09 June 2010

Day 74: Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar.  ISBN: 9780374332655.

There's a lot that's wrong with this book, but there's also a lot that's right about it.  I don't necessarily like the denigrating of the Girl Scouts in the form of, "This ain't no Girl Scout camp."  Really?  Why does it have to be a Girl Scout camp?  Can't it be a Boy Scout Camp?  I mean, that would still be a lot funner than digging holes in a desert all day and you wouldn't be a huge jackass, but maybe that's the point.  I also have a huge issue with the principal of "making a bad boy dig holes will turn him into a good boy."

I just don't think that's true.  I think people have to realize on their own why their behavior was bad or hurtful.  I definitely think you can prod people into making that realization sooner, but most people who get punished with corporal punishment or work punishments are just going to figure they were somehow justified.  Taking things away from people doesn't equal punishment to most people, it equals, "Well they took my eye, so I'm going to take their other eye to go along with the one I already took."  I know this mostly through observation and a little through my own feelings.

While this isn't necessarily a crime, I think the following story will sort of explain my reasoning.  My fiance had his birthday yesterday and his parents brought home a cake and we all got together to sing happy birthday.  Everyone except for his brother, who was in the living room and "too busy" playing games online ... which is pretty much what he does everyday, more or less all day.  I see something like that and I feel totally justified not inviting him to my wedding, or refusing to seat him at a grown-ups table (which means he would be sitting all by himself as few of my friends have children), or making sure he didn't like any of the food and had to leave after the ceremony to skulk off to find food elsewhere.  I have problems with that level of rudeness.  I do.  And I wish I could say that this is the first and only time that something like this has happened, but it's not.  Unfortunately, any "punishment" that I mete out will only be met with whining, which will make me suffer even more and may lead to passive aggressive behavior on his part.

Another example involves the numerous times my mother tried to punish my brother when he was a teenager.  She would take away TV privileges or internet access, so he would stay over at a friend's house and not tell my mom where he was going to be all night.  He usually came home stinking drunk too.  I have no idea how whoever's parents didn't get their kids taken away, but there it is.  My brother would have something taken away as a valid punishment, so he would go out a find a way to procure it and do something worse if possible just to try and rub my mother's face in it.

I'm not saying "digging holes" is altogether a bad idea.  I just think it might be useful to have a directed purpose.  Doing something like cleaning the highway is nice, but not if they don't know why they're cleaning the highway.  Having litterbugs clean up the highway is an excellent way to show them how much work it takes to clean up a space that's dirtied by careless behavior.  That won't really work for an arsonist. 

I don't think there's any good way to really reform or punish criminals or criminal behavior.  I just know that what we're doing now isn't working.  We have too many people in jail for selling or possession of marijuana and resources aren't being used to their best.  I approve of educating prisoners and providing them with libraries, I think that is a step in the right direction, but hard labor and the removal of privileges seems to be reaping resentment rather than reform.

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