S1E6 – B: The three key activities after an unethical behaviour.

There are three key activities we constantly do in an effort to align social behaviors, we judge, we repair and we validate situations. In this section we review them in detail and how they relate to the DREMSI method

No one can deny that there is a strong connection between Justice and Ethics, for many the roots of any justice system rely precisely on the moral code of the society. I personally don’t like to mix and mesh concepts, hence I decided to stay away from Justice in this work, as this is a concept that is much more complicated for me due to the legal aspect of it. Nevertheless, it is easy to connect the cycle of ethics, the reaction to an ethical damage, with the well-known idea of Justice, which to many means that “a person gets what they deserve”.

I use the same principles of reaction to describe the cycle of ethics but I broaden its scope as I see it as a collective activity. In this regard, Benjamin franklin highlighted: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”. Multiple stakeholders have to participate in the process and the end result is the collective understanding of proper behaviour.

To make it easier to visualize how we take part in the process, I consider important to specify the three key activities that arise during the cycle of ethics: The punishment sanction, the repairment and the group validation. During this section, I’ll provide a brief description of each activity and then move on to disclose how it will be applied within the DREMSI Method.

Punishment Sanctions

We begin with perhaps the most famous one, punishment. I don’t think I need to provide an in-depth explanation of the action, this is simply a reaction to a crime, somebody insulted you and you punish this person in one way or another. From the beginning, I would like to clarify that common views on punishment include two components, a reparation or restoration of the damage and a sanction or sort of injury to the person committing the crime. I decided to separate these views as the reparation component is not always dependent on a punishment, meaning we do not always need a judge to tell the offender to repay the damages, it can be an independent activity. As such in this work I’ll be referring to punishment sanction as the damage we cause to the offender because it broke social expectations, while reparation refers to the act of amending the damages by the offender.

The focus on the sanction, the suffering of the offender, is an unfortunate feature of the cycle. I say unfortunate because despite knowing that this practice can lead to a lot of damages, it still remains a solid way for us to learn behaviours. Not only for the offender but for the group. As Emil Durkheim nicely wrote: “It is said that we do not make the guilty party suffer for the sake of suffering; it is nonetheless true that we find it right that he should suffer.”

We have many ways to place punishment sanctions, with formal ways such as fines and removal of liberty belonging to a legal process, and informal ways such as shame, ridicule, physical damage, disapproval or exclusion. Punishment sanctions are pretty any damage caused to the offender as a direct consequence for a previous offence.

DREMSI and Punishment Sanctions

Looking into the application of punishment within the DREMSI method, we shall consider a Punishment sanction as a justified injury caused to a roleplaying agent when breaking an expectation. It is a sanction that people in the space consider appropriate and is consistent in intensity compared to other sanctions placed on similar offences within a relational space, hence it is a social expectation in itself.

Punishment sanction as social expectation

As teased before, a punishment sanction is a social expectation, hence it is not considered an injury. In other words, one is not unethical if one punishes someone that broke social expectations.

Although this sound problematic, this is well within our control zone. Since the sanction component is a social expectation, punishment sanctions have to be socially agreed upon and consistent across injury types. In other words, if someone insults your family, you can only punish them within what is appropriate for insults within your social space.

To be more specific, here are three implications for the DREMSI Methodology:

General direction and guidance by injury intensity

With all this said, a general guidance on how to implement sanctions within the DREMSI theory, would be something like this:

“So long one is accountable for the punishment sanction, one should punish the offender within the scope of social expectations, without causing critical or serious injuries to the offender or the group”

At this point we might question, what is the scope of a social expectation on a punishment sanction? As per any other social expectation, this will be defined by the group, the group will have common expectations on how to handle disloyalty, how to handle a physical attack or how to handle a lie. And if one over-punish it will be noticeable within the group, as you don’t chop the hand of a person if they lie to you.

To complement this statement, find below a small overview of what to expect by the intensity of injury:

  • For micro-injuries. Sanctions are not necessary in all cases as a small complaint can be enough, one can be strategic about the moment and time one wants to provide the sanction (for example one can wait until the right moment to make a complaint about many different behaviours). The objective is to provide a pointer for a modification of behaviour. Most likely no third party will be involved, hence solution has to be handled locally.
  • For serious-injuries. Have to be sanctioned with a strong connection with a reparation component. The sanction has to be to a degree high enough for the offender to understand it did an offence. If the group is large, it is likely that a third party either in judgement or in sanction application. Close stakeholders will be involved in the validation process.
  • For critical-injuries. Has to be sanctioned with large consequences that will require a third party regardless of the size of the group.

