Punishment: The Road To Hell

Margaret Thatcher was a stupid woman. Yet, she was impressive. Just as a steel trap is impressive when it springs into action catching a hapless victim in its jaws. And yet, the trap is stupid at the same time. It is entirely reflexive and cannot think past what it is primed to do. Margaret Thatcher had a mind like a steel trap. She was primed by the bankers of the City of London to deliver unto them a large proportion of the wealth and with it the economic freedom and autonomy of the ordinary people of Britain including and especially the people of Northern Ireland.

The discrimination against the Catholics of Northern Ireland (the indigenous Irish) by the local ruling elite and their supporters (chiefly of English and Scottish by heritage) was becoming all too evident and the pressures for a representative democracy and even a reuniting with the South were mounting. To ward off this potential economic loss, the rulers of England decided to embark on covert violence once more through their Secret Services and covert military units.

The scene was set two or three generations before when the British Government prevailed upon the Irish Government, in the person of Michael Collins, to accept a partition of Ireland as part of a peace treaty. This automatically created a division within Ireland to be exploited by the British rulers to bring about anything but peace. They make a habit of doing this. Ask anyone on the Indian subcontinent. Or anyone in the Middle East.


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So we had the British Government covertly provoking violence through bombings and assassinations and in the process setting the two antagonistic populations at each others throats. This same British Government then stepped in with it's army and judicial/penal machinery to act as umpire and dispense punishment as justice. In the process, squashing the campaign for more freedom from this British Government led by Margaret Thatcher who all along were taking their orders from the hidden puppeteers, the bankers of the City of London. Thus the bankers created the problem to justify the solution to their problem of possibly losing economic and political control over Northern Ireland and also their extensive influence over the South. An IRA victory in Northern Ireland would flow on to increased political clout for them in the South over their comfortable bourgeois comprador rivals in government there.

The 'City” had the perfect 'tool' for the job in Margaret Thatcher. She was just stupid enough to believe in the notion of ending violence and bringing justice through the application of enough punishment (if you aren't getting results, then you aren't using enough). This punishment took the overt form of arrest and detention without trial and a covert form involving the use of torture, assassinations and support for loyalist forces in their terror tactics.

Thatcher was impressive enough in her conviction in this piece of lunacy to carry the hearts and minds of enough voters to ensure the continuation of the 'punishment' and, thus, the continuation of the violence it was supposedly to end. In other words, she gave it legitimacy. This age old strategy was extremely effective in this. The British Empire was built on it. Indeed, England's first overseas conquest was Ireland. They tested many of the techniques there that they would later use around the world.

It's effectiveness rested on one thing. It wasn't armaments or personnel or even money. It was a notion in the minds or the two contending populations on the ground in Northern Ireland and in the minds of the audience in England and the rest of the world. This notion is the legitimacy and effectiveness of 'punishment' or state sponsored violence. It accompanies all of us from the cradle to the grave.

It forms a cornerstone of the teachings of various religious denominations in our "Christian civilization". It is exemplified by a punishing God who demands obedience even if this is to commit genocide (see the Book of Joshua as an example). What could be more right than something ordained by God even if it goes against his own commandments? Our various Western cultures are built on this notion; our whole legal system, for instance, which governs how our societies are run is firmly based on it. The idea of the effectiveness of punishment is reinforced through osmosis from every facet of our cultures and through the fact that it is never seriously questioned.

Punishment is portrayed as the antidote to violence and it is held to be righteous (and effective) because it is ordained by the State and by God. But punishment is obviously violence in itself. So how is it different, if at all?

Violence is destructive. I don't think anyone would argue against that. It is destructive to the victim, obviously, but also to the perpetrator. The perpetrator suffers by feeding the anger and hatred within them bringing destruction sooner or latter upon themselves. It separates one from his fellows. It separates one from his own humanity which is founded on a sense of compassion for others and even oneself. It certainly doesn't bring peace either within or without. Holding violence in one's heart is like clutching a viper to one's chest. As a society, that is what we do to ourselves. Little wonder then that we find our governments provoking wars in our name year after year.

