Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is capital punishment justified in Norway?

On a weekend when 80-odd young people lie dead and Amy Winehouse also died I find myself feeling pretty flat. Tomorrow the agent of Norway's killing gets his chance to air his views, and justify his actions, in the courtroom.

That no air will ever again pass the lips of scores of Norway's best young people seems insufficient to prevent his grandstanding. Were I a parent I am not sure I could easily countenance that indulgence at this time. This man should, at this early stage, be forced to stay silent. This is not his time.

I am not a pacifist but I really struggle with the notion of killing. Being able to do it, I mean. There are moments, perhaps in extreme self-defence, when ending another's life seems just about imaginable. But to take life after life, to hunt people like rats takes some kind of deranged detachment.

Each life ended in a solitary moment by a single shot was one nurtured by hundreds of thousands of mindful actions of love by others. Today, the lives of tens of thousands - parents, siblings, friends, teachers, uncles, aunts - will have been changed permanently. Every death does that. Needless, shocking deaths like this are never truly gotten over.

Which brings us onto the perpetrator. If my children had been among those slain, I am sure I would, on the day after, be happy to personally avenge what happened. This feeling would, I suspect, be replaced, in the following weeks, by a desire for judicial killing. But this defies my intellectual belief that good societies do not kill even people like this. Yet while my children had been robbed of theirs, their killer living would be difficult to take.

What I am saying is that after this incident, I am not sure my liberal convictions on capital punishment could stand the test that those parents are going to go through once the shock of what has happened has subsided and grief takes it long toll.


Jonathan Flowers said...

As ever, thought provoking - and I understand where you are coming from. The newspaper accounts from today were terrific.

Specific cases test the reality of abstract propositions. In that spirit I suppose a relevant question is - what would you wish to happen if it was _your son_ who had killed those others?

A very hard thing to imagine!

But relevant perhaps if we are bringing the intensely strong emotional tie of parenthood into the equation.

Jonathan Flowers said...

In the comment above I didn't mean "terrific" - at least in the popular sense of that term. In my haste I conflated terrifying and horrific.

Robert Ashton said...

I think we all need to hear what this guy has to say. His justification for his appalling actions, together with his rationale for saying he is innocent of any crime must be heard. Not for his gratification, but so that we can all better understand why extreme right wing activism is a threat to us all.

A Christian recently told me I'd be struck deaf because I refused to give up all to follow his extreme ideology. I'm not deaf, which rather proves that his god doesn;t work in a vindictive way - but experience gave me an insight into how people can veer off track.

So - let's hear the story and become better able to stop anthing like this happening again

Rob Fountain said...

I agree Robert that the perpetrators justification needs to be heard. Dismissing him and his acts as evil or mad does us no good in understanding what thread of argument lead someone to such an extreme.

I don't, however, believe we should hear his justification direct. The chillingly choreographed acts he has committed thus far seem to have been directed at the end game of having a public stand to have his say. He cannot be given this - the control of events must now be taken from him, he must, as Craig says, be silent (externally).

If it were my son who had killed in this way? I would want to know why, would want to try and understand how he could have done this, what influences may have taken him off at such an outrageous tangent from society. But today I could not stand to hear a single word from him that was not 'sorry.'

Anonymous said...

Hear what he has to say then put him in the chair; we can analyse and understand as much as we want but the fact of the matter in my honest opinion is that this man deserves to die for his actions, there is no place on this planet that he deserves to breathe our air, procrastinate, and develop his notoriety and probably engage in a couple of prison weddings; incarcerted or not. It's a no brainer. We dont hesitate when a dangerous dog kills or even injures in some cases. End of argument. Forgiveness has its place in our society, but there are some boundaries and limitations to that in my opinion. As my Uncle once said to me "when i die make sure i have a cigar in my top pocket cos its going to be hot where im going!"