Should We Hang For Our thoughts?

2 pages

There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions tothe laws, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.- Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)For most of us, the thoughts would convict us.For some of us, the thoughts would be of retribution for hurts or perceived hurtscommitted by others against us. We suffer, they should pay. Unfortunately (orfortunately, depending on your point of view), many of the hurts we perceiveagainst us were not intended by the perpetrators. Maybe they were thoughtlessgestures or senseless words spoken in haste or anger. Maybe they were selfishthoughts that became words that were regretted later.For some of us, the thoughts would be of committing crimes. The crimes may beregarding vengeance, but they may also be of doing things which would benefit usfinancially, personally, sexually or socially.Most of us don't follow through on those thoughts. However, an increasingly largenumber of people do. They break laws about drugs or prostitution, for example.Others, driven by financial need--often it's to get money to buy drugs-- commitrobbery, which sometimes develops into murder or other forms of violence.More than one in ten US citizens is in prison today. Remember your grade schoolclasses? An average of three of the people you went to school with in any givenyear are behind bars. The percentage is lower in other western countries.We should ask ourselves not how we can deter people from committing so manycrimes, but how to give them what they require so they do not feel the need toresort to criminal activity to solve their problems.Or to drugs, alcohol, gambling, prostitution or other forms of addiction. Or tosecuring feel-good drugs through their doctor so that they can cope with theirproblems and stressors. Or to abusing their spouses or children (psychologically,emotionally as well as physically) just to work off their frustrations with life.We have psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists galore who have theprofessional knowledge and skills to fix the broken people among us. What we don'thave is enough money to pay them to fix all the people who are broken.Here's a novel idea. Why not provide children and adolescents that same knowledgeand the same skills so that they know what to do when they run into problems intheir future lives? No one breaks if they know how to avoid breaking.No child grows up wanting to be divorced, a drug addict, a convict, an emotionalminefield, a single parent, an alcoholic, a patient of a psychiatric facility. Orjust plain lonely. People become that way when they can't cope with their lives.So let's give people the knowledge and skills they need before they need it. Weknow where the expertise is. The experts can teach the teachers, who in turn willteach the young people.We spend fortunes trying to fix broken people, and more fortunes trying to correctthrough war the behaviour of others we perceive as threats to us. Let's use theexpertise we have today in the place it's needed most. Let's protect people frombreaking. Let's make friends, not enemies.The cost? A trifling sum compared to what we spend today on police, courts,prisons, psychiatric hospitals, health care and war. What the "new" cost would be