April 4th 2006

copyright don oddy

~ payback and retribution ~

When crime and punishment are examined we find the victims of crime often want to exact retribution. We feel the need for payback, we want some form of restitution. We want the natural order of justice. And justice is at the heart of loss. We see this in the news every day. We see the need for natural justice evoked for International crimes committed in recent times and we see the age old rights of justice exacted for International crimes decades and centuries ago.

How long do we hold on to retribution? For retribution held hard and fast keeps us stuck in history and leads to unknown consequences for those who want natural justice. Is it an eye for an eye, when we see terror and murder, and is it justified by natural law that we continue to hold this generation and past generations to account for crimes against our moral values and principles. How long can we hold to notions and beliefs which punish those who were acting out of their beliefs and their hurt and pain.

There seems to be a dilemma with modern International conflict which evokes great divides between countries and religions. We seem bound to old divisions and old ways of dealing with old issues made new by our generation and our response which is more violent and more devastating.

Middle East conflicts for centuries. And the modern conflicts of new nations in the making and we see the old vicious reactions which are handed down like gifts from past generations to make adversaries atone for old, old wounds. When do we hang up our past and let go to make room for new beginnings?

Africa, war torn for however long, made more poignant by modern weapons, fighting itself as other nations look on in horror. If the harshness of climate was not enough, the harshness of humans is the equal and delivers as much destruction.

The Americas for centuries has seen and born the brunt of conflicts, and in this modern age sees growing differences inside as masses turn to their roots and graft modernity on to old factions.

Asia, with strife over centuries and tribes and nation building. Drive, passion and motivation to hold their cultures and strive for dominance. And similarly Russia and Europe with divisions and ethnic ties, with brutal roots.

A world at war, with economics and revolutions in industry wreaking havoc. All based on property and belief and values. Principles of ownership and wealth. Ownership of right being primary in all these conflicts. Being right, being moral, evoking our faith in God and consequences. This modern age littered with old old scores to settle, since time began, man has fought his neighbour when the going gets tough. And grudges held from generations past kindle new and ever more frightening outcomes.

I saw a picture of a man caught in mid air, jumping from the twin towers in New York, fleeing without any chance of living from the flames of 9/11. It struck me that he in his last moments had experienced the despair felt by every person caught between and betwixt any conflict with murderous ends. He knew there was no way to survive, that whatever he would do his end was up. And with certainty and desperation took the option to jump. How many times do we see this happen and how many times has humanity faced this madness?

How can this insanity hold where we take to account not only the initiators of conflict, but their kin, their heirs and their heritage.

A man jumps away, a catch 22 with not viable outcome. And in the big picture when we see the violent end to pay back, how will we ever make sense of these times when we are able to stand far enough back to let go the past?

Nations stand and go to war, and so does each individual so long as retribution holds is fascination. Pay back! Where the strength of hate holds each and every citizen of the world to ransom. Retribution seems to have its consequences beyond the immediate satisfaction. And with liberal minds held in sway as the horror of atrocity destroys our human soul, we slide without thought backwards and downwards to our basest instincts.

How well developed is our humanity when we know without doubt the reasons for many conflicts, that negotiation and acknowledgement and acceptance of our past hold the key to our salvation?

We know from ancient times that old ways have always led to greater and more widespread tragedy, yet we believe we have the rights of pay back. We examine with good conscience what we can do, we make good and go about our warring with justice firmly in our grip and dispense ugly and atrocious acts as if justice were completely ours.

Touched by our desires, strong and resolute, we praise our folly with destruction which exacts the equal if not greater hurt upon those who have us wrong. And payback requires great sacrifice as we demand our pounds of flesh. And old writings show where it goes.

Across the nations of this earth we know that somewhere and somehow it ends. But not yet, for payback and natural justice is blind to consequence. We have in each of our lifetimes the examples and experience of hurt and pain, we rise or fall and decide and react so quickly, and repent without leisure. For these days consequences go on forever as memory is recorded and revered in our histories. We hold close our morals and principles, we find faith in our beliefs which bind us to our past, we evoke all elements with passion and expend our physical, emotional and spiritual selves to get our pay back.

There will come a time when old divisions and old notions have less sway and impact on the modern man. And we might ask where is this modernity in us. For it is here now and we know without doubt the consequences of our old habits and old ways. We know its not fair and we know it won?t last, but we hope it will pass us by. For as long as many can exact their pay back without consequence then our modern world is thrown back to uncivilised times.

Our catch 22 of the modern age is humanity moving forwards and not backward, with open minds to change our allegiances to the common good of all. And in all good conscience taking on board the passion of life, accepting responsibility for our own actions. Let go God in human conflict, let go blind justice without consequence, recognise an eye for an eye will not yield a peace of value, but a never ending war on ourselves.