As a novelist, the biggest part of my job is to solve problems. Among them are plot and character problems. How do I get a character out of a thorny predicament? How do I accomplish this in a way that not only makes sense, isn't a cop-out, but might be unexpected and successful?
When you care about your craft, this particular skill inevitably gets honed after doing it for 30 years. This also means that novelists have interesting and often useful ideas about how to solve other problems in the real world. I hope one day we will have a think tank of novelists tackling our most challenging issues. Until then, all we can do it share those ideas, either on social media, or within the text of our books.
One idea I have been researching and writing about in one of my current novels in progress, is the idea of bringing back the custom of banishment.
Considering the dark times we've been living in for the last four years, I'm thinking that in the spirit of the Biden/Harris ticket's motto "Build Back Better," we should consider also: Bring Back Banishment.
Banishment ought to come back into fashion as a societal norm for punishing those who would have committed serious crimes, and/or broken laws that endanger the rest of us.
Historically, banishment was the act of sending a violator away from the group, and forcing them to survive on their own, without the protections and resources provided by their community. This was a successful method, until more settlements popped up as populations grew, and then those banished were just able to harm or repeat violations in other communities, and so it fell out of favor as a punitive solution.
But now, with our United States Justice System of punishment being cages, where deadly pathogens can take hold and kill those who might not deserve a fate as severe as death, and where little rehabilitation occurs for those who should be separated from law-abiding citizens, and for unscrupulous politicians and moneyed-elites who get richer by cheating, extorting, and abusing the people they should instead serve, and for myriad other serious issues surrounding criminality and the justice system, we need a different solution.
Re-enter the practice of banishment. I’m not talking about the contemporary version of traitors living in embassies or hotels. I’m talking about trying, convicting, and sentencing serious offenders to simply leave society. Giving them a backpack full of survival gear and dropping them in the wilderness.
This would require the acquisition of a remote island or two, but that’s entirely feasible. Experts believe there are at least a million uninhabited islands in the world, just waiting to be colonized by those who can’t play well with others.
Then, we are practicing humane justice, in that we give them a fighting chance at survival for the length of their sentence, but we strip away the comforts they have enjoyed in our midst. Rightly, so, as they should no longer be able to benefit from the largess of a civilized society, if they can’t play by the rules that protect us all.
I have been perfecting the idea a bit in my novel, and the details would certainly have to be worked out, but overall, I believe the idea of banishment has merit.