Justice and Punishment -Is There Any Room Left for Mercy?

When there is a crime, there is a suitable punishment for it. This is how our society functions. This is how the order of things are maintained and chaos is brought to a minimum. But how exactly does it function? Where did it all start? How exactly did our society, being a collection of complex human beings, decide on which actions are considered a crime and how should the punishment be done?

Compassion and Justice

In the eyes of Buddha, there is always room for compassion. There should always be mercy; mercy given to those who do not deserve it will come back to you tenfold. Unfortunately, our society does not function that way.

In the old days, crimes are actions that go against authority. Anything that you do that is against your chieftain, your liege, your master, or your emperor is automatically considered a crime that is punishable by death. Any crime that goes against or harms another human being is brought to the “authority” to be decided upon. But that still doesn’t answer our question, right? What made us decide on this process of segregating crime and selecting the punishment for such a crime? For this, we look at two individuals whose very lives were spent on defining the mysteries of how human society functioned and evolved.

Humanity is still Evolving

Simply put, as humanity evolves from one society to another, so does the nature of good and evil. Back in the day when slavery was considered the norm and women’s rights weren’t exactly respected by our society, thievery was considered a grave offense. In the 18th century, when most of the European major powers were at war with each other, treason became a capital offense and was subject to the punishment of death by either hanging or a firing squad. Militaries would often issue strict rules about sharing information and one loose lip from one of its soldiers would mean severe punishment or even death. During the Second World War, Russian troops who dared to disobey their officers or run away from battle would be shot to death and declared traitors to their country.

Thus, is there still any room of compassion truly left for our brothers and sisters? I believe that there is still hope. Even if compassion is absent, hope is always everywhere. And with hope lies faith in mankind. Even Buddha still believes in the human heart.