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Old December 12th 03, 19:18   #1
Shism
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Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

Passing through Gethsemene has to be one of my favourite episodes of season three. It isn't really crucial to the overall arc, but the storytelling is amazing.

The episode raises some important questions and issues, with capital punishment being the most poignant. What do we find important when punishing people who have committed horrible acts such as murder?

Do we want vengeance? Must they suffer as much as their victims? In that respect, 'death of personality' is coming off easy: you can live they rest of your life content and with a clear conscience. This must be a nightmare for the families of the victims: knowing that your loss will haunt you forever, while the criminal is 'released' from quilt and punishment.

Or do we want criminals to better themselves, and repay their debt to society? In which case, 'death of personality' is much more effective than any punishment we have today.

What's your take on this?
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Old December 12th 03, 19:46   #2
PillowRock
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

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This must be a nightmare for the families of the victims: knowing that your loss will haunt you forever, while the criminal is 'released' from quilt and punishment.
Not necessarily.

In the first place, it depends on whether you consider the "person" that you want to punish is the mind/personality that chose to commit the crime or the physical body. In our world the two can not be decoupled. This episode raises the question (for us it is purely an intellectual / philosophical exercise) of what we would want done if you *could* differentiate between the sentence for the mind and the sentence for the body.

In the second place, are you sure that someone sentenced to the death of personality suffers less than someone sentenced to death as we know it? (I am assuming that the sentence is actually carried out at the same time regardless of which kind of "death" it is.) One could argue that, just by virtue of living so much longer, the one who gets the death of personality actually ends up experiancing more pain and suffering than the one who is executed.
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Old December 12th 03, 21:12   #3
Oatley1
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

I suspect that for most people (myself included) the answer would vary if you knew the victim. From a distant perspective you would want to have the criminal repay their debt to society. However, if you were the family of the victim, I would certainly want vengeance as well as justice. In the case of those mindwiped, you would still want them dead because your loved one was dead. As Garabaldi said - an eye for an eye.
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Old December 12th 03, 22:14   #4
hypatia
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

I think it is my favorite episode, as well. No pretentious easy answers in this episode at all. From any perspective.

Just what would you do with a steady supply of wind-wiped individuals? Remember that (I always forget, was he Brother Theo or Edwards? It has been awhile since I've seen the episode) he was lost by the system.

Where do they usually send such individuals? Not a monastery, I gather.
So who really knows what kind of lives they lead after being mind wiped.

I confess, I find it more interesting to consider the turmoil of the individual that finds he has been mind-wiped and is not the person he thought he was. As a devout monk, he truly is in major turmoil not knowing how to compensate (or even ask for forgiveness) for sins "he" never knew he made.

On all levels, it is a fascinating episode and raises some very good questions, yes. As with all justice, there never can be a definite answer. Which makes it all the more interesting as a story.
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Old December 12th 03, 22:21   #5
phoenixrising
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

I believe it was Brother Edward. Brother Theo was the head of the monks.

It is true, there are no easy answers in this episode, but that's where some of the best episodes of B5 leave you. JMS said a good story should provoke discussion, commentary... and the occasional bar fight.
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Old December 13th 03, 06:51   #6
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

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However, if you were the family of the victim, I would certainly want vengeance as well as justice. In the case of those mindwiped, you would still want them dead because your loved one was dead.
But isn't that the point? The murderer is dead in every respect that really matters. Everything that made him who he was is gone. The memories, the experiences, the personality, all gone. All that remains is the body.

This is what makes this episode one of the best non-arc stories in B5 for me. It makes me think deep thoughts

Such as, what is the essence of a person? Is there such a thing as a 'soul'? If the personality is wiped, does anything more than the body remain? Is there a spirit of the murderer that somehow remains in the body? Can you hold the body responsible for the acts of the mind that is no longer alive?

Lots of questions, no answers. I love it!
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Old December 13th 03, 11:02   #7
hypatia
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

Thanks, PR. I always get names confused.

Demon: if Brother Edward's memories were beginning to resurface, then I'd say we're using mind wipe a bit too broadly. Obviously, some trace of the memories are still there, just probably scattered and buried. So I'd venture a guess that the soul is still there, too.

I suppose that depends on what you consider a soul to be.
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Old December 13th 03, 15:33   #8
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

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you can live they rest of your life content and with a clear conscience.
I would disagree. Somebody else would be living their (almost full) life with a clear conscience, merely utilizing your former body.

However, "Passing through Gethsemane" complicated the issue beyond simple "wipe and forget". It added a moment of uncertainty by telling that human-effected mindwipes would sometimes break.

Apparently, since an implanted personality would lack the complexity of a real personality... some hypothetical biological process of mental healing might "fix the old personality" instead of completing the new (as far as completing a biological mind would be possible without childhood).

