Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Undead men working

TAXPAYERS can assert that capital punishment is taxes. As added assault and insult to his bled-dry pockets, the taxpayer has to bear the brunt of paying for every death convict’s penal board and lodging while our non-honorable senators are making up their minds whether heinous crimes have palpable existence or are mere figments of the imagination.

It is likely that the paltry P15 daily food expenditure (based on 1985 prices) per inmate had jumped to a more realistic P150 level. With over a thousand convicts on death row – including the much-awaited possibility of an ex-President getting dumped there for multiple counts of plunder -- that means taxpayers bleed over P150,000 each day -- or some P55 million per year to keep ‘em dead men walking with full stomachs.

As show of earnest sincerity, every anti-death penalty proponent can put his money where his mouth is. Taxpayers would readily appreciate the bleeding heart arguments for sparing death convicts if anti-death penalty groups raise among themselves a P55 million yearly fund (the logistics can still jump upwards) to feed the walking dead men. Mas matibay ang gawa kaysa ngawa..
A grisly alternative to capital punishment is propounded in the French epic Chanson de Roland, set in an era when Saracen hordes were in a pillaging frenzy over Europe. That meant every man, woman and child capable of bearing arms was tapped to repulse the Saracen invasion. Despite such need for human numbers to man the frontlines, the epic recounts a “cleansing” process to rid the defender’s ranks of a heinous crime convict.

Off went the convict’s head, along with the heads of his entire family and near relatives, including friends. As fillip to the chop list, the convicted defendant’s lawyer also lost his head. Most hard-nosed folks I know would ache for the employment of such a solution today to rid the country of political pestilence. That need not be a waste of human resources that could be put to better use as cannon fodder or humus to enrich degraded soils.

Available psychology findings show that convicted rapists -- they comprise an overwhelming majority in death row -- have an average intelligence quotient of 80 which can detract from pursuit of endeavors that call for higher level of skills and intelligence. Even so, the worst recidivists represent untapped human resource that can do less intellectually challenging tasks, say, voting.

In Haiti and Martinique, a wonderful biotechnology for making rowdy farm workers more tractable can be tried out on death convicts. Journalist-adventurer William B. Seabrook wrote about the biotechnology in his 1929 account Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields -- it’s included in his book on Haiti, The Magic Island. The report cited a then-prevailing law in Haiti banning the use of certain potions that may not necessarily inflict death, yet induce a lethargic coma in humans.

Lately, anesthesiologists found that tetrotodotoxin (derived from certain species of toad and the deadly puffer fish) was the main ingredient in such lethargic coma-inducing potions. In Haiti and Martinique, unscrupulous labor contractors surreptitiously administered the potions to unsuspecting village dwellers -- and hauled them to work in haciendas. Anesthetized work gangs planted, tended and harvested bananas, plantains, pineapples, coffee and sugar cane with nary a rest. No rowdy behavior, no cry for collective bargaining agreements and fringe benefits. No strikes, no wages. No problem. Their pittance pay went into their labor contractor’s pockets.

These rag tag work teams made labor management and exploitation easy as pie. They were herded like cattle in hay-lined stables for their rest quarters, were fed slop. Neat working arrangement.

Such anesthesized work crews were known in the local tongue as ti-dan. English equivalent word: zombie.

By 1932, Hollywood managed to skim through the Seabrook reportage and decided to crank up profits by producing movies that focused more on the apparent magical transformation of tropic work gangs doing the graveyard shift. The biotechnology was squashed out of the zombie movies -- thus, we came to know as zombies as mindless monsters feeding on the living while we devoured and relished the half-truths.

Labor dealers had their turn at turning up profits at the expense of unwilling laborers. Film makers had their turn next. Maybe, penologists can offer relief to taxpayers by getting in line for the next turn. We’re looking at a cost-effective, out-of-the-box alternative solution to effecting capital punishment. This will render lethal injection effete.

Anti-death penalty proponents are implicitly saying that criminal elements aren’t deterred by capital punishment, that incorrigible recidivists don’t have an iota of intelligence that will allow them to learn from a long, long line of negative examples. So there’ll be dead men walking and there’ll be more in the sewers they had oozed from.

A more viable alternative is to turn dead men walking into undead men working.

Hah, that will mean less food costs for inmates. Lesser security maintenance costs, too. Death row requiring maximum security facilities and safeguards may become just a makeshift shed, a prison without walls to herd ‘em convicts-turned-zombies that can be tasked to toil in, say, quarry sites, in mines, in reforestation of the entire Sierra Madre mountain range. No need to pay these work gangs.

And such state of penal affairs, my dear, will at last bring to grim reality the worn-out cliche, “Crime does not pay.”

No comments: