Archives of Pain:
Give them the respect they deserve....

by Sheraz Qureshi

By arguing in favour of the death penalty, I am proposing that for murders, rapists, paedophiles, people who commit acts of terror – I am proposing that in circumstances where there is an overwhelming burden of proof. the death penalty should be used as punishment.

The reason why the punishment of death should work – is that it plays on societies greatest fear. The hopelessness that we feel the moment we first realise that our existence is momentary.

But I’d like to start by detailing the mechanism in more detail. I oppose the electric chair. I oppose the idea of a ‘lethal injection.’ The status quo in areas such as Texas where the death penalty is used is that executions are carried out in a clinical way – using techniques that ‘minimise suffering.’ We are assured for example that hanging results in an instant death because the neck instantly snaps, the idea behind the lethal injection is that it uses modern medical knowledge to make the transition from life to death as painless and quick as possible.

Well – of course in this context the death penalty doesn’t work!

I believe in the death penalty as a deterrent. This means that executions must be more gruesome. Imagine an executioner, armed with a blunt axe, repeatedly hacking away at the guilty’s neck. Imagine someone being hung drawn and quartered. Imagine torture as an art form solely concerned with maximising suffering.

I am concerned with the knock on societal impact, and this is why I propose that daily news bulletins contain reports in which people are reminded of how bloody and painful death can be. This is why I propose that stadiums the size of Wembley are filled with onlookers; imagine – the revulsion, imagine the spectacle. Imagine the increased feeling of justice. And this is why I think – in this new, proposed context, the death penalty can work as a deterrent – because we are transforming the punishment of death from something that is clinical and silent, to something that is brutal and publicly broadcast.

So firstly, why does the deterrent work. Society uses fear all the time. We are constantly made aware of ‘the other’ whether it’s the USSR, Al Qaeda, or the right wing press and the inflated perception of crime that it leaves people with. Fear is used to make us conform. And to reinforce our sense of loyalty to government. If fear can be used to generate obedience, then why can’t fear be used to deter criminals.

My second argument relates to legitimacy. The state has an army. The state has a police force. The principle that it is ok for the state to use death as a means to secure or reinforce its own interests already exists. If we accept the principle that its ok for the state to shoot foreign soldiers why isn’t it ok for the state to shoot murders aswell? I argue that death has been used as a tool of control for centuries. And that the origin of this can be traced to religion which used a fear of mortality as a basis for the imposition of artificial structures relating to morality. In the modern context, if the fear of death can be used to help deter people from committing crime, and if historical precedent has shown it to be an effective tool, why shouldn’t the state use death as a means of ensuring the maintenance of societal norms?

My third argument is based on freedom and desire. Why is the death penalty viewed as so inhumane? Surely it makes more sense to put someone out of their misery then allow them to perpetually suffer with the burden of guilt for 50 years in prison? Even if the execution is bloody, that one moment of violence is surely more humane then the concept of prison, in which someone is kept in isolation from society. Surely execution is more humane then separating someone from the people that they love – and surrounding them with people who in the most high security of prisons are likely to do nothing but reinforce a negative world view? The most humane thing to do – is to free the condemned. Even if freedom in this sense means death. ….Survivals as natural as sorrow

Secondly linked to this point – is the idea of desire. Sources from times gone by tell us of crowds gathered in their 1000s to watch the guilty be hanged. We argue that this is indicative of the need that society feels to see justice carried out. The status quo denies victims of this right. And is bias in favour of the accused. The proposition is in favour of victims. Anyone can regret yesterday.

My fourth argument relates to the rights of man. Why do we believe that everybody has the right to live? No matter what? Is it because we are concerned with what is in societies best interests. Or is it because without even realising the normative foundations on which western society is based are still intrinsically linked to a post Christian mindset. If a dog mauled a baby, it would be put down without anyone giving it a second thought. We wouldn’t ask the dog to enter a correctional facility where it could be trained to learn between right and wrong. So why should a murder be treated differently. Why should someone who blows up a bus be treated differently. What is it that makes mans right to life more worthy then other species. There is an inconsistency here…

My final argument concerns print capatilism: In medieval times, if a public execution took place, the only people who would see it would be those in the immediate area. Even with newspapers, in circumstances where the majority of the population were illiterate, it wasn’t possible to broadcast the full horror of death. The advent of print capitalism thus provides the opportunity to act as a point of departure. With modern media and technology being used to reinforce punishment as core to national identity, maximising the deterrent value in a way that wasn’t possible before. I also argue that there is willingness from society for this measure. As soon as someone is defined as a subclass society justifies treating them in increasingly brutalised ways. In the past we saw this in Rome’s gladiatorial contests, Britain in Ireland, apartied in South Africa. In modern day society, this kind of separation still exists, just look at the way refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants are treated. Criminals are also viewed as a subclass rather then a group in need of help. The Sun and the Daily Mail (useful as markers for popular opinion) regularly run pieces criticising the government for not being tough enough on crime – and whenever politicians run in elections and promise to treat criminals more harshly – they see their popularity rating increase. So long as there is a continuing emphasis on punishing criminals, rather then addressing the socio-economic circumstances that resulted in people turning to crime in the first place, the idea of a re-introduced death penalty doesn’t seem as radical a proposal as it may first seem.

Im going to finish with four questions, which if you disagree with me I want answered

1. Why is it ok for the state to have an army but not to shoot murderers?

2. Why do you want to deny the right of victims to see justice being done?

3. In circumstances where historical precedent (religion) has shown fear can work as a detterent, why shouldnt a secular state employ the same methods to ensure social cohesion?

4. Abandoning post judo / christian normative assumptions, why does everyone, no matter what, have a right to life?

Article by Sheraz Qureshi from Experiments in Living