We’re still executing people in the name of justice.

hangmans_knotFrom my reading of history, we have been executing people in the name of justice for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Execution has always been, and remains, a barbaric act, no matter how popular or how sophisticated the method used to despatch the victim.

In my corner of the world, the Indonesian justice system is preparing to execute two young Australians, who have been on death row in Bali for the last ten years, now that the newly installed Indonesian President has denied their application for a presidential pardon. Their crime was attempting to smuggle drugs into Australia from Indonesia. If they had been arrested in Australia, they would probably be out on parole by now. But hey, they’re tough on drug smugglers in Indonesia, and these boys are not the first Australians to die from a drug related misadventure in Asia – and they probably won’t be the last either.

Last week, Jordan executed two prisoners, who had been on death row in that country for years, in retaliation for the execution of a captured Jordanian pilot by terrorists in Syria. Was that justice in action or an act of vengeance designed to send a signal, that there would be no more talk of prisoner swaps, to the terrorist in neighbouring Syria?

Every year people are executed in the name of justice, in places where you’d think we could do better. Amnesty International has been compiling the figures, if you’re interested. The increasing number of countries (98 by 2013) where capital punishment has been abolished is encouraging, but the increasing number of executions is not. And God only knows how many people are executed in China each year, because the Chinese are too secretive (embarrassed?) to release figures that Amnesty could use to shame them.

People make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes cost other people their lives. Other times those mistakes break some legal taboo with a mandatory death sentence attached. Some people realise the magnitude of their mistake, and go on to lead exemplary lives once they have served their time in prison. Others are unable to mend their ways.

When we execute the mistake maker, in the name of justice, we close off any possibility for rehabilitation for that individual.

From my perspective, what we call justice is often no more than retribution or abuse of power.

I look forward to the day we embrace forgiveness and compassion as essential components of our justice system, and we move on from any notion that justice involves retribution. Yes, in such a justice system people will still go to prison – but not to be executed.

So, how civilised are we?

Thanks for dropping by, Peter.

The image is from OpenClipArt.Org

Weapons of choice

How can you tell if you’re playing at being invulnerable? 

You can’t tell what you’re doing if you’re not prepared to spend some time observing what you actually do, daily. It’s a challenge I know, life seems to be so full and we’re always busy juggling things so that it all keeps going according to plan. So, if you don’t have all day to watch yourself in action, set aside a few minutes at the end of each day and reflect on your day.

I invite you to consider these brief descriptions of some of the weapons of choice for the invulnerable. This is not about feeling guilty. It’s about self-discovery, and requires some honesty. Read each of the descriptions and ask yourself: is this a weapon I choose?

Sarcasm: the use of irony to mock or convey contempt – a sharp sword for cutting others down to size. ‘Only a moron would think that was the right thing to do.’

Blame: assigning responsibility for a perceived fault or wrong to someone or something else – a pointed spear for jabbing others. ‘Look what you made me do!’

Shame: humiliating someone, especially in front of their peers – a heavy mace for crushing opponents. ‘Even my ten year old can do better than that!’

Denial: refusing to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or responsibility – a solid shield for defending yourself from an attack. ‘It wasn’t me!’

Closed mindedness: an unwillingness to consider new ideas – a complete suit of armour to protect you from doubt or being wrong. ‘If it’s in the bible, it’s the word of God, so it’s the truth.’

I know I feel a little uneasy when I become aware that I am wielding one or more of these weapons. If we’re not careful we can walk into a self-shaming ambush. Remember, it’s only when you become aware of your behaviour that you can do anything about it.

What can you do if find yourself using any of these weapons? First, forgive yourself. Most of us started using these weapons to protect ourselves as children, when we didn’t have all the information. Then, each time you become aware of wielding a weapon, stop, take a breath and remind yourself that you can choose another response.

You can choose to accept responsibility for your actions, you can offer a compliment or offer help instead of judgment, you can choose to listen instead of insisting that you’re always right. It’s not that hard to choose an alternative response – once you become aware of your automatic reactions. It’s impossible otherwise.

The best shield for protecting yourself from a perceived attack is recognising that the attack is taking place in your mind. Let’s not confuse this with physical attacks on your body. If you value the health of your body, move it out of harms way. If you find yourself with people who want to hurt your body, it’s time to consider why you’re hanging out with them. Time to choose new friends or ‘lovers’.

And, if you lay down your weapons, you may get a surprise. The world and the people in it look a lot different when you’re not looking at them from behind a weapon or from within a suit of armour.

Thanks for dropping by, Peter

The secret to forgiveness

If you rely on the dictionary, you probably believe forgiving is something you do to someone else. They do something wrong. You get to forgive them.

If you live with others, at some point no doubt, you’ve said those precious words: “I forgive you.” You’ve let the other off the hook and, maybe, you got to feel better about yourself.

I invite you to take another look at forgiveness.

If you are responsible for what you say, think, feel or do, can anyone actually offend you?

Sure, other people can say things we see as hurtful, but isn’t that an interpretation? If your boss (or lover) calls you an idiot or an incompetent fool, what makes those words offensive? They’re just words – unless you invest value in them.

Do you take offense because you value the other person’s opinion of you more than you value your own opinion of yourself? What other people say is simply their interpretation of the event. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, but that doesn’t make their opinion any more valid than your opinion, especially when it’s about you. Their opinion is feedback. Nothing more.

If someone does something you don’t like, for example cuts you off in traffic, who decides whether you get angry or not? Who makes it a road rage incident?

If you lose your job or your lover leaves you for someone else, who decides you have been betrayed?

It all comes back to you. So, if you’re angry at the world or feeling hard done by or insulted, take a look at the person in the mirror. There’s the person, the only person, you need to forgive.

Make a list of all the judgements you have made about people, events and yourself. This could take some time – if you’re really honest with yourself.

All of those judgements are nothing more than your opinions based on how you decided to see things at the time.

Remember, the way we see the world is based on our perceptions or beliefs. We all interpret things through our own personal filters. If the event does not meet our private, often hidden agenda, we judge it negatively. If it meets our agenda, we judge it positively.

We even have the nerve to assume we know what other people are thinking about us, and if we don’t like what we assume we judge them accordingly. This is how what one person thinks is a harmless remark made in jest can start a family feud, or a quarrel between lovers.

The secret to forgiveness is to forgive yourself for all your misinterpretations and judgements, so that you can release the other people in your life from your distorted pictures of them.

When you stop thinking about someone as a ‘bitch’ or a ‘selfish bastard’, you give yourself the opportunity to discover who’s really there in front of you.

Works for people who have left the planet as well, so don’t forget them in your forgiveness work.

Word of warning. Forgiveness can be challenging. You have to be honest with yourself and courageous enough to own your judgments. You don’t have to chase people up to apologise, it’s about self-correcting or re-booting your system. All re-boots are a fresh start.

When your’e ready, go to your list of judgements and start with, “I am willing to forgive myself for the judgment I made about (person/event/myself) and to release (person/event/myself) from my misperception.”

When you can get through the “I am willing to forgive…” without resistance, move on to “I forgive ….”

Don’t try and do it all in one afternoon. You’ve been accumulating all those ‘hurts’ and making all those judgements over a lifetime. Be gentle with yourself.

Now that you know what needs to be forgiven, you might want to pause each time you feel a judgement coming on.

If you need some help to get started, or simply want another perspective, take a look at www.wikihow.com/Forgive-Yourself

I wish you well,