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Power is a complicated term that has the different meaning. It can be the ability to govern wherein it implies the influence of the ruler on its subordinates. Or it can be the ability to control the subsidiaries of the person in the high position. It can be the ability to initially influence the people around him.
According to the story of Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault, power was possessed by the sovereign in the eighteenth century. It was him who has the ultimate control of everything over his subordinates. It was he who decided on the things that could be done and the things that could not be done in a specific place. Also, it was he who gave punishments to the people who had committed a crime. He was also the one who decided the extent of the punishments to the criminals. And he is also the one that decides the date of the execution. He has the control of everything, all the things that concerned the society and the people where he is governing.
The punishments those times as what Michel Foucault elaborated were brutal ones. The condemned man was being tortured. The body of the condemned man was being punished to the extent the physical pain that was being induced to him should leave a mark to its body for him to learn his lesson. The extent of the torture was being determined on how the sovereign wants the condemned man to learn his lessons.
This kind of punishment was shown in the story of Franz Kafka, which is the ‘In the Penal Colony’. In this story there were four major characters namely: the officer, the explorer, the condemned man, and the soldier. In the story, the explorer went to a penal colony for a visit to honor the invitation of the new commander of the said penal colony. During his visit, he was supposed to witness an execution. But before the execution, the officer showed the explorer the machine that will be used in the execution of the condemned man. The condemned man was to be punished for he was asleep during his working hours and he was caught in the act by his superior. His superior sued him and wanted him to be punished so he was sent to the penal colony. He was prosecuted because of his actions. His prosecution will be done for him to learn from the wrong deed he had done.
The process and the outcome of the prosecution are unknown to the condemned man. The only thing he knew was that he will be punished because of his action. He did not know the extent of his punishment and its outcome, which is death. This process was given an extra attention by the explorer and the ignorance of the condemned man of his punishment as well. The explorer continuously questioned the officer the regarding the severity of the punishment to the condemned man and as well the intensity of the punishment in reference to his offense. Also, the explorer questioned the officer if the punishment could teach the condemned man the lesson that he will not do the same offense in the future. The officer did not expect the condemned man to repeat the same offense for there was no second chance in such punishment.
And in the end, after the long talk of the officer and the explorer, the officer freed the condemned man and prosecuted himself. Because the officer cannot accept the fact the punishment he was implementing was not applicable anymore to the society and the time that that punishment was still acceptable has already passed. The new commandant of the penal colony was not agreeing with the type of punishment. And for him, the officer, not to dishonor his past commandant who designed and made the prosecuting machine, he prosecuted himself instead.
It was shown in this story of Kafka that the guilt of the condemned man was determined without a doubt. The guilt of the condemned man was determined when his superior filed the case against the condemned man. The condemned man did not have the chance to defend himself from the accusation that he was facing and all he could do in the end was to face the punishment that was put to him by the officer.
This story can be related to the work of Foucault where the guilt of a condemned man is determined without a doubt by the sovereign in the eighteenth century. And people are being punished without any mercy in front of the public showing to all the power of the sovereign is ultimate. The condemned people were being penalized without any investigation. They were being punished depending on the vision of the sovereign about their offense to the law that was also set by the sovereign.
The head is the law. That was the belief of the people back then. All the things that were said by the sovereign were absolute that time. Also, it was on the belief of the sovereign that all his words were the commandment in his place that no one will ever try to break it. And once broken, the law, he will put his punishment out of his vengeance to the condemned man. He will seek great vengeance to the condemned for he somewhat made fun of the things that the sovereign supposed in his place. And without any further investigation, his verdict is final supported by all the assumptions he had. And the punishment will be given as a public execution, with all the subordinates of the sovereign watching.
This thing only shows that the sovereign is showing the people his power and how he exercise it and as well the victory of his law. Eventually as time passed, the concept of punishment has already changed, from a brutal way of punishment to a more just one. It was discussed in the story Foucault that the view of the people on punishment in time changed that they no longer favor the cruel way of punishing the wrong doers. The punishment was no longer directed to the body of the condemned man in the form of torture but to a form where the man and the society will learn.
And to start the changes that they were doing, they needed to make a concrete law. The people back then decided to discuss the possible crimes that person could do and the possible punishment that they could give to the condemned man. And also, a lot deliberation will be done for them to be able to give the utmost consideration to the condemned. They discussed the relentlessness of the punishment that will be given and the situation where it will be given. The variability of the severity of the punishment will also be considered depending on the physical ability of the condemned man. All the possible consideration that they could give to the condemned man will be taken into action.