Even parallel personalities might develop -- old personality healing, new personality completing itself. They would remain separated from each other. Only one would probably control conscious life. Unless a Centauri telepath came and "accidentally" established a bridge between them.

From the viewpoint of society, a biological healing process repairing the old personality... would have picked the wrong personality to help. From the viewpoint of self-preservation, it would naturally be saving its original (and by originality true, even if otherwise twisted) mind.

To avoid this... to make the new personality firmly root itself... would need careful and correct installation. Since humans (certainly current humans, and humans of Babylon 5) lack complete self-awareness and self-control (which we sometimes envy in computers) I suspect a human-installed "implanted personality" would often lack the finesse and complexity prevail on the ruins of a real personality (even a criminal one).

-------

I would suspect that implanted personalities installed by other, more experienced creatures... might have absolute and permanent hold over the brain they overtook. For example, within the confines of the fictional world of B5... I would not expect the core of a Shadow vessel to recover, even if parts of their old personality were knowingly left to exist.

On the issue of quick-and-dirty assemblies not having the complexity of self-assembled persons... even an implanted personality installed by Shadows (Anna Sheridan) failed. Admittedly in a far tougher task, namely impersonating a destroyed real personality.

Although in this case, impersonation was probably made impossible not by lacking finesse of installation, but lost source data and impossible goal (the real Anna would simply not have accepted the principles which the Shadows needed her to represent).

Their methods of overwriting a personality were probably irrevocable -- and some part of the previous Anna had been replaced beyond recovery by some low-grade shipmind. Low-grade enough to make a sentient shipmind feel nausea.

-------

On the issue of justice, in my eyes... aside from reforming where this is possible (if reforming demands external intrusion into the mind/body, the person choosing to reform must absolutely approve this before modification)...

...justice should stop the possibility of further crimes, make the criminal pay as exactly as possible... yet avoid (unless the criminal gets destroyed to prevent him/her from harming someone) death, irrevocable modification or cruelty.

Therefore, I would consider mindwipe (modification of mind with the expected result of destroying the old mind) an unacceptable punishment for any justice system.

You might ask why... if one goal is retribution... why avoid mindwipe? Why feed prisoners? Diffrent people might answer differently... feeding prisoners is certainly a burden on society. Posting a guard drone authorized to use lethal force after every criminal... would be inefficient too.

However, while people like to play society... they must admit the justice systems of societies can err. Mindwiping somone to later discover it destroyed an innocent person... would be just as good as completely killing an innocent person.

Detention is revocable. The term "mindwipe" implies it should not be, which makes it unacceptable except in defense of oneself or another from unjustified attack.
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Old December 13th 03, 16:25   #9
Enlightened_GKar
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

This episode poses too many questions dealing with and around captial punishment - it is impossible for me to answer them. All I can do is develop a firm course of action when dealing with the issue.

I believe that it is wrong to take a life. In all cases except extreme self-defense, no one has the right or the justification to take away another's life. (I do realize that self-defense is no better than any other reason for killing someone, however this is what I believe.)
Along these lines, it is also just as wrong for a government to take a life, so the government should be prohibited from doing it. What the gorvernment should and is justified in doing is boot the person out of the country, and keep them into a state of exile.
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Old December 13th 03, 17:07   #10
sleepy_shadow
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Re: Remarks on Passing through Gethsemene

Exile would be one, admittedly doubtful way of addressing some crimes.

It might work -- but not by shifting the burden to another society. Exile would have to occur into a habitable place... of complete lack of people (potential victims to violence). Under the statement of "play by yourself, see if you manage".

With humans, this might work. With beings/machines not inherently restricted from building a vehicle/spaceship with their natural assortment of tools, this might prove a poor solution.

-----

I personally hope that some day, people will simply reach a form of existence... where crime becomes unfeasible.

A form of existence inherently better protected from manipulation and attack, either by means of impenetrable defense, mutually assured destruction or incredibly adept concealment/evasion (never coming within reach of weapon).

A form where people never need anything desperately enough to risk their own safety or significant portions of property... never trust blindly (except perhaps after a *very* long time)... where properties want to belong to their owner... and in the overall optimality model, taking from another offers no gain, only loss for both.

I try to imagine it... using the analogy of one Vorlon trying to steal another's personal transport.

"Who are you?"
<impersonation>"Kosh. Open the door."</impersonation>
"You are not the correct Kosh. Go away."
"Open the */%/# door, personal transport."
"Do not approach. I notified Kosh despite your jamming."
"Please open the door, personal transport. I need help."
"Address me by name."
"Fine. Please open the door, [untranslatable]."
"Distrust, no authorization, no proven need. Go away."
"Open the door or else..."
"Do not threaten. I have particle weapons too."
"(/@(%(&amp;%(/&amp;"
"Do it... and we shall both go up in smoke."
"Zog."
"Zog you too. Have a good day."
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