Punishment is a form of violence in itself, as previously stated. Again, I don't think anyone would seriously argue against this in amongst whatever else they might say about it to justify its use. But we've noted that violence is destructive. So it follows even from that simple observation that punishment, being violence, must be destructive too. Unless you hold that seeing it as punishment rather than violence somehow makes its effect on the mind of the instigator different. But then you have to acknowledge the fact that every perpetrator, every mugger, every war criminal, justifies their actions to themselves and others as being right in one way or another. It is always seen as either 'righteous violence' or as 'legitimate punishment'.

The mugger has needs and it is legitimate to fulfil those needs. He wouldn't have them if he weren't meant to fulfil them, after all. Or that the victims were stupid enough to build their nation on top of those gigantic oil reserves we need. Or even that it is the victim's fault for just being there and this is his punishment – teaching him or her a lesson in how the world works. Or how the next world works.

The rulers wish to control us through violence. Firstly though making us afraid and secondly through provoking us to violence ourselves using the justifications of righteous violence and punishment. Through this they aim to divide us and make us believe we are as they are so that they and there poisonous doctrine may hide amongst us.

They are forever saying that war is part of human nature. It is part of their nature, not ours. We may fight but we don't have a compulsion to kill people we have never even seen, never mind never having had an argument with. That is quite foreign to human nature. If was natural for us, soldiers would not return from war with PTSD. They'd be brimming with good health. But they don't and they aren't. The only way to get ordinary people to do the rulers' killing for them is to get inside our minds and in such a way that we don't ever see it. The concept and acceptability of punishment is one of the chief ways they do this.

Punishment creates victims. Victims then often tap into righteous violence as the solution to their troubles; the idea that violence will be stopped with ever more violence that will teach the perpetrators a 'lesson'. Or "send a clear message" as it is popularly phrased at the moment. It doesn't work. And it is not meant to work. It is meant to provoke more violence one way or another as can be readily seen in Northern Ireland. Without violence or the threat of violence, what need do we have for government and this massive and repressive legal system and its police and prisons to support it? The only group who have a pressing need for repressive governments are those that wish to exploit us. Bankers come to mind.

Game Theory experiments have shown that the strategy that prevails in the end is not escalating violence, nor even an equal response to it as in Judaism's “an eye for an eye” a.k.a. "Tit-For-Tat" (Tit-For-Tat strategy is often victorious in Game Theory competitions but these competitions do not take into account sociological or psychological considerations that play a part in real world conflicts).

No, the only strategy that returns a situation to peace in the long term is a continued reaction of returning less violence than was inflicted. I would suggest that the less violence that is returned (down to a certain point), the faster the inflamed situation will return to stability.

This 'certain point' is worth elaborating on, I think. Assuming that the course of violence is the only option available, that 'certain point' is reached the moment when self defence has been achieved for oneself and for those one is responsible for, such as children. Any force past this point is violence and is necessarily destructive and evil.

It follows then that 'righteous violence' is an oxymoron and 'punishment' is not only just more violence but is destructive and delusional. So incarceration is wrong if there are any other effective alternatives. Incarceration without trial is monstrously wrong. Degrading behaviour towards prisoners is violence and always wrong. It's wrong for the prisoners, of course, but it is destructive for the people employing it. Andrzej Lobaczewski the author of "Political Ponerology: A Science of the Nature of Evil"claims that a high proportion of torturers need psychiatric care later in their lives. It is also destructive for the society as a whole. I won't even bother getting into state sponsored torture and killing. The evil is obvious. Margaret Thatcher headed down this Road to Hell and dragged a lot of people with her when she embarked on her Northern Ireland strategy of righteous violence and punishment to retain political control there.


So we've seen that violence is portrayed as punishment and punishment is clearly violence. They enjoy a symbiotic relationship and though seen as opposite they are, in fact, the same, though their popular images are quite different.

Where did this difference in image between violence and punishment start? I think it reasonable to think it started with the first person to dominate and exploit a group of people. The first time a psychopath was permitted to take control and maintained it by controlling the minds of the victims. 'Punishment' being part of the vehicle for that control. Without that mind control and a legal/police system to protect them, psychopaths tend to live short lives. They tend to slip off cliffs or ice flows on hunting expeditions.

