An eye for an eye is not justice

Dear Editor,

Being "dissed" in Jamaica, verbally or otherwise, is one of the primary triggers of crime, especially murders.

Being disrespected, especially in public or among acquaintances, easily disarms one of self-control. Disrespect tests your vulnerability and strengths as seen in the case of the Clarendon murders, if the report is true.

Unfortunately, in Jamaica, and the world at large, when you are dishonoured publicly but you do not apply the required physical retaliation or counter-attack, you are viewed as a weak fence, pushover, "saffaz", or a "bwoy". You, therefore, lose the "ratings" of the community. In other words, violence has become a cultural indoctrination which, ironically, is reinforced by the very ones who bemoan it.

Some hardened disciples of mob justice mistakenly think that reactive justice gains endorsement from the scriptures by erroneously quoting an eye-for-an-eye prescription without recognising that justice is the message and not necessarily same for same.

Furthermore, similar punishment for a crime committed was long superseded by Jesus's superior prescription and Paul's later recommendation of returning evil for evil to no one (Romans 12:17).

However, absolving a wrong or applying mercy to an offence is not something that just drops from the sky — people's feelings are real, however illogical they seem. A man cannot just up and switch off a hurt feeling anymore than he can physical pain.

But the responses to hurt feelings and disrespect clearly reflect a hollow preparation for confronting such issues, which is largely supported by a skewed cultural norm. Obviously, how one responds to an embarrassment should not be blamed so much on the humilator but on the humiliated. How someone feels about or handles a disrespect is not determined by the insulter but the one who thinks he's disrespected. Actually, if the disrespected person is sufficiently comfortable and has a confident view of himself, an insult meant for him could easily be viewed as being applicable to the one who hurled it.

Homer Sylvester

Mount Vernon, New York

h2sylvester@gmail.com

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