Recently, I was reading an article by The Marshal Project which spoke of the evolution of sentiments about the death penalty. They said something in a way that wasn’t worded well. They claimed that in the 1990s, capital punlishment became about restitution to the victims. That’s not true. Revenge on the part of the victims has been around forever but what did change was that it became an identity politics issue and that, in an emotinal sense, murder victims became cancer patients. That execution became a means of validating and respecting the emotions of the victim’s side as a form of therapudic closure.
That’s significantly darker in some ways and quite weird. Weird in turning an act so cold and punk into something so warm and fuzzy. To say in a teary voice “Your desire for revenge is valid and our yoga drum circle will accomodate it” is dystopian. It is a very Swiftesque approach to revenge, too. As I have complained before, Taylor Swift’s philosophy is hateful and somewhat sociopathic. When she writes revenge songs about people, one question is the degree to which she wants them to suffer because that answer is far north of nothing but it is not a vice or neutral but is right that they suffer because she is their victim.
This is all a dark side to the hypersensitivity that is seldom discussed, Jonathan Haight talks about the “coddling of the American mind” but this coddling’s biggest issue is not its empathy but its ironic solipsistic lack of empathy. I have been bullied visciously and when I talk about it, I am shocked at the responses I get. That I should have beat them up, gotten someone to beat them up, or I should have called the police. Forgetting all of the practical issues with those options, the complete lack of compassion it would require to injure or incarcerate them over disgusting but relatively moderate acts of cruelty is not a lack of compassion I can muster.
It can also be seen in phenomena like ghosting. The world needs to respect the valid emotions of the ghoster, according to them, because if something makes them uncomfortable, they should have the right to walk away. They are always a victim and it is their solemn right to take the measures needed to emotionally nurse themselves. The pettiest species of cowardice has become a matter of victims’ rights. This system is, again, not more empathetic but significantly less. Sensitivity is often good but it’s not when it is hypocritical and callous to the suffering of others. Turning an execution chamber, a literal or metapnorical one, into a therapy session of closure not only serves to increase the suffering of one side, it is also a melodramatic comfirmation of the cognitive bias-skewed narrative of the victim’s side and absolves them of all responsibility. Victims are not cancer patients, they are the sorry residents of Saint Augustine’s “City of Man”. Not a melodrama but a place where everything is fallen and broken.