The Third Condition for “Legitimate” Punishment

3. Intent to change behaviour for an unacceptable purpose:

This would be another ‘eye of the beholder’ thing, or even better, the mote in your brother’s eye: we have other names for the application of corrective punishments that work against us, against our interests, our nation’s interests, or society’s. They are indoctrination, coercion, and brainwashing. These terms are most utilized when we speak of other nations, other cultures, and they mostly refer to how those other groups feel about our group, our culture. It is some thick irony to state that “those people” are taught and indoctrinated to despise us and our way of life when it is said in a conversation about what is “wrong” with those people and their culture, but that is the nature of punishment, part of the definition. If we don’t agree with the goal, then we tend to invalidate it as punishment and think of it as abuse.

Examples closer to home would be in the criminal world, ‘the Life’ as they say, where young people are indoctrinated to street crime and prostitution. A pimp, or a man who runs a group of child thieves, may feel the force and violence he uses in recruitment, training and discipline is punishment; it serves his goals, but not society’s. The long and short of it, I think, is that we think of punishment as a good thing, a thing that is used for legitimate purposes and improves behaviour and the world. When that cannot be shown, we have other, less positive words for it.

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