The guidance by injury threshold is at the moment an initial proposal, I believe this is an interesting aspect to keep exploring.


Let us switch gears and look into Reparation. In short words, Reparation stands for the recognition of the injury by the offender and the effort to amend the wrong with a payment or other kind of assistance to those who have been wronged.

Reparation entails two actions, acknowledgement of the offence and restoring of the damage. Both aspects are critical, as the acknowledgement serves as a validation of the social expectations and the restoring aspect contributes to the healthiness of the group. With this in mind, forms of reparation will be as small as an apology or body language of remorse, to all the way fixing the injury caused.

Two common contrasting issues can be seen in reparation. On one side, many people have such high egos that they stubbornly reject making any mistakes, a self-made illusion that stops them from even considering giving an apology. On the opposite side you have the ones that use reparation to display virtue, and what I mean is that they “over apologize”, Do you remember when it became a trend for YouTubers to apologize? Since apologies are cheap many people use them to grab attention. Due to all this, it is important to advocate for both, not only the acknowledgement but the active action of amending, this last one being the most valuable.

Reparation and DREMSI

Looking into the application of Reparation within the DREMSI scope, we shall consider Reparation as the social expectation on the offender to acknowledge the offence and subsequently make an effort to repay the damage. It is hence assigned by the group and failing to deliver is an offence.

Reparation as a social expectation

In a similar fashion as per sanctions, here are three implications to consider for the DREMSI method:

  • First, a social expectation is created on an individual (the offender) to repair the damages caused. If the person doesn’t fulfil it in full that person is breaking expectations. In equal regard, going beyond what one is expected then can be considered a sign of altruism
  • Second, the repairment value is socially created, hence it is not for the offender to decide what is an appropriate reparation. It is either decided by a judge or alternatively, it is used from the common practices within the group.
  • Third, the reparation activity can be independent of the punishment. In one way, one doesn’t need to get a punishment sanction to decide to provide a reparation, and in another, one is not excused from the punishment sanction because one decided to provide reparation.

General direction and guidance by injury intensity

To summarize it in a statement:

One should seek to repair for his/her offences based on the value determined by the group without causing critical or serious injuries to the group.”

You may ask, why do we have to include the “without causing critical or serious injuries to the group?”, well, this is because it is not uncommon that in the process of repayment we end up doing additional damage, in simple terms, one is not excused to steal money in order to pay one’s debts.

An important observation at this point is that in many cases the damage caused is not possible to repair, for example, a humiliation cannot always be repaired with an adulation. In these cases, we simply have to estimate what would mean equal value, an intuitive process that requires us to compare offences and intensities.

To complement the statements above, let me provide some thoughts on how reparation applies depending on the injury intensity.

  • For micro-Injuries – Reparation in the form of acknowledgement tends to be enough. Given that these injuries are normally solved among the core stakeholders the satisfaction of the victim tends to be the most important aspect.
  • For serious injuries – Reparation is necessary in both ways, as acknowledgement and as an active effort to fix the injury. The reparation has to be of at least the same intensity as the offence, a sense of equality must be felt. If the offence is publicly known, it is beneficial to make the repayment publicly known. The satisfaction of the victim is important, but the group will certainly voice their opinion.
  • For critical injuries – Reparation is indispensable, however, it is likely that the damage is unrepairable so there is the need to have a discussion on other ways to repair the damage and even if the damage is repaired the relationship might be completely broken. At this intensity, the opinion of the group is really relevant to the point that it might overtake the opinion of the victim.

Group Validation.

Let us move on in our exploration of the process and take a look at the group validation. For this activity, I mean the approval or disapproval from the group on the actions and outcomes that just happened during the action and reaction steps. The group validation serves as a form of information for everyone to understand where does one stand in regard to the respective social expectation that has been broken.

To visualize it, the typical reactions from this group validation are from a small show of discomfort, all the way to a complaint about the action. I guess is easy to imagine when your colleagues complain about how the boss treated an issue, or how we show disapproval of how a parent handles his kids.

This kind of validation concerns mostly three stakeholders:

  • The space-related authority, individuals responsible for the stability of the relational space. They might have to intervene in case there is a clear violation of expectations on the judgment side.
  • Secondary stakeholders, individuals that have ties with the affected ones. They are likely to intervene to support the victim.
  • Space-related stakeholders, individuals connected with the relational space. They are likely to voice their opinion if its relevant.