A friend of mine described a situation at an Antarctic base that happened quite a few years ago now. A skeleton staff stayed for the winter which was usual practice and they had no physical contact with the outside world during that time. There was one rifle on the base. One person decided he would commandeer the weapon and play God and terrorise the rest in the process. The trouble for our would be deity was that he did not have the necessary control over the others minds. No one saw what he was doing as right or justified but, rather, they saw it for exactly what it was. So he found himself locked outside one day and froze.

The moral is that though the physical weapons confer power to the holder, that power is dependent on it being seen as legitimate. This is how the struggle for independence went on for centuries in Ireland. A significant proportion of the Irish saw the occupation and its attendant violence as illegitimate. This is the very real danger Israel is facing now. Its legitimacy as a state and the legitimacy of its violent actions are being eroded quickly. Once gone, the end is nigh.

Which is a nice lead in to ask, “where did this notion of punishment (legitimate violence) come from in our culture?” Yes, from those same Israelis' ancient spiritual and cultural forebears, if not their genealogical forebears, the Levitical priests who wrote their early scriptures with all their rules and edicts from way back when. These Levitical priests fashioned a god according to their own minds and needs. He was a punishing god, of course, who commanded (through the priests) that they attack their neighbours and commit genocide amongst many other things. The use of 'righteous violence' and 'punishment' is endemic through out the Hebrew Bible. It was used to justify all sorts of violent outrages and oppressive exploitation by the leaders of that society (and still is).

Then along comes Jesus and preaches the exact opposite; acceptance, non-violence and forgiveness not punishment. He spoke harshly to no one except the Pharisees (priests), the scribes (lawyers) and the money changers (bankers). In short, those that held sway over the minds of the people and thereby exploited them. Jesus threatened their continuance of this mind control and was targeted for death, as have peacemakers ever since.

But his teachings and more importantly the spirit of those teachings lived on. The spirit lasted until the Christian churches were incorporated into the religion of the Roman Empire that needed a system of mind control to maintain its power. The Roman Catholic Church was formed, a power hierarchy established along the lines of other Roman institutions and they included the Hebrew Bible calling it "The Old Testament", as part of their own scriptures. To this day, it never occurs to most Christians that this book with it's violence and notion of punishment is at complete odds with the Gospel message of grace, non-violence, non-exploitation and forgiveness.

Of course, the reason is simple. As noted before, we are all raised on this notion that punishment is not only legitimate but is God ordained and our whole culture is predicated on it. Our dominant religions have trained us to accept and even expect war as a natural state of affairs. This is the water we fish swim in and never notice. We don't notice it because we are never given any alternatives to compare it with. And a powerful one right to hand, particularly if you live in North America, is story of 'The Peacemaker' and the formation and continued existence of the Iroquois Confederacy and its way of peace. Thomas Jefferson is said to have gained great inspiration from it.

So, ironically, for Christians, it is the message of Jesus and the Gospels that is out of step with everything else in their own religion as well as with everything else in this world. This anomaly of the Gospel of Peace is then quietly submerged and the wars and the mind control, with their subsequent diminution of humanity, continue to this day on the Road to Hell.

But there is hope. Violence is being seen increasingly for what it is no matter who is dispensing it and no matter what justification they are giving for it because as the level of the atrocities inevitably rise so does their mask of legitimacy fall. And, as we've seen, without the mask of legitimacy, violence loses a lot of its power to subjugate people.

The violence against children by religious organisations and governments is being seen for what it is; a symptom of an evil organisational culture. The “humanitarian interventions” by NATO and the US are being seen as wars of choice for plunder and empire building. And the egregious behaviour of the government and people of Israel is being seen as the most exploitative and inhumane actions of anyone on earth. Behind all these monstrous acts are the false notions of Punishment and Righteous Violence ordained by the State and religious leaders.

As punishment is increasingly seen for the heart crushing lie that it is, the truth of acceptance, forgiveness and non-exploitation is being seen as the only sane way ahead. The transformative effect of this revelation once seen is startling. The ever increasing tide of violence in our world is leading to its exposure for what it is and increasingly forcing people to make a spiritual choice. It's not a social or political choice any more.

There is also hope because there are increasingly those who reject war and hold onto their hearts at all costs amid the madness and inhumanity surrounding us.

