Sunday, July 20, 2008
Discipline and punishment have gone a long way from the ancient ritual of brutal direction of assault on the human body. Making a public spectacle out of it makes discipline and punishment more horrifying. Why not, when the dehumanizing act may well condition the viewing crowd in such a way that they might feel nothing of the cathartic emotions of pity (for the criminal) and fear (for their own possible brutalization) and, worse, perversely enjoy the carnage unfolding before their very eyes. The psychological effect of such a terrible consequence for social deviation was far more reaching because both the erring victim and the watchers got dehumanized as well as the latter are considerable participants to a crime against humanity, notwithstanding if the suffering human deserved his punishment or if the punishment was part or already the means of behavior-corrective measure.
Gone were the days of criminals being torn asunder by oppositely pulling horses or other such vicious castigations on the fellow human. The human justice system has found a way to turn the disciplinary technique into the seemingly innocuous penal colony where criminals are subjected to the same proportions of brutality. It is not hard to tell that the same elements of punishment exist: power is still wielded, and the bars are engineered in such a way that one can easily be seen by the panopticon, the all-seeing icon which replaced the public spectators. Most importantly, the psychological inculcation of the oppression has made the power invisible in such a way that even if the wardens are not present anymore, the convicts can hardly tell because they are the ones being gazed and even as they stare in return, at what vantage point can the wardens be seen? The case is disempowering, and it is safe to say the invisible power of the oppressor has rendered the criminals into becoming the panopticon themselves: the convicts feel they are permanently observed and examined, in effect imbibing a behavior that is normalized and reformatory.