Justice

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Many people hold justice to be a fundamental moral principal: when someone does something wrong, they must be punished. When tempers grow hotter, we have a different word for justice, vengeance.

As a utilitarian (we really need a better word than utilitarian...), I do not think justice is fundamental. It's a means to an end: the knowledge that punishment will occur prevents people from doing bad things. To be believed you have to carry through and actually punish people when they do wrong. But punishment involves inflicting suffering and is, of itself, bad.

Justice works ok for changing peoples behaviours. Does it work on large groups of people? I doubt it. If a country does a bad thing, will punishing that country make them stop? Maybe, or maybe it will just piss them off further.

Old style justice sayes: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But if an eye is removed in error, it sparks a tit-for-tat exchange and everyone ends up blind. A system of justice should punish in less than equal measure to the hurt caused.

Asking two eyes for an eye, two teeth for a tooth, would be suicide: not only a never ending exchange but exponential escalation. But one of our people is worth more than one of theirs, so when they kill one of us it is morally necessary that we kill two or more of them. Justice demands it.

One Israeli life is worth ten Palestianian lives, and one Palestinian life is worth ten Isrealis. One Westerner is worth ten terrorists (or indeed ten people who happen to be in the same country as a terrorist, or possibly a closely neighbouring country), and one warrior of God is worth ten heathens.

I think this, and so do you. It's very hard not to. Imagine your neighbour, and imagine a family in Afghanistan. Which is more important? If you could save one or the other, which would you choose? My gut sayes: my neighbour, who has a cat called Kookie and grandchildren and grows veggies in her backyard. I don't know these people in Afghanistan. To rate each person equal takes real hard conscious effort. It just plain feels wrong even when you know it is right.

Respect your enemies. Take heart that death means as much to them as to you, and be sated killing just a few. Better yet, relax, let it go.




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