Discipline and Punishment

What discerns the two?

Today we know that the concept of punishment existst at least since the beginning of written history. Certain individuals, normally kings and emperors, used to pass “laws”. Those things called “laws” had a set of orders of what one must do and what not to do - otherwise they would be punished. And what does that mean? Well, for Hammurabi it often meant mutilation, cutting off one or more body parts of the infractor after the deed has been done, and after there is suficient evidence that he/she commited the infraction. Today the types of punishment have changed (to a higher or lesser degree) but the treatment and the approach remained.

People who violate social structure and its laws (established values) are deemed “criminals” and they are punished by taking away their freedom or money seemingly attempting to “discipline” or “rehabilitate” them. However, anybody can easily ascertain that such practices have a very limited success or none at all at preventing future infractions. New prisons are built and security sistems upgraded which means the disciplinary methods used are evidently - not working.


Well, as pack animals, humans have a highly developed sence of hierarchy on an instinctual level. However, the “sapiens” is at war with the “homo”, i.e. intellect and instinct battle for supremacy on the batllefield named “human”, in which the intellect is great at winning battles while the instinct specializes in winning wars. In other words, man instinctively knows his place in society, but his intellect, being a weapon of massive power, sends feedback to the instinct that his place is higher than it is - and, bit by bit, we come to the core of the problem.

Wolf packs maintain their social structure because alpha-dogs use discipline instead of punishment to thwart unwanted behaviour. Since they don’t think but just act instinctively, their instinct directly communicates with the instinct of their subordinates, and, being driven by instinct alone, it produces immediate response and alters the behaviour automatically.

Humans, on the other hand, rely on intellect to transmit the messege to the instinct which colud then alter the behaviour - like all intermediaries, intellect has it’s own interests and it’s own means and often does not send the right message at the right time. That is what is meant when someone is deemed “a slow learner”. He/she can be incarcerated and/or otherwise punished dozens of times before the message is fully received by the instinct - during which time too much damage is done and he/she ends up imprisoned for life or killed before the effect of punishment becomes “discipline” and social hierarchy is restored.

The best way to discipline is to avoid punishment, and to do that one must first recognize the difference between them. Punishment is never done for the sake of discipline, and even if discipline occurs, it is simply a collateral and a delayed response to fear, which occurs only after the individual intellectually realizes that he/she is faced with a superior opponent and goes into “avoidance” mode. One may notice, however, that fear does not breed submission or respect, and often, the “former criminal” does not get truly disciplined, but instead perfects his art of mimicry and retains his hostility toward the leader (govermnent, state, parent, spouse…) and then goes into a pub at night and gives speeches to his friends on how [the leader] is evil and corrupted and how it should be overthrown; becomes an egalitarian or an anarchist of a sort.

A leader can control more people at once, but first he must be constantly present among his followers in order to discipline unwanted behaviour so their instincts get the message fast enough before they do any real damage. Having a large variety and number of folowers may flatter him, but is almost at the start doomed to fail, possibly backfiring in the form of rebellion or revolution (of any kind) in which many leaders hitherto have lost their lives. They simply cannot be everywhere, know everyone’s thoughts and intentions, much less prevent them from doing harm to them or their groups of followers.

Discipline through fear and negative associations in general is not altogether impossible, but it requires many generations of perpetual indoctrination - that is likely the reason why morality is so intimately snuggled against religion; simply believing that “there are gods” has no actual power over people, but the belief that the gods demand a certain code of behaviour, and most importantly, that they see and hear everything, even one’s thoughts - makes up for the lack of control through actual physical presence. Simply creating an image of The Leader and implanting it into human minds was a brilliant ploy, not to mention the only reason this civilisation exists to this day, largely unchanged in structure and form - and pretty unstable, which is why so many millions are spent on enforcing “law”.

But it makes no sence to force instinct into change through physical and mental abuse - the only thing that can change an instinct is another instinct, stronger will conquering the weaker. This great problem of “crime and punishment” has a simple solution: return to the roots, our natural source of strength - pack. A small group of about a dozen people, tied together by a strong and assertive leader can still do more than 30 000 000 people without purpose or structure that lasts, because each one of them constantly seeks ways to circumvent the system and pursue goals often subversive to the society and, as it often turns out in the end - to himself and his progeny.

“There is strength in numbers” is a catchword only among mathematicians; real strength, however is in a stable hierarchy.

Nice topic.

I’m not convinced that humans can return to using instinct predominantly, we are intellectual animals now. I use the term “intellectual” loosely of course. Humans will seemingly always (for the forseeable future) be in the tug of war between intellect and instinct, between “reason” and “emotion”. Ultimately these differing drives are converged, lesser drives unified or sublimated into each other, but this occurs across vast periods of time.

It is my belief that drives oriented toward love and greater selflessness will ultimately subdue and subject the more “selfish” drives, leading to an evolution in human consciousness and allowing more peaceful social interaction. This will not be a return to instinct, nor will it be an end to instinct, but it will be the re-orientation of instinctual and cognitive-conscious drives in the individual human psyche, their being bound to a more universal “will” in this psyche. Religion is a premature formation of this “will”, the will to draw and bind together various drives under a common “law”. In history and at present man typically needs some sort of external image under which such unifications can occur. God, the leader in society, society itself, a common ideology, these sort of images serve well to ground the convergences and sublimations of drives within each other. But it is also my belief that not until this process of “worship” (image-formation), deification of the image under which universalization may occur, attains a higher potentiality and potency will man really be able to make significant progress. Part of this higher potentiality and potency would involve moving beyond the crude externality in which this production of divine images is, and has been throughout mankind’s history, grounded. This “will” toward unification needs to obtain more consciousness of itself, more power and intentionality, and it needs to learn to be more creative, to play with its own limits for its own sake, for the sake of its own joy.

Yes, a stable hierarchy - but not just a social hierarchy of human relations to each other, rather an internal hierarchy of the individual psyche, a hierarchy of drives.

The one and only “purpose” we humans have is to progress and better ourselves. If this statement is put on top of everything we humans do and react to, it becomes clear why we behave and why we react as we do. Our human collective intellect is ruled by nature, specifically, evolution. Our technological and scientific progress is the evolution of mind. And to achieve the best results for the sake of progress we humans globalize our needs and wants. A “group” as you refer to it cannot build the Hubble telescope or invent a car. Industrial revolution resonated with the beginning of globalization, of connected ideas. As to the original topic, I do believe punishment is not the best form of discipline, but there is no alternative, anything but punishment fails because anything positive in disciplinary terms will be exploited and used for personal, and not collective gain.