Ding Dong

It was not a great triumph of The People. It was squalid and ugly and depressing. I only saw the two jumbled clips once — Gaddafi alive and Gaddafi dead — and avoided television news after that. Yes, I think the world is a better place without Muammar Gaddafi; and yes, I understand the emotions that the Libyans must feel. But it’s not justice.

It has been established by psychological experiments that a desire for fairness is a very fundamental part of the human psyche. And not just humans, other primates, and even dogs have been shown to comprehend and object to unfairness.[ http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2008/12/dogs_frown_on_unfair_rewards.php ]

It’s possible that Gaddafi got his “just deserts”, that is, it fulfils a human sense of fairness that he suffered as his many victims did. But that isn’t the same as justice. Justice is a social construct, designed to keep a society functioning in the best interests of its citizens. As the Austrian jurist Hans Kelsen said “Justice is social happiness. It is happiness guaranteed by a social order.”

A system of justice is something that society constructs to protect the weak. You and me, basically. But justice works best when it’s applied equally to all, even demented, monstrous dictators.


One thought on “Ding Dong

  1. I agree. You could certainly say that Gaddafi got what he deserved. But if we based the law simply on that principle, then vigilantes would take matters into their own hands and say, “So what? S/he deserved it!” and the justice system would have no bearing. It is appropriate to have justice in order to keep a society civilized and calm–the total opposite of the videos depicting Gaddafi’s death.’


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