. So this extreme minority cannot be stored in a prison (not simply because most $13-per hour corrections guards lack formal training in how to manage these individuals, but for safety of all stakeholders).

We must consider the idea that by killing citizens, we are throwing away our responsibility to them. In a way, we are trying to ignore the applications of our technological progresses. The M’Naughten Rule which states that an insane person is one that does not know right from wrong, acknowledges that we cannot kill certain individuals because they are incapable of responsible action. If genetic predisposition, is not factored for violence, then what remains are treatable social conditions. Philosopher Colin Wilson, stated that the complexities of civilization led man to develop the independent left brain so that criminality became possible…that violence is a reflection of social tension: “Anyone who has any dealing with criminals, any a policeman, lawyer, psychiatrist will verify that far from being happier than the rest of us, most of them seem to be plagued by a permanent dissatisfaction” (Wilson, 2005: 603).

• Science and research in the socio-medical fields and related social sciences should play a much more integral role in the spectrum of criminal justice, not just in law enforcement, nor in simply determining competence;

• The criminal justice system is in fact too large and cumbersome, organized in such a way as to stifle progressive activities in treatment; offenders should be incarcerated together based on similar offense type, not mixed together; this practice will aid programming needs and affect prisoner sub-cultures by diminishing criminal osmosis and prison politics; Staff within pristine can become specialized to coordinate their education/training to specific populations.

• Psychiatric patients of any kind should never become part of a general population mix. They cannot be held to typical standards. They are easily ignored by directional staff, and taken advantage of by certain opportunistic criminal elements. Yet this is practiced.

• Prosecutorial discretion (as regards plea bargaining) as opposed to sentencing guidelines is a systemic power barrier for egalitarian forms of punishment and access to treatment within reasonable time; Sentencing indeterminately, across the board would work best, placing release powers within institutional committees, those closest to offenders.

• Electing global-thinking officials is also problematic, as perceived peer/public scrutiny interferes with job stability and a career in politics; change will take decades in southern, conservative legislatures.

• The historical utilization of the death penalty is insufficient to perpetuate it; No good is accomplished for anyone in these situations.

• The private, for-profit corporations impede these ends of justice. They are an extremely large and sophisticated lobby. Prisoners are worth roughly $65-per day (far exceeds the cage value of any livestock). What’s $65 x 365? No farmer gets that for any animal.

• Secondary victims can also be asked to assist in playing a pivotal role in treatment. This participation helps the majority of victims, reconcile and adjust.
We should live by positive examples and not submit to the reciprocal killing of our citizens. Regressing toward the perpetrators actions is not the way to deter crime. If we continue to perpetuate the idea that emotional responses should precede a death, we are not at all providing moral foundations. And we condone murder by committing it as a society. We have to take an evolved approach, being more involved with our government, being involved with the criminal, even though she has committed one of the most heinous acts known to us.

The many questions that arise when debating the use of the death penalty will remain with us – and we must always debate themes of civilization, so as to progress considerate of technology or any newer and effective approaches. Relying upon a process that does not work is madness, and is akin to planning to ride a bicycle into space. As Americans we need to give up our bicycle and concentrate on constructing a more conscientious approach to punishment: value of all human life. We must understand that a person in our species who kills another is in need of some assistance, she is hurt, she is suffering, and she needs help. To deny interventions to people, our species, is tantamount to yelling to God that God is imperfect, which is ultimately false. If your ears are closed, read the following words: fix the real problems.

😦
References

Barlow, Hugh. Introduction to Criminology, 7th ed. Harper NYC. 1996.

Blacks Law Dictionary, 8th ed. M’Naughten Rule.Thompson. St. Paul. 2011.

Cawthorne, Nigel. Public Executions: Ancient Rome to the Present Day. Arcturus. London (2006).

Furman v. Georgia 408 U. S. 238 (1972).

O’Connor, T. (03/26/04). In Crime Theories, MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/111/111lect03.htm on January 9, 2006.

Ross, Phil. The US: Which States Still Practice Capital Punishment And What Methods They Use. IBTimes 1/15 /2015 http://www.ibtimes.com/death-penalty-us-which-states-still-practice-capital-punishment-what-methods-they-use-1785124

Smith, Christopher. Criminal Procedure. Wadsworth: CA (2006).

