The whole concept of penance —other than sincerely listening and reflecting and expressing one’s regret for how one has caused harm to others or oneself — strikes me as strange. Furthermore, while those were different times and in a different culture, Gandhi’s actions seem rather patriarchal , egotistical, and emotionally manipulative. Reminds me of worst parts of Catholicism and abuse misrepresented as stern love of the Father. I realize that’s very modern and i individualistic, but I believe we should be able to communicate our hurt and find reconciliation and justice without punishment. Being accountable and taking stock of where one has fallen short of oneself or others is a different matter and very important for example, right now I’m having a lot of fun in between working up here in the mountains, but all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. I am in regular communication with my wife about my progress and being free tends to make me more creative and productive.

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They were certainly different times and a different culture, but clearly Gandhi's actions were patriarchal and emotionally manipulative. Some 40 years later, Manilal wrote in an essay "to my utter shame" he'd caused this fast. That rather than Manilal and Jeki being punished for violating the community code of conduct, Gandhi "punished" himself. I wonder if that's the difference between punishment and penance, one is imposed externally and the other is imposed internally, sort of voluntarily. I'd written (May 2) wondering if this might be called moral coercion. It "worked" with Manilal but not with Jeki.

Do your thoughts on penance explain cultural problems, such as the tragedy of the commons, where people may regret the harm (being) done, but don't feel a need to change their behavior in any way that would leave them worse off? Being willing to pay higher taxes to address social issues, even if a person didn't cause them directly, would seem to fit the penitential framework. But it's not a common attitude in the US.

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