In this post, I am going to write about what I subjectively consider to be one of the most problematic facets of human behaviour, a dynamic which I shall refer to as ‘legitimized abuse’, a very prevalent form of moral hypocrisy.
Definition of legitimized abuse
The definition I am giving to legitimized abuse is as follows: legitimized abuse is when one or more individuals behave in a way towards one or more individuals which, under different circumstances, or in different contexts, the perpetrators would consider abuse.
Examples of legitimized abuse
The number of examples of legitimised abuse I could cite are potentially limitless, so I shall cite only a few, separating them into different posts. What is interesting about all of them is that they all tend to arise from a so-called sense of morality in the perpetrators, a sense of morality which, in the vast overwhelming majority of cases, is directly shaped by the ‘reward and punishment’ style of parenting, and ‘conditional’ parenting in general. This begins very early on in a child’s life, when they are subjected to hearing frequent use of the words ‘bad’ and ‘good’ by their parents. The subsequent understanding and application of these highly subjective terms, coupled with the inevitable identification with them, creates a permanent perceptual filter in the child concerned, through which the child will be destined forever more to go through life continually labelling everything (and everyone) as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and the different variations and gradations of this, i.e. ‘nice’ or ‘evil’. The tendency towards these behaviours will vary from person to person depending upon the level and intensity of exposure the individual had to these ‘splitting’ behaviours, and will also be influenced by other factors such as cognitive and/or emotional intelligence.
Example One: The criminal justice system
Entire dissertations could be written about the efficacy of the criminal justice system. The premise behind imprisoning someone, or giving them the death penalty, is that the person in question has done something bad, i.e. killed someone, therefore the person in question must be bad, and therefore, must be punished. There are a number of problems with this, namely the incapacity to distinguish between ‘doing bad’ and ‘being bad’. Refuting the idea that it is possible to do something bad would lead to a debate on moral relativism, which is not the entire purpose of this essay, so I shall, for the sake of this essay adopt the ideological viewpoint that it is in fact possible to do bad, and that some actions are incontrovertibly bad. Even adopting this stance does not cancel out the simple fact that there is a difference between doing bad, and being bad. The second problem I have with the idea of ‘punishing’ criminals is that I do not believe that, from a bigger picture perspective, punishment is an effective catalyst for self-improvement, since there is a direct and very obvious link between punishing a behaviour, and the subsequent suppression of that behaviour. Suppression is not a ‘cure’, which may be why so many prisoners who return to society go on to commit the same crimes again.
Most attempts to even suggest that our society takes a fresh look at criminality, and even endeavour to assess root causes of crime, are met with derision and dismissal. The simple truth is that most people consider this too much effort. And so, how do we respond to the presence of crime in our society?
We choose to remove the physical freedom of prisoners, we take away their civil liberties, we dehumanise them, continually spread the narrative that they are no longer human, lock them in cells, serve them food which is often mouldy or contains maggots, we dismiss the idea that they have, or ever did have, any redeeming features whatsoever, tell them that they are worthless, bad and evil, deprive them of sufficient physical exercise and access to fresh air and deprive them of access to enough sunlight. Worst of all, we take some prisoners, remove them entirely from the main bulk of the prison population, then place them in complete solitary confinement, where they are lucky to even get a few words spoken to them in a day by guards who bring them meals. This last punishment is a particularly vile way to treat any human being; one of the most staggeringly obvious examples of vengeance for the sake of vengeance I have ever personally seen. The damage done to a human being who is placed in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time will be incalculable, since the common expression “human beings are a social species” applies to all human beings, including people who end up in prisons. The desire to connect with other human beings, whether verbally, on a shallow level, intellectually or emotionally is innate to all people, so to completely isolate any human is sadistic beyond belief and will inevitably result in any number of problems, with psychosis being the most likely of all.
Which finally brings me to how this qualifies as ‘legitimised abuse’. Imagine that several individuals forcibly restrain someone, kidnap them, take them to a large, warehouse type building, dump them in a small room with limited to no lighting and then leave them there, letting them out periodically to eat. In this scenario, let us also suppose that at some point, the person is taken out of this small room, is transported to another building, is sat in a chair which has been electrified and is then tortured to death by electrocution with a bag tied over their head until their eyeballs pop out and they shit themselves. Sound horrendous, doesn’t it? This is the reality of what the most powerful country in the world regularly does to living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings, on an organised and government-funded level.
Now, at this point, I can almost hear the moral absolutists whining: “But they deserved it! They’re bad people! They’re evil”, like a whiny four-year-old whom has just discovered what the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean. This is what makes the scenario described above ‘legitimized’ abuse. Under any other circumstances, the people who support the punishment of criminals would fiercely condemn the kidnapping, imprisonment and in some cases, torture of a human being, but will happily turn this on it’s head when the individual concerned is perceived, through their perceptual filter, as ‘bad’, therefore deserving of being treated like something less than an animal. These kind of people would undoubtedly describe kidnapping, imprisoning and torturing someone as abuse, if these behaviours were perpetrated against someone whom they subjectively view as ‘virtuous’, but have no problem with their taxes going towards funding this kind of treatment of a person whom they subjectively view as ‘bad’, ergo: it is ‘legitimized abuse’.