Authoritarians and activists both operate on a fatal premise, which is that vengeance is justice.
Vengeance culture permeates every aspect of American life these days. The solution to every problem comes down to making someone pay! From the wretched legal institutions that are focused entirely on punishment rather than reform, to those who protest those institutions and everyone in between, the destructive ideology of vengeance has become the primary demand.
In my last article I talked about how jail is a living hell. It was disturbing to see how many people responded with – “Well, it’s not supposed to be a vacation!”
Well, no, it is not. But that doesn’t mean it has to be torture, either. If the goal is to break the cycles of violence and criminality in individuals, subjecting them to inhumane torment is going to have the exact opposite effect. Abolishing prisons as we know them would actually decrease crimes of aggression.
The accountability movement is also vengeance orientated. They want police to pay!
Accountability is just a nice way of saying vengeance. When the general public talks about being held accountable, they are talking about someone getting what they have coming!
As we like to say around here, NO VICTIM – NO CRIME.
And if there is a victim, unless they are a sadist of some sort, vengeance will do little to restore them. And so vengeance culture has us focusing on criminals, rather than their victims.
A sound alternative to institutional vengeance culture is gaining more and more notice – restorative justice.
After a series of meetings to prepare both sides, the “circle” takes place. Both parties get a chance to talk about the crime, what motivated it and how they were affected — which often elicits empathy on both sides. The parties agree on a way the offender can repair the harm he’s caused, and this is overseen by the group’s facilitator, who ultimately reports to the probation office.
Anarchists of all stripes have been discussing restorative justice and other similar alternatives to deal with victimization outside of criminalization for quite awhile now.
Yet before that can happen it needs to be reflected in the hearts and desires of humanity in general. The change must begin with individual attitudes about what constitutes restoration and justice.
Right now the social and political climate is teeming with vengeance. The democrats hate the republicans and one group of protesters wouldn’t mind seeing the other come to harm. Vengeance culture begins and ends in us. So long as we are focused on divisive hatred and us versus them mentality, it will continue.
There is but one enemy of humanity and that is the state. It is a tool by which a ruling class is constructed on the work of the middle class and the misery of the lower classes who are systematically held down to give the middle classes something to fear. But even those who occupy the ruling class are victims of their terrible ideologies and spend their lives in a constant greedy struggle for more. The more you have, the less you can have, and the more you struggle with your own hubris and avarice.
The state and the ruling class aren’t doing anyone any favors, even if we often believe otherwise. By destroying our humanity, they destroy each and every last human.
Ultimately, the state is an institute of vengeance. It gives a monopoly of force to a government so that it can conduct vengeance against those who harm its citizens. But more often, the state is primarily concerned with conducting vengeance against those who would harm it. That is it’s very nature.
Humanity has come a very long way. Technology will make the state and its functions, as well as the ruling class, obsolete. Scarcity, which drives them, is something we can overcome. As we wait for scientists, engineers, innovators and inventors to set up the necessary conditions for a truly free, peaceful and prosperous humanity, we have one thing to do. We must exorcise our childish, petty desire for vengeance, and tame the hatred and fears which drive create that bloodlust.
It is no small task, to be sure. But the reward is no less than our liberty, freedom, autonomy, self-ownership and independence in all matters. If we cannot complete the task, the endless hunger of the state and the ruling class will eventually swallow humanity in their excess. It would be a shame if we came all this way for nothing.
It is time to look forward to what is possible, rather than backwards at what must be avenged.
Are you with me?