Wilson, Colin. A Criminal History of Mankind. Mercury Books. London: 2005.

United States Constitution, Amendment 8

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Why Did You Do That, Free Will?

EVERY NOW AND AGAIN people talk about decisions, choices, or free will. There are determinists~those who believe what will occur has pre~determined bases, thus, we lack free will of action, and cannot alter our fates. Then there are those who believe that people make rational and independent choices, of their own free will, and remain arbiters of their future.

This author does not propose a resolution to that timeless mystery, only relate a few facts regarding Human chemistry. Human thought, after all, is an invaluable combination of water, carbon, and hydrogen, and a host of amino acids. These also give us a body as well as our animation.

LET’S REVIEW A MOLECULE and its important interplay with our free will: seratonin. Seratonin has a molecular signature of: C10, H12, N2, O, which reads, ten carbon atoms, twelve of hydrogen, two of nitrogen, and a single oxygen atom. This molecule is derived by the amino~acid Tryptophan, found in foods such as bananas, papayas, and meat from turkeys. In humans, 90% of their seratonin is found in epithelial layers of the gut, and the other 10% in cerebro~spinal fluid, and in the brain where it is an important neurotransmitter.

Molecule

”Posture is more erect post~triumph” ~Darwin

”Heads are lowered after defeat” ~Irenaüs Eibl~Eibesfeldt

A HIGHER SERATONIN LEVEL correlates to social rank. Seratonin is found in greatest concentrations in dominant primate males. This is not to say that socially dominant primate males are genetically endowed to use/absorb/maintain/have naturally larger stores of seratonin. Actually, it means dominance
(greater amounts of seratonin) has a social basis.

Reference the quotes above, as relate to body language (a social phenomenon). Darwin’s ape, having defeated Eibl~Eibesfeldts ape in a territorial brawl, has elevated seratonin: a molecule that encourages a sense of well~being, regulates mood intensity, and ”guards against depression and anxiety” (Wright 1994: 243). As a result of such chemical~social interplay, Darwin’s ape sits proud (and it’s not being recommended that one go beat someone up). Interestingly, research has shown to associate low~levels of 5~hydroxindoleactic acid, a seratonin metabolite, ”in aggressive or violent individuals” (Linnoila et al., 1983).

So how does free will play to these ideas? If seratonin is not by itself deterministic, can one assume individuals have independently unique seratonin levels? Further, since seratonin regulates range of behavior, could a level of seratonin below ones unique baseline produce behavior that cannot be judged as free will? Well, drugs such as Prozac (seratoninergic anti~depressants) attempt to empower people with more will power! Selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) and Mono~amine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s) discourage breakdown of seratonin in the brain, thereby keeping seratonin on the synaptic cleft (edge of a neuron), to encourage mood stability, providing resilience against anxiety and depression and maintaining prosocial levels of seratonin.

Additional biosocial factors influenced by seratonin are the receptorcites: 5HT 1A that influences pleasure via dopamine release (chemical also triggered by cocaine, amphetamine, and MDMA), positive/negative effects of schizophrenia, and learning. 5HT 2A also associated with schizophrenia, depression, mood, and anxiety. Seratonin, in a very simplistic way, according to Wright, is a glass of wine (244). [Ethyl alcohol actually releases seratonin, and research by Masters and McGuire (1994) shows people with low seratonin levels commit greater amounts of impulsive crimes (Wright, 244), and alcohol is involved in 64% of violent crime (Barkan 2000)].

Perhaps we will finally realize that social inequality, education and socioeconomic status, are great powers that induce individual response. Is it a stretch to believe Eibl~Eibsfeltds ape turned into a bum and did not potentialize due to chemistry? Social structure? In humans, whether God has given us freedom to choose, or that we are bound to a range of behavior due to chemistry is to be seen, guarded in faith that we do the right things, develop the most beneficial habits, and have sufficient seratonin to encourage the ripple effect of prosociality.

Notes:
1] Flannery, Vazsonyi and Waldman, eds. THE CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOK OF VIOLENT BEHAVIOR AND AGGRESSION. Cambirdge U.P., N.Y. (2007)

2] Wright, Robert. THE MORAL ANIMAL: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. Vintage N.Y. (1994).

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