on punishment


Punishment, in its various forms, is what I feel like living creatures tend to do in order to teach lessons.

Humans, specifically, tend to punish when teaching has failed. Or as a method of teaching in itself, but I’m starting to believe that is never the best path.

Punishment is what we do when another creature has not decided to do what we see as the right thing on their own.

It’s what we do with children who are Bad.

Adults, who commit crimes.

“You knew better.”

“You know better.”


We punish ourselves – more than we punish others, in general, I think.

But maybe there’s a difference between knowing and believing better, if that makes sense?

I’ve done lots of things I’ve regretted

knowing I shouldn’t.

I’ve only started making tangible steps towards not acting in those ways, now that I’ve started believing other choices are better.

So why, then, do we use knowing the difference between Right and Wrong as the yardstick for determining legal and moral culpability – instead of believing?

I have committed plenty of what I would consider to be moral crimes, against others and myself – knowing they were not Right.

But I do not consider myself without value to society, in a permanent sense.

I think maybe the problem manifests in a lack of patience.

I chose to not spray water at Pico, who has been acting aggressively towards our new kitten, Sisi – though it has been suggested to me, several times, that that is the only way to teach him.

Pico and Sisis are still not best friends, but last night they slept almost right next to each other, purring.

Today, Pico has spent most of the day on my bed instead of outside taking out his aggression on lizards. Sisi keeps trying to suckle his stomach, which is irritating for him.
I still need to monitor them, to not leave her alone with him yet…. But it’s only been a few days!

And only yesterday he was stalking and actually trying to kill her.

Spraying water at him, I believe, would have risked detracting from the level of friendship I believe is possible for them to achieve.

I believe that it’s not ultimately in my best interest to take a short cut here out of impatience…


What if he associates that outrage, that anger at being punished – on Sisi, on some subconscious level?

Yes, I think it would be better for both of them, in an overall sense, were they able to find a real companionship.

But just in practical terms, as long as she cannot defend herself and Pico has not demonstrated that he won’t harm her if I’m gone, and as long as she is still too young to be without a mom all the time – I can’t really work.


Spraying water at a cat, yelling at a child…

Maybe even yelling at, or imprisoning an adult – these are things we do when we lack the emotional reserves to set aside how we personally feel about their actions, and find ways to teach them why it really isn’t better for them to act that way.

These are short cuts, and always create more problems, further down the line, just maybe not directly for us.

The knowledge, either of other potential solutions, or of how to communicate with the person in question in ways that will resonate best with them, as individuals….


That’s where this whole globalization thing comes in.

Now, for the first time ever, it is conceivable to dream of a world wherein we can start teaching instead of punishing –

our own selves first and foremost, because how can you start forgiving the world if you haven’t forgiven yourself?


I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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