I think most of the world’s problems arise because we are unable to put ourselves in others’ shoes. We might be able to hear the elegant click-clack of the successful (wo)man’s shoes, but we don’t know how many miles s/he has tread to get there. We might see the dusty worn-out sandals of the poor, but we do not know the of the pain in their soles (pun intended).
For most of my life I have been intolerant towards criminals. My area is a high-income neighbourhood, and (because of living in South Africa), we always have to be on our guard towards crime. This has caused much irritation and anger in my life because phones, laptops, cash etc. constantly get stolen.
Last night, however, I had a dream. In this dream I had stolen 2 books mainly for the fun of it. Many dream details have become lost after consciousness, but I do remember some things very distinctly. Firstly, I had much pent-up anger towards the woman I stole from. She is actually an existing person. Last year November she failed to pull up her hand brake and her car collided into mine. When I confronted her about it, she said that it must have been my fault and that I must have reversed into her. The thing is, I hadn’t been driving that entire day. So, in real life I also loathe this woman, to say the least. Secondly, I remember being arrested and that some cops acted humanely towards me whereas others didn’t. I was much more willing to cooperate with the cops that acted humanely towards me than to the cops that treated me like a child. Without the ‘good’ cops even threatening me, I confessed.
These two instances made me understand the inner-workings of criminal minds and therefore I think I might have some clue as to how to treat criminals in order for them to change their ways. Firstly, what I deduced from my dream is that the motive behind crime is that the person feels stigmatised. Although this still does not give them the right to steal from others/ murder others etc., it is a cause that can be prevented through implementation of certain social etiquettes that can be taught in school. Secondly, if the judicial system isn’t as ‘raw’ and autocratic as it is now; if it is more understanding, then criminals might start acting well sooner. The best thing is that they would do this without being threatened — they would do it out of their own necessity to be better people, just like the cops. This might prove to have more lasting effects of good citizenship.
In my country, South Africa, there is a brilliant example of the beneficial outcomes that a good-natured judiciary system can have. Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president after the Apartheid era, was imprisoned for 27 years. Even though the judiciary system as such was not incredibly humane, Mandela’s guard would often talk to Mandela as a human, give him literature and bring him food. I think that through this Mandela observed that not all white people were “out to get him”. Therefore, when he became president, South Africa’s future immediately brightened up because of the lack of that most frightening emotion: revenge.
I know it’s difficult to not want revenge. I know it’s difficult to not want the other person to suffer. But I think that in today’s world, it is necessary if we, rather than treating criminals like dogs, teach them something by our way of acting peaceful and tolerate. If we put ourselves in criminals’ shoes, we’ll feel the revenge they feel in the burning of their shackles around their ankles. We’ll feel the frustration in their feet not knowing where to go. We’ll feel the need for a more beneficial judicial system.