If we accept Darwin’s theory of evolution we would have to agree that human life has been a constant endeavor to evolve and be civilized. While physical evolution has been incidental, it is the psychological evolvement that we consciously endeavor for in all aspects of life. Psychological evolution presents many epistemological and methodological challenges. For example the idea of justice and equality, I think, has been the toughest idea to comprehend and bring consensus on.
The gruesome crime committed on 16th of December 2012 in Delhi has brought many such fundamental questions back on the discussion table. The spontaneous eruption of countrywide protests in the aftermath of the incident and continuous ongoing reports of heinous crimes against women has shaken everybody’s conscience and also questioned the very essence of humanity in many ways. Once such a crime as rape is committed what could possibly be the appropriate punishment for the convicts of the crime? What if the convict is a juvenile? If the rape victim survives what is the appropriate method of rehabilitating and restoring her dignity and honor?
Apart from these, I think, the issue also raises deep question around how much of importance our society gives to forgiveness, reformation, genuine repentance and reintegration of a convicted criminal back into society. Every religion has given prime importance to the concept of forgiveness and repentance however as a society we humans appear to be quite intolerant towards both these factors. Infact no forgiveness or repentance ever appear to be complete, genuine or unconditional, nor is there a way to measure if we have reached the desired level with respect to either of these qualities. Also criminals present a very unique dilemma – they are a burden on the society no matter where they are, whether as part of regular society, as they could cause irreparable damage, or as prisoners locked up in a prison, as they then become beneficiary of a system that is created out of our pockets. At the same time psychologically death penalty or capital punishment has been something that many want to do away with and awarding of such a punishment has been viewed as a mark of backwardness.
The more I think of it the more complicated the matter gets and all solution seem wrong and right at the same time! I guess this is what will keep us humans in the ‘Work in Progress’ bracket and hope that with psychological evolution we make better choices among the contradictory trade offs.