Thursday, February 19, 2009

An Eye for an eye makes the whole world happy.

Very interesting. Apparently, there was an Islamic woman whose face was splashed with acid out of spite by a man whose advances she rejected. She lost her eyesight as a result. A true tragedy, and incredibly horrific (which is obvious if you see the pictures...). Apparently, though, she wants the same punishment inflicted upon her attacker.

Here's the thing: considering that such a thing seems pretty standard, I don't think of the woman less for wanting this form of justice. But, I do think less of the commentors who sympathize a little too much with the literal "eye for an eye" mentality.

"I agree with Hammurabi, once you violate another human being's "human rights" it's as thought you are forfeiting your own. Eye for an eye, I vote yes.
Human Right's Activists should be condemning Movahedi" [The attacker].

Here's the deal: it is possible to criticize both the original perpetrator of the deed, in no unclear manner, as well as being exasperated that someone so victimized would call for vengeance. It does seem like justice, her motives for it (preventing him from doing it again) are decent, and she has very few better options in the legal system she is dealing with. But the fact of it remains: "eye for an eye" leaves too much blood on the hands of the government that assures that it is carried out. Considering that we so often have wrongful convictions ourselves, imagine what would happen if we had punishments more harsh than a jail sentence? We could have new Salem Witch Trials on our hands! But, I'll get back to "eye for eye" in a bit (since every quote brings it up).

"What about her human rights! Her attacker should forever experience what he did to this woman. Good for her for not accepting blood money." [monetary compensation is an alternative for the punishment].

Unfortunately, making the attacker suffer the same fate as the victim will not bring her eyes back. It makes intuitive sense that if he did suffer it, "justice" would be served, karma and all that. But, sadly, her human rights do not become unviolated by violating another's.

"I like the entry that said she should be able to throw it all over him...just like he did to her. None of this ...one drop in each eye. That's far too thoughtful for this lunatic. I think part of the punishment is supposed to unclude suffering!!! Ameneh...start getting that arm in shape for a fastball"

This is exactly what is wrong with the "eye for an eye" mentality: it is heavily motivated by a thirst for retribution. Most punishment is most assuredly not supposed to include "suffering", at least when you are not performing it entirely to satiate your own desire for blood to be shed to right a wrong. Punishment is, ideally, a way to discourage behavior, and change it for the better. In our country, the punishment offered by the justice system also serves the benefit of quarantine: keeping those who have not learned how to behave appropriately in society in isolation, so that they will cause minimal damage for the period of time. We still emphasize the quarantine effect, with behavior alteration only being a possible side effect or even something that is frowned upon if actively pursued. The concern over punishment not being sufficiently negative is somewhat warranted though, since it does make sense that people at large would not be fazed by overly gentle punishments for incredible wrongdoing, and any sense of fairness in society would gradually fade. But, then again, humans sometimes behave counter-intuitively, so it is hard to guarantee that anarchy would ensue with lax punishments for violent crime without actively exploring the matter.

"If only that was true for the U.S. An eye for an eye should be world wide. If you shoot someone you should be shot. If you stab someone you should be stabbed. The human rights people aren't thinking of the victims. When you are in jail you should lose all rights. I hope they do more then a drop in each eye. Should be as much as the victim"

The human rights people can think of the victims and the implications of sloppy treatments of the victimizer simultaneously, ya know. It is a shame, though, that you think that people in jail should lose all of their rights. They lose some, but not everyone in jail is a malicious sociopath who has wantonly destroyed someone's life. Some are wrongfully convicted for such crimes, some have destroyed lives out of desperation (think: survival and recklessness), some out of negligence, some out of what we call "insanity". And some in jail are just petty thieves or drug users. Besides, do you really want the government being able to say that someone is allowed to chop your arm off because your chainsaw went haywire? We have provisions against "cruel and unusual punishments" for a reason.

"If those human rights activists are so opposed to Bahrami's attacker suffering her same fate then they should be willing to take his place and suffer the punishment for him."

And lookee here: this is what happens when you elevate punishment up to the point where it is something metaphysical. It doesn't make any sense for someone to take someone else's punishment. It serves no purpose. It's not as if we are trying to appease a hungry god, angered by the deed that we feel the need to punish. Or......nah....couldn't be....

"Maybe if we had an eye for an eye in this country we would have less crime against women and children. Movahedi is getting what he deserves. What a terrible crime, what a terrible man. He should also be locked up for the rest of his life as a blind man."

