Capital Punishment: A World View

By James Avery Joyce | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
Europe on Trial

"If the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats--any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death--then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion-tamer in the circus with his whip, not the. Prophet who sacrificed Himself."--BORIS PASTENAK, in Doctor Zhivago

WITH THE PASSING OF THE HALFWAY MARK OF THE PRESENT century, crime gangs--by no means a rare phenomenon in any century--and the alarming increase of crimes of violence have so disturbed contemporary opinion that the perennial problem of the death penalty has again reached a "To-be-or-not-to-be" stage. It is by no means a foregone conclusion, in the light of current criminal statistics, that Capital Punishment will be automatically abolished in the near future merely on the basis of the "trends" discussed in the previous chapter.

Looking back over the last half-century or more and confining our observations mainly to continental Europe--but with an occasional glance at parallel developments in Russia and beyond the seas--it becomes evident that, by and large, the humanitarian tendencies of the previous century have steadily continued, in spite of the waxing and waning of popular emotion. Hence, the general conclusion can be drawn that, given a reasonable degree of international peace, the current "crime wave," common to Europe and America alike, may be regarded as a temporary setback and there is no valid reason why the long-term movement towards abolition should be reversed-- provided, that is, national leaders can meanwhile be persuaded to

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