A proper due process was also completed. The condemned man will not be punished without undergoing any investigation. The guilt of the person will be determined with a doubt until proven guilty. The verdict of the condemned man will not be simply based on the guilt of the person but to the proper assessments of the evidences laid. And the condemned man will eventually know the punishment he will get and he would also know the reasons why he will be penalized.
It was also put into a consideration that the punishment system will be for the betterment of the society. The punishment system was made as the consequences of the crimes that were identified and not as a form of revenge to the condemned. The punishment system that will be given will ensure that there would no repetition of the crime in the future. That the punishment could have the minimal impression to the condemned man but maximum one to the other members of the society. A continuous study will be done regarding the origin of the punishment system and the changes it undergone to be able to reach its stage today.
As these changes occur in the punishment system, the power that was solely to the sovereign was now compartmentalized to the different part of the society. The filing of accusation will be done in a different part of the society. As well the investigation will be done by another sector of the society and the final verdict will be given by a different sector of the society as well. The power of the sovereign in giving punishments will be distributed to these different sectors of the society. This compartmentalization was done so to decrease the bias that could be attained while processing the punishment of a condemned man. And a proper due process will be given to the condemned man. And through this as well, the condemned man will be given a chance to appeal for himself if ever he is not satisfied with the result of this trial. A fair trial is what everybody deserves.
Reform was the key to the continuous change in the society. The power defined in the sovereign remains. He still has the absolute power or control over his subordinates. But then the powers that were given to the other sectors of the society were different from that of the sovereign. The knowledge that they had acquired from their studies became the key for them to have the power they had already. Knowledge is power; this was what Michel Foucault emphasized in his story. As they learned new things, they were able to make better ways to improve the punishment system that time. And it turned out that the knowledge that they had acquired did not just help them improve the punishment system but as well the laws and the over all situation of the society. It only means that a person who is knowledgeable knows his subjects and through the power he gained, he could do analysis about his subjects.
And this knowledge-power relation made it possible for the people in those times analyzed the things that had happened in the past and relate them to their present. And through this, they were able to find out that the different methods that they were using in the present were better for the people rather than the harsh methods of the past. The positive outlook of the people towards things made their lives better. And as well the people in those times were living respect to the sovereign rather the fear that they had felt in the past.
The obedience of the people will not be questioned, for they were showing respect to the authority. The respect that was gained through time will be observed, rather than the blind obedience that the people were being just obedient for they fear the authorities. The fear that may cause problems to the society in the future will always be present in their minds.
With this knowledge, one can be confused. Like what happened to K in the book of ‘The Trial’ by Franz Kafka, he knows that he did not do anything wrong but then he was suddenly arrested. He was arrested at the morning of his thirtieth birthday. He was arrested but accused with nothing. And the worst thing was that the warders that arrested him did not know the exact charge against K. he was brought then to the Inspector who was the one in charge of his arrest but then the Inspector himself did not know as well the reason why K was been arrested. Nobody would tell him the reason why was he on trial and the reason why he was arrested in the first place. Until the end that he was killed on his thirty-first birthday by the two men he did not know as well.
In our chaotic society it is the law that binds it and makes significance for its existence. It is the law that becomes its backbone and the reason for its existence. When the people commit a crime, they seek the people who know the law to understand more. They review the written law to comprehend all the stuffs written on it. Like in the story presented above, K did not understand many things. He did not know the reason why he was arrested and why it was being kept from him. He looked for the law for him to comprehend but then there was no one who would explain things to him.
These things were also felt by the condemned people in the eighteenth century, they were being penalized unfairly. They also seek for the understanding and the explanation of the things that are happening to them. They also seek for the processes that will be done during their punishment but they get no answer as well for all the things that involves their punishment is being kept secret by the high officials and the sovereign. And all that they do in their life is to wait for the sentence that awaits them, unfair but it was true. In our life there comes a time when we are confused of so many things as well.
There comes a time that the things that are happening in our lives seems to have no meaning in us. There are things we do because they are the things that most people do as well, but in the end we do not understand those things. And there are things that we believe because they were the things that most people also believe. And also there are things in our life that we perform but we do not really know. All these things happen in ones life and it all depends on us on how we deal on these things.
In the end when we seek for understanding, the only person that we could rely on is our own selves. We are the ones in those situations and we are the only ones who can make the analyses for our own selves. We should not be afraid of the truth for those things will set us free from all the confusions that we can think of.
And to attain the comprehension that we require, we need knowledge to equip ourselves. We need to have enough knowledge to be able to analyze things. And through this knowledge we could earn power, the power that we could use in attaining a self composure. Understanding is not an easy thing, it is a process. And through this process we could see the insights and decrements of our own selves and the society.
Knowledge is power, so we should not disregard the knowledge-power relation.
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