Maybe if we were better at enforcing and giving decent sentences to those who commit crimes against women and children we would have less crime against them. But, sadly, our legal system is a little inefficient at doing so, for whatever reason. Yes, it is a terrible crime. But, to be frank, it isn't a hell of a lot worse than everything else that happens to women in that part of the world.

"I think that if criminals were faced with suffering the same fate as their victims, more people would think twice about committing heinous crimes. Of course blinding someone with acid is cruel and unusual. Bahrami knows first hand how true this is. Why should Movahedi be protected from feeling the same pain he inflicted on her?"

And that's the crux of all of this: the belief that "eye for an eye" not only appeases our natural desire to attain justice but that it deters crime as well. On its face, it makes sense. I personally wouldn't want to do something violent if I could suffer the same fate myself. But, crimes of passion seldom give time to worry about consequences. And sociopaths could give a damn, really. So, like I said before: humans sometimes behave counter-intuitively.

I can understand why they would support the blinded woman's position, in light of outrage from human's rights activists. Considering her options, and considering how fair it seems, it is understandable, and even begrudgingly commendable. But, longing to have the same vicious policy for our own? It leaves me a little disturbed....

12 comments:

The Maze Monster said...

Yes yes! For every suicide bombing against non-islamic cites, non-islamics should get to bomb an islamic sight.

Fuck eye drops!

Stacy said...

I generally accept the 'eye for an eye' argument - I'm a bitch that way. I just want to make sure that you get the right eye.

Asylum Seeker said...

"Fuck eye drops!"

And suddenly, I get the thought in my head that we putting an atheist fatwah out on Ben Stein...

"I generally accept the 'eye for an eye' argument - I'm a bitch that way."

I generally don't accept it. But, to be honest, it's just a gut level thing, and I honestly don't know why. In principle, if it could be carried out without corruption and error, it sounds noble and what not. But still... something about it makes me uneasy.

The Maze Monster said...

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." - Gandhi

That's why.

pboyfloyd said...

Okay, maybe not exactly eye for eye but 'what' then?

How much money covers being blinded and disfigured? How much time in prison?

I didn't read up on the story, but if she and her attacker are in a country under Sha'ria (or S'h'a'r'i'a, whatever), he deserves such brutal vengence as he would dish out. I think that's only fair.

Also, I'm not entirely 'with you' on the punishment thingy.

Non violent convicts ought to be rehabilitated, but anyone who consistently goes around physically intimidating and violating people really ought to be punished.

Lashed, live on the newshour, then his/her nails cut to the quick, then perhaps given a bad haircut!

Seriously though, all I know is that the law is supposed to deal out justice and justice is supposed to be fair!

And it's not.

mac said...

Tough call.

I think I have to agree with Stacey here Seeker. I know if it were someone close to me that this was done to, I would want to met out the justice myself.

I guess that's the red-head coming out in me :-)

Asylum Seeker said...

"I didn't read up on the story, but if she and her attacker are in a country under Sha'ria (or S'h'a'r'i'a, whatever), he deserves such brutal vengence as he would dish out."

Yes, I agree with that much. Considering the law that they live under, Yet I also believe that this isn't the ideal policy, because, as brutal as the crime was, the best response isn't to be just as brutal when dealing with them. Sure, the idea of criminals getting what they dish out is appealing, but the problem of that particular matter is who exactly will be taking the eyes in the name of justice? Will it be mob justice or a right of the state? And what will happen when they err?

"Non violent convicts ought to be rehabilitated, but anyone who consistently goes around physically intimidating and violating people really ought to be punished."

I agree, in the sense that people who cannot be rehabilitated should be detained indefinitely. I believe in second chances (sort of), so when they prove that they are beyond help, and are still willing to violate the rights of others, only then have they forfeited their own rights. So, maybe I believe in an "eye for 2-4 eyes" policy...

"Seriously though, all I know is that the law is supposed to deal out justice and justice is supposed to be fair!"

I know. But sometimes we have to limit what we can dole out. A part of me would love to see rapists tortured, child molesters castrated, murderers executed, and guys who attain their billions through unscrupulous means robbed of every last cent that they have. Yet, as much as this might feel like fairness, we would be turning the legal system into a fierce brute with infinite power to right wrongs, at the expense of its own claims to moral superiority and with the potential to unjustly ruin more lives in the process due to mistakes that are bound to occur.

