Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Legacy Of "An Eye For An Eye"

Note: Aug 25 - Post Updated With Video -

Wikipedia: An Eye For An Eye

Certain people's words become even more ironic once a greater context is learned about a particular tool that they use. Such is the case with the notion "An Eye For An Eye".

Every time I hear this word I am made to think of US Rep John Lewis. Mr Lewis, a liberal, is famous for saying "In practicing 'An Eye For An Eye' only leaves us all blind and toothless". In summary Mr Lewis is arguing that such a strategy leads to a perpetual series of retributions.

Having learned about the origins of the word, Mr Lewis has no idea how clueless he is on the matter.

In watching a show about Jewish history I learned an important lesson on about how the word came to be. Whereas Lewis and other people of our modern age see the rule as an open door toward the expansion of violence it is the total opposite.

In early Jewish society the wealthy and powerful were able to carry forth an imbalanced set of retribution in response to the actions of a poor person. A poor person stealing a loaf of bread might have his arm cut off. A person breaking into some one's house might be killed.

The concept of "An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth" was actually a command to have the powerful to LIMIT their punishment upon a poor person to that which is proportional to the crime.

The Jewish history show detailed the fact that "the law" was celebrated as a "gift from God" within certain Jewish societies. The key point of the tradition is that God has given them the tools to craft a civil society and thus they are honored. Take a step back and compare this historical point with what we see today regarding people's view of criminal law and law enforcement. Today the concept is used to suppress nearly any punishment at all in that an equal rebuke leads to resentment for the criminal when a hug from the system would show that he is loved.

I am starting to come to the full understanding that the disposition assumed by some to be one of "social justice and empathy" is, in truth, a gateway to societal destruction as certain elements of the society lose respect for the community as they lose respect for the law.

1 comment:

Lady-Cracker said...

What a difference that clarification makes. I am so confused and conflicted about what we should do for punishment. I would love to see the cycle broken because I think that early intervention in many lives would result in less crime and less of a need for punishment.

I think almost all of us would commit crimes under some set of circumstances and that no intervention would get us all. I mean how the hell do you explain Bernie Madoff? How much do you need to steal. There have been numerous other recent instances of people defrauding and stealing here in Southern California. 8 million here, 1.3 million there. It is not that I am not larcenous, but ... isn't there some limit?