Retribution Inequality

I saw a question/frustration posed by someone in a writing group that piqued my thoughts (and a response) about retribution. It happened over a month ago, but it has stayed on my mind and will continue to stay there as an example of what not to think. This has relevance to Monday’s post, as it follows along the same type of thinking and how to view others.

The writer was bothered about a bad guy being killed off. Him dying was not the issue.

She took issue with the fact that the villain was dispatched in a second, gone, dead, poof, finished. Nearly instantly.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, she said that he didn’t even know he was going to die, unlike his victims. He didn’t suffer, unlike his victims. He didn’t cower in fear, unlike his victims.

And she asked: Where’s the justice in that?

At first glance it almost seems like she has a point, but take a step back and remember schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Let’s remember one very, very clear fact here: there is no more final punishment than death. Poof, gone, finished, that person is gone. Anything less and they have the hope of living. Death is very, very powerful. But it’s only a final punishment.

Torture is keeping someone alive while causing them pain. It is a cruel and inhumane thing to do. What is the point of torture? To cause pain and suffering. But it’s more than just causing pain. It has another component. It is also to take pleasure in the misfortune of the person being tortured.

Now we have a villain in a story. A vile, evil person who does terrible things. Things that require the justice of death to be placed upon him. The bad villain dies, justice is accomplished. Keeping him alive, making him feel fear, torturing him because we’ve relabeled him as a “villain” instead of a “person,” that’s torture. Not justice.

Even with all that I can see someone can still have some mental wiggle room, thinking that someone was so heinous that it really is deserved. Take another step back and recall the reason for the criminal committing the act in the first place, for they are doing it usually for the same reasons: taking pleasure in someone’s pain. Even if someone may “deserve” it, we shouldn’t relish in the pain of another human being, especially if we want to be the moral superiority.

Remember, people are people, and death is the final punishment. There is no point in making a villain suffer for their crimes if death is the punishment justice calls for. No point other than creeping closer to that same mentality that that same villain had – as said elsewhere, falling to their level.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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