Imagine if this woman named the wrong man? Does that guy get to splash acid in the face of the Iranian government at that point? Personally, I don't give a damn, since it is there government, and they probably haven't mistakenly fingered the wrong person. But, I certainly do not want to see that system over here.

And, one last thing:
"I know if it were someone close to me that this was done to, I would want to met out the justice myself."
We all would. And that is why we are not allowed to do so. A victim and those close to the victim cannot be trusted to have an unbiased assessment of the situation, and to deliver justice in a way that won't be unfair and itself provoke an instance of counter-vengeance in response to the first instance of revenge being too extreme. The equilibrium of justice in that situation would only settle when they got tired of inflicting harm on one another. It's why we need a justice system, technically unbiased intermediates who can add a little more of a semblance of fairness to such tragedies, and who can add an air of finality to it.

Asylum Seeker said...

But, in case I haven't made this clear already: I would've done the same thing. If the choices were between karmic retribution and a cash settlement, I would go with the eye for an eye every time. Especially if it would prevent the criminal in question from harming others (which was her motivation).

Harvey said...

It seems to me that this discussion, like many ethical discussions, boils down to whether the suggested behavior can be applied universally and still remain "fair" or "appropriate" to the offense. This is much like philosophers trying to define "good" by universalizing it to see if remains "good" however it is applied.
This logically leads to whether or not when society metes out punishment for an offense it should represent vengeance or prevention for future events. It is my opinion that society should only be rerponsible for trying to prevent repetition of crimes, either by incarceration (separation from the rest of society), rehabilitation where possible, or absolute prevention of future crimes. In other words, innocent people should expect our government to protect us from harmful activities of sociopathic individuals, to the extent that is possible, without unduly limiting the activities of law abiding citizens.
The death penalty for murder comes to mind. Allowing for the possibility of erroneous conviction, the death penalty is the only one that can truly be seen as preventive, i.e. the executed individual will certainly never be able to commit the same (or any other) crime again. In this sense, it is preventive, but it is clearly not a useful warning to others who might contemplate murder. On the other hand, execution is neither rehabilitative nor vengeful (to the perpetrator), since the murderer will not suffer any longer. As an aside, I have always felt that life in prison without hope of parole for proven murder is truly "vengeful" and, probably, cruel and unusual punishment. It has only one aspect that may be better than execution, in that it may be reversible in those cases wherein it turns out that the individual was not actually guilty of the crime.
All of our laws represent the accumulation of experience of all the societies (some of which, like Sharia law, are still practiced) that have gone before. The idea of an "eye for an eye" even predates Judaism. Our current system, although admittedly far from perfect, tries to balance our desire for vengeance and "punishment" with mercy and hope that at least some perpetrators can live out their lives without further offense and, perhaps in a few case, actually try to make amends for their crimes by finding ways to be contributors to society thereafter.

Asylum Seeker said...

"As an aside, I have always felt that life in prison without hope of parole for proven murder is truly "vengeful" and, probably, cruel and unusual punishment."

That's a good point. Death is just as preventative, so it works to remove the irredeemable from society just like life sentences, yet does so without forcing that person to spend the rest of their life rotting away in jail. Termination, plain and simple, rather than keeping them alive to suffer. In that sense, I guess I shouldn't oppose the death penalty, given that I also support euthanasia. The possibility of wrongful conviction does irk me still (especially in cases where the death penalty is applied to the mentally retarded, and disproportionately applied across racial demographics), but I guess I do not see a problem with it if we are dead certain of their guilt.

Harvey said...

Since neither God nor Nature allows us to see the future with perfect clarity (let alone the past, sometimes) wrongful conviction for a capital crime will always be a terrible possibility when the death penalty is carried out. Nevertheless, I think that as awful as that might be, finding out that one has been incarcerated for years before being found innocent, having had most of your productive life stolen from you and having separated you from everyone who might mean something in your life, could be almost as terrible. At least those who have been executed are not suffering any more.

Asylum Seeker said...

"Nevertheless, I think that as awful as that might be, finding out that one has been incarcerated for years before being found innocent, having had most of your productive life stolen from you and having separated you from everyone who might mean something in your life, could be almost as terrible."

True. Life might have actually been easier for them if they remained imprisoned at that point. There's a hell of a lot more stability than one could find when you have virtually no possessions, shelter, acquaintances, or job when you are suddenly thrust back into the world again. They might as well become a criminal for real at that point.