Monday, September 12, 2005

Social, Moral, and Ethical Inhibitors in the Modern Age

We live in a radically different society from the time of Plato and Socrates lived. The changes that have come about since then have changed the way that people deal with their problems and issues from day to day. Certain actions are permitted while others are not. The control that is placed on every citizen has been continually developing since the beginning of time. The most influential of our animal instincts have trickled down into a social conduct book that every person must adhere too.

The repercussions from breaking these rules are sufficient to hold nearly every person in the system. The main forces that are carrying out these repercussions are the government and it’s military in the most extreme cases, the person’s socio-economic class, and general opinion and reputation of the group or person in their community. Adeimantus asserts that the only reason that people are compelled to do justice is to win favor with the gods and the people around them with good reputations. “However they don’t praise justice by itself but the good reputations that come from it.” This is the main influence stopping people from acting with injustice.

In our present society, this has taken on a broader scope and is now applied to a number of issues. The great stigma against harming your own personal enemies has been placed in the conduct rule book because it will undermine the power with in our own unity and patriotism. From the time of birth few people question this rule and those that do are removed from society in order to stop the spread of violence any further. This policy is purely economics. It is necessary to protect every contributing member in our society to continue our economic advancement.

The first and primary tool that our government uses to control our actions is the threat of physical repercussions. The most common repercussion comes in the form of jail time. We have set apart places in our country to put the individuals that cannot adhere to the social conduct rules. Doing harm to others in our society, even if it is your enemy, can lead to years in a penitentiary. By publicizing many of the extreme cases brought before our legal system, the government creates the strong opinion that this is the worst of punishments.

In the new television series Prison Break on fox, prison life is portrayed as being one step above animalism. Huge fights between each racial class break out for no other reason except that the inmates can. By spreading this opinion throughout our culture, we are doing more to stop acts of disobedience than any other thing. The fear of these places has become great enough to stop all but the most intent on doing harm or the craziest. Moving away from the physical repercussions, you find many economic drawbacks as well.

There are very few punishments in the U.S. legal system that does not include some form of economic punishment. These come most often as fines or tickets that a person must pay. With minor infractions such as breaking the speed limit the government uses tickets to enforce their will. This is largely effective as a simple ticket can cascade into higher insurance premiums for many years to come. Fines are used to enforce patent and copyright laws, big businesses, and minor infractions. For the larger violations such as harming somebody there are still economic punishments.

Even after release from a penitentiary back into society, your felony will follow you wherever you go. Simple tasks such as finding a job will become much more difficult and it is unlikely that you will ever be treated fairly in the workplace. This is because of the opinion of convicts and felons that has been imprinted on us since we were children. After doing harm to a person your reputation becomes marred. In the early years of our countries existence we had public floggings and even executions. This spectacle was done to reinforce the fear of committing a crime and the anger against those that have.

In many ways the opinion that people have of you after committing such an act is the best deterrent. The government may force you to leave your community for many years but if you are able to return it is unlikely that you will be accepted back among them. The loss of the human connection, that most of need, is a horrible punishment. This combined with the other forms of punishment put us in a fear mindset. We will not do something unless we fear it more than the punishment handed to us by the government and the people around us.

Doing harm to somebody even if they are your enemy is not acceptable in our society. The punishment afflicted to those that do not heed the many warnings will find themselves in a place that is both unforgiving and extreme. Socrates and Plato did not have the social institutions at work and it seems like fulfilling their idea of ‘harm your enemies but not your friends’ has become more difficult since then. These tools are manipulated to ensure that we do the best for our society and economy but not necessarily what is most just.


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