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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 706)...

    I agree with you when you say that prohibiting a behavior never eliminates the behavior; it is psychologically and historically sound. What I have trouble doing is formulating an alternative method. When I explain this to people, they believe that I am crazy to think that laws don't prevent behavior. They argue that without laws the world would turn to anarchy. Could you cite an example of how a tribe might handle a homicide, especially when people frequently want revenge on the perpetrator of such a violent crime.

    ...and the response:

    Your friends, like most people in our culture, consider humans to be fundamentally corrupt, and so would surely run amok without the restraints of prohibitive laws. It's difficult to provide you the example you ask for. In our own society, the essential step is to "prove guilt"; thereafter, the punishment is preordained. No such system exists among tribal peoples, whose aim is not to prove guilt and administer punishment but as far as possible to restore concord; what this will take in the case of homicide depends on the circumstances and the customs of the tribe--there simply is no general rule. The people most nearly affected must be satisfied with the outcome, but the outcome must be negotiated with other tribal members so that in the end everyone is more or less content; there is no expectation that everyone will be completely satisfied (how could they be?). No one may rejoice at the outcome--the way (in our society) one side or the other rejoices when a trial verdict comes in--but the essential point is that no one ends up feeling aggrieved; the best of a bad situation has been made.

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