[A heavy topic, and some controversial comments - just think of sunshine and smile.]
Hanging & Capital punishment: it is pretty clear what makes this subject so divisive, but I’ve never really known where I myself stand on the subject. Most of the time I’m against it, but with some special cases I consider it an option. This must mean I am for restricted Capital Punishment, but I honestly am not sure I am.
I have no 'moral' objection to somebody being killed in the name of society - but I don’t believe in any form of objective morality, I believe morals are subjective, and largely based on societal norms – and I certainly don’t think of it as ‘evil’, but I don’t really like the idea of Capital Punishment either. H.P. Lovecraft (in one of his few really quotable lines) once wrote ‘The man of truth is beyond good and evil’ and this is the stance I take myself. Good and evil are ultimately illusions, like a lot of things humanity holds on to, rather like morals.
However, I was reading a book of George Orwell’s essays today in preparation for my next year at university and I read his essay, titled ‘A Hanging’ which reminded me of a topic that has recently been discussed on this site, and it got me thinking about Capital Punishment again.
Orwell's essay is written in his blunt style, and it’s rather moving because of this. Some of the people reported in the essay seem to care little about the fact that they have killed a fellow human being, and they apparently treated it like rather a job. Which, I suppose it would have both been, and become if you were involved in hangings long enough. Orwell was clearly horrified by this attitude in the essay, and some really dramatic passages come up, especially this:
Taken from 'A Hanging' on page 16 of George Orwell: Essays.
The crime the man committed is never mentioned or commented on. It does not seem important to Orwell. But is it important?
When Ted Bundy was put to death in 1989 I doubt more than a handful of people could have been upset, and an all-night observation was even kept around his prison by people actually waiting for him to die by electric chair. Was it wrong for those people to wish death on another human being because of the things he had done? Some would say yes. But was their loathing justifiable? Yes, again it was.
Ultimately: our opinion on capital punishment comes largely from our background, as our background tends to make us think one way or another, and an opinion based on convention is largely subjective, which makes an ultimate, final answer almost impossible to come to. We can hardly dispute that some rather awful people have been put to death, some wrongly accused have died, and some have died who could have been rehabilitated.
So is capital punishment right or wrong? I honestly don’t think it is either. In truth I still have not made a final decision, and for the time being I’m happy with that.
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