I am indebted to Chuckyman for background information and this informative link -

Please also read Chuckyman's excellent post on Bobby Sands' death and some of the history surrounding it. "Greater Love Than This Hath No Man"


McJ's picture

Great article James! Well

Great article James! Well written and informative. Thanks for the insight into some Irish history and the Iron Lady's nasty contributions.

I totally agree with you on the issues of violence and punishment. If either of them bloody worked to bring about peace and security you think we may have seen some slight improvements over the last several thousand years or so.

"To this day, it never occurs to most Christians that this book with it's violence and notion of punishment is at complete odds with the Gospel message of grace, non-violence, non-exploitation and forgiveness. "

As far as I can tell, you can't argue this point with "believers". They can contort their minds into whatever pretzel logic they need to stop from seeing this glaring contradiction. The 'good book' for them is where you go to pick and choose whatever it is supports your current beliefs.

"As punishment is increasingly seen for the heart crushing lie that it is, the truth of acceptance, forgiveness and non-exploitation is being seen as the only sane way ahead. The transformative effect of this revelation once seen is startling. The ever increasing tide of violence in our world is leading to its exposure for what it is and increasingly forcing people to make a spiritual choice. It's not a social or political choice any more."

The Mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang, had this to say in response to the horrific massacre in Norway: “We will punish the killer together, and the punishment will be more openness and more tolerance.”

I think it encapsulates what you are saying here very well.

Loved the video of Cold Chisel!

Great response from the Mayor

Great response from the Mayor or Oslo. Thanks for your nice comments, McJ and Winter.

I blame the leaders for the spiritual ignorance that is the norm in most churches (though i'm sure not all). They like their positions of relative power and privilege and so don't rock the boat.

The Catholic Church leaders have adopted the same attitude regarding the political position in Northern Ireland thinking they will preserve their power little realising that they are destroying it in the longer term. But that is what happens when psychopaths make deals with other psychopaths. It's lose, lose for everybody.

Chisel is a much loved group here in Oz and "When the War is Over" is a much loved song of theirs. The video is from a reunion tour in 2003. I'm really glad you like it McJ smiling

Excellent x 2

That's an excellent article by James, and an excellent comment from McJ. Thanks to both of you.

I've been remiss

I've been remiss in not providing a link to an illuminating post from Chuckyman on Northern Ireland and Bobby Sands.

Here 'tis-

chuckyman's picture

Excellent article

Many thanks for the link James - twice (blush). I came across this today and I thought it to be apt

“Forbidding anything makes it real, giving it a power it cannot have.

Our need to believe that there are sinners (unhealthy, uneducated, criminals, etc.) is our need to see our own particular form of sinfulness (etc.) in someone else, so we can be free of it.

The basic problem does not lie with the past, but in the present where we make the decisive choice to live in the present or the past.

True forgiveness recognizes that our childhood situations were part the Holy Spirit’s plan to teach us forgiveness in the forms necessary for our learning.

Punishment, in any form, is the attempt to project guilt onto another, and to shift responsibility for our unhappiness onto someone or something external to ourselves. A loving God would never treat his children that way.

The focus in not on what we do but why. It is fundamentally a question of motivation.”

- Kenneth Wapnick

the god of punishment

Thanks for your comment and the very insightful quote, Chuckyman.

"Punishment, in any form, is the attempt to project guilt onto another, and to shift responsibility for our unhappiness onto someone or something external to ourselves.

Projection and scapegoating are essential elements, if not the totality, of punishment.

A loving God would never treat his children that way.


Punishment is coercion; an attempt to force one's will upon another. Coercion is made necessary, in the mind of the perpetrator, because the intended victim has free will.

We are created with free will. So it is entirely illogical for a God to give us free will and then attempt to take it away. And particularly using violence when all he would have to do is wave his finger and our free will would be gone.

Only a God who had no the power to take away our free would use coercion. Only a God who was of two minds, i.e. at war with himself, would want to do that in the first place. And only a God who wanted to damage (if not destroy) not only the victims but the perpetrators as well would demand punishment, never mind genocide.

So it seems plain to me that the God who demands punishment (and war) is either an imposter or a projection of the minds of the original writers of books such as the Book of Joshua and their subsequent advocates.

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