Punishment vs. Rehabilitation: Reprogramming Our Functions
This is the written version of what was originally performed during Literate Ape's monthly artistic debate series, BUGHOUSE! on November 6, 2017 at Haymarket Pub and Brewery's Drinking and Writing Theatre. Listen to Mike Vinopal's piece along with all the other performances from November's BUGHOUSE! here and view the accompanying video for his piece here.
I think most people agree that there is good in this world. But not all.
However, I am certain that we all can agree that bad shit exists in this world. And furthermore, I think that we all can agree, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bad shit also happens to exist in our worlds.
It doesn’t make you bad, but think of it like a neurotoxin. Everyone can handle a certain level of it, but you need to be able to flush your system of it from time to time. You need a functional release valve on that pressurized chamber we call a consciousness. Things upset you, you eventually let them go, you feel better. If you’re fortunate, traumatic experiences you have are minimal, daily stress is manageable, and your bad shit levels remains in relatively low proportions.
But fortune can be a cruel thing.
If your bad shit levels are off the charts, you’re suffering. Your mind is festering, soaked in neurotoxin. So soaked in fact, your release valve doesn’t even seem to be working. You feel broken. And sometimes you need guidance to put the pieces back together better. Take the broken, take the bad shit, and when you use the pieces to make something new, you build something more beautiful. Something more solid.
Punishment or rehabilitation? Well we all know about punishment. But rehabilitation, less people actually know what it is because it’s a lot more complicated. So I’m gonna break it down in laymen’s terms and try to use some simple words and visuals. How 'bout this?
Let’s use music to represent bad shit.
Take the theme from Psycho.
Violins? There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind it sounds violent. But you gotta listen closely to find the beauty in it. You zoom in.
Rehabilitation is adding new ideas to the mix as you listen and learn about a human.
Let's add a drum beat to the mix as a new idea. And slowly, through this process, a person can identify the bad shit and start to remove it.
And some of it, you don’t delete, you need to keep. You just need to move it around, process the pain, and make adjustments within.
We can dissect another section of the waveform and place it carefully in the mix as a new layer. The music begins playing and continues looping like a hip-hop beat as the monologue transforms into a spoken-word piece, rapping poetically.
This is rehabilitation! Creating an individual who is more internally in harmony, now less prone to breaking rules in our society!
Punishment makes more bad shit in the brain, the bad shit builds up, makes you go insane. Forming new habits through rehabilitation, training the brain for better solutions.
For instance, how about this, you wanna punish a criminal? I understand we gotta hold rule breakers accountable. But punishment alone won’t improve the future. The sentence has to have a rehabilitative nature.
After paying their debt to society, they’ll come out with skills to manage anxiety, maybe something changed their philosophy. Opportunity for education and therapy? Seems fair to me.
No matter the root of corruption, we can always reprogram our function.
Think of the children in conditions unimaginable, with a quality of life that is unlivable, you can’t imagine how miserable!
Their whole life experience has been punishment, and some don’t even know where their parents went, so their brains are filled to the top with the bad shit—no cause to them.
They couldn’t choose where they were born. They didn’t pick this life, this form. Maybe for some their only true hope is, getting caught up with drug running and dope shit, banging and violence, thieving and silence. Silent because they can’t talk through their trauma about their daddy or about their mama.
'Til they run short on luck, or stop giving a fuck and give up. Get themselves locked up. Delaying the pattern, the circle that’s working, round and round for that person. A pause button a cause, a chance to break the patterns of the past, a chance to improve upon their flaws. A chance to process shit at last, breaking down their walls. And as the walls fall...
Maybe they can find a new beginning in it all.
Or maybe that’s irrelevant—we all got things we’re fighting with. But there is no hope in punishment. That’s no second chance you’re giving them. You’re not sending the message that this is a blessing that you want them to be better. Only thing you’re achieving is depressing, treating them like a lesser, like an animal.
As far as animals go, we’ve even figured it out for pets, but the courts and corrections facilities for humans, have barely figured it out yet. Solitary confinement? Putting prisoners in the hole? Isolation from other humans should never be the goal. Have you no hearts? Have you no souls?
"Violence and sexual predators," you say? It’s the bad shit in their past that made them this way. Want to treat them like animals, you’re going to breed more animals because all of us living and breathing mammals are highly susceptible, always impressionable, formed by experience, no matter what year it is.
And it’s hard for them to take responsibility, when most of their life has preceded so so shitily, can’t help but see themselves as victims, hitting women 'cause his daddy did, and hit him too while he was at it.
We take for granted certain securities when were living life in the majority but it’s so much more to me, more than skin color, more than culture, more than socio-economic status. It’s the bastards running the planet, profiting off prisons, lining their pockets, crushing the spirits of millions of nonviolent offenders. One nation under a spiteful God, remember?
We need to be providing empowerment and teach not to be victims of circumstance, try to give them a chance, try to show them a path, may be a little guidance in the process of getting through it, setting goals to follow through with, someone telling you, "You can do it!" Sometimes that’s all that gets you through it!
Let’s start with art, doesn’t really matter what your mediums are, you can paint, play guitar, you are your life’s own star. And we need art and music and whatever your outlet is, jottings in notebooks, sketches on pads, typings on laptops, iPhones, and iPads. Expression’s the only therapy, that truly seems to set folks free, to get the bad shit out of their physical body, and hope to fill it, with the good shit, maybe even eventually, giving back something to their community.
Rehabilitation. No matter the root of corruption, we can always reprogram our functions.