In Star Trek: The Voyage Home, Captain Kirk amusingly refers to late 20th century America as a primitive and paranoid culture. The same could be said for many countries then and now, some more than others of course, especially in recent times.
Like many (but not all, that’s for sure) in Australia, I’m saddened and disturbed by today’s executions. In comments about the event I’ve seen people conflate two distinct issues:
- The Law
The (flawed) legal machine that eventually led to the firing squad has nothing to say about morality. There’s no ethical content to be found in The Law. Ethics must come first to inform The Law.
In my view, the death penalty is the sign of a primitive culture or at least some aspects of that culture.
Back in the Star Trek universe, a rare culture might be thought ready to join the club (Federation), but many are thought to be too primitive in one sense or another at a particular point in time.
At the moment, I think of the country in question as being like one of those primitive cultures: not yet ready to join the club due to an inability to see the moral harm of the death penalty and an unwillingness to engage in rational conversation about it. I’m sure there are many individuals in that country who do see the problem which is why it’s important to distinguish a country’s citizens from those who purport to run it.
If we didn’t worship the almighty dollar so much and had the strength of our convictions, we might consider imposing economic sanctions, declaring the country unfit to join the club suggesting: “perhaps one day when you have grown up and apologised for your barbarism, we will consider trading with you again”.
Of course, sanctions are not without harmful effects, at least on ordinary people.
There’s no simple response, but there must be one, and it must be clear.