This I Believe
Way back in ancient Mesopotamia, Hammurabi, the ruler who established the great metropolis of Babylon, believed that if a man should poke another man’s eye out, he should be punished in the same way that the victim had been: eye loss. Of course, Hammurabi didn’t think it should stop there. The same rule would apply to murder, rape, stealing, injury, and any other act that would bring pain or suffering upon another being. Hammurabi’s Code, as it was called, also included more particular details such as when a man of a lower social class acts violently upon a man of a higher social class. Most people would probably find Hammurabi’s way of thinking barbaric and unnecessary, but I believe that his laws are just and strong, up to a certain point. If a man is caught stealing and is found guilty, he should lose possessions until he has lost approximately the same amount of money that he stole. And this rule does not just apply to men. If a woman breaks someone’s arm, as punishment, her arm will be broken. Children and mentally ill people would be exceptions to this rule, because they have little control over what they do and when they do it.
I have always believed that the only true way that someone can learn why they shouldn’t have done something to someone is by experiencing what the victim has felt. If a man loses his arm because of the violent behavior of someone else, then he either goes through life with a prosthetic limb or can never do two-handed things as well again. Sending the criminal to jail is a good punishment, but in order for them to really understand the consequences and never do anything like that again, they need to understand the pain and suffering that the victim is going through or has been through. If the criminal is punished by losing his arm, then he will understand what the victim now has to live with. The saying “what goes around comes around” definitely applies under Hammurabi’s Code because the consequences of a violent or cruel action would be the same as the results of the crime. In short, you get what you deserve.
Again, some people may find this form of justice brutish and unnecessary. That’s perfectly fine, because no matter what type of justice system there is, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. A little brutality is exactly what people need. Something that will show them what happens if you commit a crime. Something that will make them see why they shouldn’t do certain things to people. If they turn on the news and see that a man has been ordered punishment by death because he murdered a man, they will hesitate about killing someone. That type of shocking realization may be just what someone needs to break free of an extremely aggressive mood.
The consequences just goes to show us that punishment equal to what the victim has suffered can be a strong and forceful tactic. Hammurabi created the great city Babylon with his “eye for an eye” rules. And because of that, I believe in an eye for and eye.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.