martes, 19 de enero de 2016

Capital Punishment / Death Penalty

The terms "death penalty" and "capital punishment" are frequently used to mean the same thing. However, some people believe that a difference exists because "death penalty" refers to the penalty received and not necessarily its implementation while "capital punishment" refers to the execution itself. Other people believe that penalty means punishment and capital refers to death so any difference between the terms is negligible.

La pena de muerte es un signo peculiar de la barbarie. 
(Victor Hugo)

Estoy de acuerdo en que las sociedades decreten abolir la pena de muerte; pero que empiecen por abolirla los asesinos. 
(Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr)

Her Majesty called me and asked if it would be wise or necessary to abolish the Capital Punishment in the kingdom. When I told him I'm only a buffoon without knowledge as to advise on such an important political matter he smiled and added: Maybe not, but we both know is not true. In any case is not a political matter but a moral question, so no choice. What should I do? 

-- My Lord, we have inherited death penalty in our law system and, effectively, it may be the moment to think about it. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are only a few: first degree murder, terrorism, treason and espionage. It has been practiced by most societies as a punishment for criminals, and political or religious dissidents. Historically, the carrying out of the death sentence was often accompanied by torture and executions were (and in some countries still are) most often public. In our days 36 countries actively practice capital punishment, 103 countries have completely abolished it, 6 have abolished it for ordinary crimes only (while maintaining it for special circumstances such as war crimes), and 50 have not used it for at least 10 years. No Western country still uses it except the USA. Nearly all countries in the world prohibit the execution of individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes; only a few countries (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan) maintain it. These countries have not signed the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child that prohibits it or simply flout it. 

Capital punishment is a matter of active controversy, and positions can vary within a single political ideology or cultural region. The EU and also the Council of Europe (47 member states) prohibits it. Although many nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60% of the world's population live in countries where executions take place, such as China, India, the USA and Indonesia.

What is behind is the moral right to kill someone who can't defend himself? Seems that an advanced society should not condemn someone to death without at least trying to convert the individual in benefit to society. It is always surprising that we kill people who kill people because killing people is wrong. Out of times of war of course, but here ... better not to enter now. Your Majesty knows that wars are not easy to defend because they usually cover only money reasons.

This said, it all depends from what position we start to arrive to one conclusion or an other. It is comforting to imagine that notions of right and wrong, good and bad, come predefined by some external authority (god), that there is already a moral map and that our job is merely to work out how to navigate it, to find our way to the correct place. It is comforting because such a believe protects us from from the responsibility (even error) of truly having to make moral choices; we just accept or reject was is already explicit and decided. Once we required such comfort because human society was not sufficiently developed to imagine how we could create our own moral map. Today we require such comfort because we have lost faith in our ability to be moral cartographers, leading many to recoil at the very thought of humans as moral map makers.

Questions of morality do not have an objective answer in the way science has, but neither are they merely expressions of subjective desire or taste. To say that torture is wrong or truthfulness is good is very different from stating that the speed of light is close to 300.000 m/s or that DNA is double helix. Or also different as liking one film or one music play. But if everyone would believe that torture is good, this would damage our lifes, the society, in a fundamental way. Moral questions may not have an objective answer but they have a rational one, answers rooted in rationality that emerges out from social need. To define a rational answer to a moral question requires social engagement and collective action. 

To decide if Capital Punishment is right or not, if as humans we have the right to take the life for what we consider antisocial acts, we should first understand what is to be human, what humans should be, and the relationship between the two. The loss of faith in our capacity to act rationally and morally makes us more radical in our view of society and her rights over individuals.

Is clear that a society needs laws to continue and evolve in benefit of citizens, that some attitudes cannot be accepted if they truly damage this development and that people that actively do real acts against society must be put aside. If they have to be eliminated or not will depend on our ability to "reconvert" them after having analyzed their acts (not the thoughts, thoughts have to be free) and find a place for them to still be able to be productive for the society and develop personally. All this as long as we are not able to develop something which is by far more important: the understanding and total cooperation with all humans to improve our surrounding environment and together advance in the way of mankind towards a goal that we can and should define together.

The king gave me permission to retire. I guess he will change some laws in the kingdom.

2 comentarios:

  1. It is always surprising that we kill people who kill people because killing people is wrong.

    ¿Entonces les ponemos TV, radio y patio además del vis a vis y los recluimos? Cierto que sin libertad pero vida cómoda.. ¿?¿?

  2. Gracias Herminio,
    Hay métodos más refinados o más bestias. Quizá valdría la pena pensar en ellos. Invisibilidad social sería uno. Medio ojo por ojo otro, pero irían en contra del intento de redimir; en realidad serían más una venganza.
    El debate está abierto ... :))