The process of group validation is different in every space, in some there is the possibility for open discussions by all members of the group, in others, only some qualified members can voice their opinion, and in extreme cases, only the space authority is allowed to express their views. In a simple view we could see it as a democratic process, and this is not needed in all spaces.

Even if the objective for all these parties is to voice their opinion on the social expectation broken, this activity tends to be largely influenced by tribalism, meaning we act not because we find the behaviour unacceptable, but because we want to display affinity towards certain stakeholders, we want to show support. This is the reason why your mother will always condemn anyone that injures you, no matter if you deserved it or not. In this regard I want to emphasize that there is a social expectation to support your close ones, we all have the expectation to support our friends and relatives “no matter the reason”. This makes the situation problematic as secondary stakeholders tend to have this double-sided expectation, which one they chose would depend on the level of proximity to the respective individual.

In a similar fashion might want to use their opinion for “virtue signalling”, in other words, they participate when is an obvious mistake, not because it is a mistake but because everyone disapproves of it. This can be seen mostly with companies that condemn discrimination cases, using it as a PR activity rather than a behaviour they actively want to change.

These tribalistic and virtue signalling behaviours combined with the strong emotional aspect of this activity make the process difficult; despite these issues, it remains a very important tool for information sharing and harmonization of behaviours.

Group Validation and DREMSI

In regards to the DREMSI method, group validation will be seen as the reactions done by stakeholders, that signal to the group their comfort or discomfort with the status of a respective social expectation that has been broken, either by the offender, the victim or the judge.  This last comment refers that the validation process applies not only to the offender but as well if the judge fails to make a proper judgement or if the victim fails to even make the case to ask for reparation.

Group Validation as a social expectation

Because group validation is a social expectation, hence it is not an injury if one shames the actions or makes uncomfortable gestures. In this regard, I put as an arbitrary limit that so long the action taken by the stakeholders stays within the uncomfortable format, they will not be considered injuries.

Three considerations apply:

  • First, the expectation to provide an opinion is raised when a social expectation is broken. The intensity of the injury and connection to the situation serves as guidance to determine if the expectation is raised. In simple words, if it’s a small injury your mom doesn’t need to get involved, but if it’s critical, everyone would be expecting her to get involved.
  • Second, the social expectation respects roles and proximity, hence if one is not the judge or one doesn’t belong to the space, the expectation doesn’t apply and intervening can be considered an injury. One is not free to voice their opinion if one has nothing to do with the party.
  • Third, even if an opinion is a justified injury, this action has to be within limits of what the group believe is appropriate. Hence if one shames too much it will be causing an injury. As a rule of thumb, anything that goes beyond uncomfortable it will be considered an injury.

General Guidance

With all this said, here is the current guideline for group validation responses:

“if one gets the social expectation to validate an action, one should take an active role on it without inferring serious or critical injuries in the process.

In this regard, “inferring injuries” refers to keeping oneself within normal etiquette. One cannot simply start yelling or destroying a space just to make their point. There are many ways to display discomfort and one has to stay within social expectations. To make things a bit easier to digest, voicing one opinion has the risk of becoming an injury,

  • If its done with the objective to punish, especially when a punishment is already in place
  • When its focused on the person instead of the action
  • If its done on ways that are beyond common practices, for example burning cars.

Connecting everything with the injury thresholds, see below a tentative guideline for intervention.

  • For micro injuries – no need to intervene as this can be arranged locally.
  • For serious injuries – act only if you are a secondary stakeholder or a space authority.
  • For critical injuries – everyone should intervene.

Closing remarks

We have now come to the end of this section where we took a closer look at each of the three key actions during the feedback loops. A big inspiration to write this section came from the idea of Restorative Justice presented by Emil Durkheim, where he highlighted that we need to ensure a punishment system that restores the damages caused by the injuries, focusing on the wellbeing of the group as the primary objective. I follow the same steps with the approach done in DREMSI, in which we not only aim for the minimization of injuries during the process but place a strong emphasis on the reparation aspect of the cycle. In simple terms, so long an unethical behaviour has been done, regardless if its justified or not, a respective reparation should take place. The hope is that this perspective helps us to focus on the well-being of the group, just like the objective of restorative justice is.

To finalize this episode is time to review each feedback loop in detail, so let’s move on to the next section.

NEXT: S1E6 – C: The Feedback loops in Ethics

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