I had a conversation this morning with my friend R about the Wisdom of the 7 Sages of Ancient Greece. He was bothered by line # 51, Shun criminals and murderers. He was asserting that I was going to get a lot of blowback on all the brief precepts on the list. But he felt that #51 was the most repugnant. Those people don’t want to be put into a negative category and shunned. They are already under a social black cloud and their lives have already been made so difficult they were driven to acts that society considers so offensive they were punished. That punishment he considered enough and too much in most cases. Those criminals and murderers have suffered enough and should now be treated as well as other people.
My idea was to go back to the first suggestions. # 1 Seek and pursue goodness and # 2 Obey all laws. The basic idea running through the 147 suggestions is similar to the very first, # 1 Seek and pursue goodness. Thus, when a person is as good as we wise and sentient beings should be, then we would treat them according to # 15 Empower your friends for good deeds. That would include criminals and murderers if they were friends, but if we followed # 51 we would Shun criminals and murderers, and they would not be our friends. R would assert that everyone deserves to be treated well and everyone should be considered a friend. I would agree and say in line # 97 Give friendly greetings to everyone. And yet, if a person was a convicted criminal and murderer it would seem fair to apply # 116 Walk quietly away from hatred, and it would seem that a murderer had hatred going at some level to have committed so heinous an act. The same could be said for any crime that resulted in a criminal conviction.
The word shun is also used in line # 136 Be happy and shun debauchery. In that case, it is an excessive personal action that is to be shunned, not a person. In our personal actions, we are encouraged to # 12 Behave with discretion, #13 Bring honor to your family, # 14 Avoid improper actions. Debauchery is an excess of some sort and easily leads to difficulties. In every way # 17 Avoid all unnecessary risks. There are plenty of necessary risks in life but we can avoid some of the unnecessary ones, such as debauchery, known criminals, and murderers.
In the end, #91 Be kind to everyone, they have troubles too.