chapter  6
29 Pages

6Humans Are Animals Too: Environmental Justice Scripts

The previous chapters have established retributive and restorative justice as two basic modes of reacting to harm hardwired into our cognitive architecture. The first of these modes prioritizes punishment, while the other seeks healing. The ability to seek vengeance and the ability to forgive are complex, tertiary-process operations processed by the New Brain, yet they draw on the primary-and secondary-process Old Brain affective systems: the fear/ rage circuits and the anger affect on the one hand; care and the forgiveness system on the other. Since the evolution of the reptilian-brain potential for retribution preceded the development of our mammalian-brain potential for forgiveness, revenge and forgiveness are developmentally staggered. Young and preadolescent children find it easier to punish than to forgive because their world is dominated by the right hemisphere1. Inasmuch as forgiveness requires more complex processing, the ability to forgive and cooperate must be initially taught, but it becomes second nature once the left hemisphere catches up in middle childhood, around the age of eight (Crago 91). Revenge and forgiveness are thus asymmetrical on the New Brain level of interhemispheric competition and remain so throughout the entire human lifespan. Because the transfer of information from the left to the right hemisphere is always slower than the other way around (McGilchrist 218), the revenge impulse is biologically quicker to emerge than the forgiveness one.