Justice vs Mercy

Justice is the most fundamental requirement of a properly functioning, civilized society. An unwavering system of cause and effect that apply to all members is exactly what human beings need to ensure peaceful living. As the events and characters of Shakespeare’s King Lear clearly indicate, mercy is extremely important in dealing with problems in society, but justice should be the standard by which people are governed in dealing with crimes, however harsh it may seem.

Man needs to fear the consequences of his actions because if there are no undesired repercussions, he will follow his baser desires to no limit. When there is a strict system of justice in place that applies to all members of society, fewer crimes will be committed as a result of public punishments. Also, there is a system of karma that we already see in place. If justice is not served by the law, some form of justice comes around to the perpetrator from a higher power. Therefore, in dealing with crimes in society as a whole, the use of justice should dominate the use of mercy.

I believe that human nature is to be content with virtue. However, there is also a part of us that is desirous of evil. It is that lower, deeper part of our desires that gives us pleasure in doing things that we know are harmful to ourselves and those around us. Most people will tell you they follow a certain moral conduct because of the virtue of their character, but only a certain percentage of those people actually speak the truth. The rest, only do so for fear of consequences.

This is exactly the reason why people behave well in front of others, while they do many undesirable things when they are alone. If there is no fear of the legal repercussions of one’s actions, the majority of the population will not be able to control that inner monster who is only satiated with evil and destruction. As Albany, the son-in-law of King Lear so eloquently puts it: “If that the heavens do not their visible spirits | Send quickly down to tame these vile offences, | It will come,| Humanity must perforce prey on itself, |Like monsters of the deep.

”(IV, ii, 46-49). He is saying that if some form of justice is not dished out, the world would turn into a wild and savage place. Therefore, a system of justice that allots punishments that are equal in degree to the crimes committed is needed to keep people in check. Also, the system of justice that we just spoke about should be unwavering for each and every individual in society, no matter the rank or position of that person. King Lear himself says, “…Through tattered clothes small vices do appear; /Robes and furred gowns hide all.

Plate sin with gold, /And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks; / Arm it in rags, a pygmy’s straw does pierce it” (IV, vi, 167-169) Here, he is complaining of the sad state that the justice system is in. There is a huge amount of unfairness that happens when judging the rich and the poor for the same offence. Poor people suffer a lot more for their petty crimes, while the rich can get away with the worst things by paying off the right people. What King Lear concluded hundreds of years ago, is still the sad state of our society today.

The justice system is so corrupt that people in higher positions of power that are tried and proven guilty of horrendous crimes sometimes get the same amount of prison time as a small scaled armed robbery. An example of this is when pictures leaked of physical and emotional torture and sadistic killings conducted by a certain general and the 6 other people on his team in a prison in Iraq. A lot of the people that were there were taken from the streets and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and had no knowledge of the terrorist forces.

These people were detained and every time they were to be ‘questioned’, they would be taken to a room, stripped naked, beaten, put into stress positions and have a number of other things done to them that are too gruesome to speak of. These American soldiers took pictures of all the things that went on. These pictures were ultimately how they got caught. Even with all that proof, the largest sentence that was given out was for 10 years to the general and sentences ranging from 6 months to a couple of years to the 6 other members that were involved.

This is how unfair the justice system is in North America. If a society was to be created where all members are actually treated the same, there would be less crime in that society as a whole as everyone would know they cannot get away with anything. Lastly, justice is such that what goes around, comes around. I believe in karma as it is often apparent in life. Sometimes, the return is not of equal degree to the action, but in the end, you reap what you sow.

This is what Albany means when he says, “This shows you are above,/ You justicers, that these our nether crimes/ So speedily can venge”. (IV, ii, (78-80) He is expressing his gratitude to the Gods for the death of Cornwall for his horrible crimes. I am also of the opinion that God will even out the forces of evil when He sees fit. Therefore, we should establish the ideal system of justice and stick with it in the correct manner. If crimes are committed by us, we should accept the punishment agreed on by the society or a stronger and worst punishment may come our way from someone else.

In conclusion, to ensure a society in which crime is curbed as much as possible, a proper, strict justice system needs to be established that is equal in its dealings with all classes of people. This is the only way to ensure the control of human desire as there is no telling what a person might do to harm themselves and others without rules to govern them. References: 1)Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Toronto: Signet Classic Shakespeare, 1998. 2)Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. dir. Rory Kennedy, 2007.