2012-11-21

Ji'e'toh

Robert Jordan Wheel of Time.

I like Jordan's idea of ji'e'toh. Translated it's honor and obligation, if you violate your honor or someone else's you incur obligation to yourself and/or others. Until this debt of obligation has been met the blemish on your honor remains. The obligation is met by doing penance. Generally, what exactly that involves is determined by the person you incurred obligation toward.

Of course, in the story what honor is and what will cause a person dishonor herself or others and incur obligation is a large number of complex and arbitrary rules set by the Aiel, the group of people who created and follows this philosophy. The rules and preferences of the Aiel is not really that interesting, but the two cornerstones of ji'e'toh are:

One: you define the price of your honor yourself. That means that you yourself decide how much penance is required to meet your obligation. It's like a public transit proof of payment system, while the occasional check is done, you're obliged by your own honesty to pay for your ticket.

Two: once you have met your obligation whatever caused you to incur it in the first place is forgotten as if it never happened. You and your honor is restored.

It's the second part that I like. It's a bit like Catholic confession: you confess, do your penance, and regret what you did and then your slate is wiped clean. As far as I understood the protestant church I grew up with; there, it was enough to simply regret what you did and god would forgive you. No need to confess or do penance, because the earnestness of your regret was between you and and all-knowing god.

This is also how I was brought up to believe the criminal justice system worked: you committed a crime, society meted out a fitting punishment and once you had endured the punishment your debt was payed and your crime was forgotten.

The trouble with Catholicism and Protestantism and the justice system (in general) is that while doing penance, receiving punishment and regretting is between you and some higher power other people tend not to be satisfied with that. Being excommunicated is a clear example of how people are dissatisfied with the agreement between you and god. The criminal justice system is the same, you may endure your punishment but your crime remains on your "record", and sometimes there are additional indefinite consequences (like being listed as a sex offender in some public record).

Breaches of our social code is similar: for example, a slut, an asshole, a lier etc, remains a slut, an asshole and lier indefinitely unless it's somehow forgotten.

Whatever laws you break, informal or otherwise, there is no way to actually pay the price. That's why I like ji'e'toh, once the obligation has been met it's done with. Theoretically that encourages honesty: you clear your conscience, you take your punishment and you're forgiven.

Of course, since it's completely self regulated it can't deal with people who refuse to self regulate. I have to presume that such people would simply be killed if they were considered a threat.

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