The Punitive approach is great if you are in the barbed wire business. You can transit from helping small farmers who don't exist anymore to supplying the minions of the global security enterprise. I am choosing words with some care. Global means that we do the same thing all over. Minions means that we accept jobs with no ethical qualms and see everything as a something to be done without question. The punitive approach is wonderful if you derive your six-figure-and-up income from a corporation that profits from making punishment standard.

There are three problems with the punitive approach.

It postpones solutions to life and death problems. It is cruel and hurtful to all involved. It falls under the definition of evil as harm.


Today in the wake of the slaughter of Muslim worshippers in the Sinai Peninsula our eyes may turn in that direction. But because we are a bit strapped for time we will soon turn our attention to a diversion or two. That's fine. Because Sinai is going to be present in most of the things you will be attending to. Most things in today's world are punitive. They are responses to perceived wrongs. But they are often short-sighted steps toward evil ends.

Sinai exemplifies the phenomenon of ignoring victims.

That is a universal fact of life. The cure for it is mindfulness. The offices of those who make policy in Egypt or Washington are filled with persons whose mandate is security, not enablement or education. There is no connection made between solving problems and actually being helpful.

The Bedouin tribes who occupy the Sinai Peninsula are perfectly able to help in apprehending those who would do harm.

But the entire posture of the punitive states precludes anything but seeing victims as a cost of doing business.

Face to face

The first response to harm should be to make direct and human contact with victims and if possible with the perpetrators. The war machine is a broom with a moldy rug. Sweep everything that moves under it and wait for the next "emergency".

This satisfies most. No news is good news.

But in Houston and Puerto Rico and in the neighborhood of the Keystone Pipeline we see the truly venal side of the punitive policy. Everything is for something other than actually helping the victims. Emergencies for President Trump are an occasion for trumpeting the work of the police and armed services, agents less of a grassroots concern than of what he calls law and order.

The punitive approach is alive and destructive in homes, communities, and nations. It takes the posturing of president Trump to show how unproductive it is.