Giving Thanks

Science demonstrates that the instinct to seek justice–defined in the sense of seeking revenge or self-protective retaliation or third-party moralistic punishment–is found in many species.  Guppies, to site a humble example, send out scouting parties to keep a collective eye on big predatory fish.   The members of the scouting party take turns approaching the big fish to see if it is hungry, sharing the risk.  Biologists have observed that if one member hangs back from taking its turn, the fish in front will loop back behind the slacker guppie, forcing it to take its turn.  In traditional and modern human cultures alike, people (and some more than others) are apparently hardwired to enforce just desserts.

Scientific study also reveals that humans possess a strong countervailing force of forgiveness and cooperation.  Indeed, research suggests that we prefer cooperation over punishment.  “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” said the Count of Monte Cristo (a line picked up by the Mafia).  Yet in the end even the Count–whose suave and worldly identity was fueled by the desire to get justice–verified what a recent study suggests–hurt and outrage fades steeply over time.  Living well does turn out to be the best revenge.

And yet…but still…is there such a thing as a higher justice?

2 thoughts on “Giving Thanks

  1. I’ve been watching, this last month or so, as PARABOLA has withstood “Mechanical” assaults to the website. I am hoping you won’t have to resort to pass-word identification or other technical means to limit access. In a way, these assaults exemplify concepts from the last two issues – as they dealt with relationships (MAn and Machine) – and relationships that conflict (Justice).
    The inharmonious use of machines to extend personal influence may not have been what the creators of the internet intended (but as I understand the internet was created by our military to facilitate targeting and reaction times – the inharmonious intrusions we’ve experienced seem tame when compared to the possibility of global destruction). Certainly, PARABOLA exemplifies a higher use of our home computers and internet technology to facilitate relationships between writers and authors and thinkers.
    Justice might be seen as a vehicle to maintain relationships – a way of acknowleging behavior that is inconsistant with mutual goals and protecting the safety of societies’ members (even the safety of perpetrators – there are likely non-punitive reasons Death Row inmates are alone in their cells).
    Many maintain that there is a perception that Justice is not merely a process by which a pluralistinc society can arrive at a result acceptable to the majority, but rather, an ideal that while not necessarily beyond human understanding, seems to be beyond human grasp. Suplications to the divine often have included the expectation that an offender “Will get theirs” through divine action or karmic reaction beyond human awareness.
    This seems to be a reoccuring thread in human development – the conflict between an ideal and concrete experience. Perhaps PARABOLA is a means by which we can compare our experience to/with our ideals.

  2. Interesting insight. As I read it, I also found myself wondering why we expect things to go smoothly–why I at least was so startled to learn that the ideal space we planned for exchange at Parabola had been invaded…although hopefully that rude assault is over. Yes, experience is very different than the ideal.

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