The concept of Erasure was first introduced in the country of Vastat, and while that remains the sole place that it has been put into practice, discussion of the ethical and logical implications of Erasure as a form of punishment has spread worldwide.
Vastat is a small country off of the southwest coast of Chormanthyr. It consists of two islands, the larger of which is separated from the mainland by little more than a wide river’s worth of ocean. Vastat is politically distinct from Chormanthyr, however, and has a surprisingly divergent cultural climate, considering the close proximity of the two countries and the disparity in size.
Vastat’s second island is much smaller, and is more distant from the mainland. It is accessible only by boat, and until recent years, it was almost entirely uninhabited. With the advent of Vastat’s Erasure rehabilitation program, however, it has gained international recognition as that program’s home.
Erasure, for those who don’t know, is a controversial process by which all of a person’s memories are removed. This is a difficult process to describe without submitting the reader to the bias of the writer. There are those who would say it gives another chance at life. There are those who argue that it is more humane than the death penalty. There are also those who say that it is far crueler, and those who say that it is only another form of the death penalty that allows those who lay out the sentence to have a clearer conscience.
Erasure is only possible due to the incredible advancements in medical technology that have taken place over the last fifteen years. The ability to create two-dimensional images of the soul is perhaps the most famous. It set the groundwork for the technology that would eventually allow for Erasure, though of course it it well-known because it is used to analyze the soul shapes of Powered individuals in order to attempt to identify and classify their Talents.
In Chormanthyr, submitting newborn Powered children for soul analysis has become mandatory. It was overwhelmingly approved in the popular vote, to no surprise, since that vote followed immediately after the vote which approved testing every newborn for the excess of essential energies which are the hallmark of every Powered individual.
Erasure is more controversial for a variety of reasons. For one, the process of viewing the soul does no harm to an individual, and neither does testing them for excess energies. For another, Vastat is ruled by a monarch, and its laws are no determined by popular vote, but by the propositions of the ruling council, which are then either vetoed or accepted by the King. The people therefore had no say in whether or not Erasure would be implemented.
While there is not yet a process by which a clear image of the spirit can be captured, as is possible with the soul, scientists have known of its existence for hundreds of years, if not more. In fact, knowledge of the soul dates all the way back to the old days of Anaselise, before the Death of Language effectively destroyed that city and wiped its true knowledge from our records.
It is thus unknown whether or not the ancient inhabitants of Anaselise, renowned for knowledge of magic which has never been fully rediscovered, had methods of manipulating the spirit and the soul. Today, with current technology, it has not yet been possible to manipulate the soul. The spirit, however elusive it has proven when it comes to imaging, has proven susceptible to one form of manipulation: destruction.
There are those who attempt to disguise the methods by which Erasure functions in order to make it sound more acceptable, and those who do the same in order to intentionally worsen the opinions of those hearing their description. Both sides attempt to disguise the base processes that make up Erasure.
In Erasure, mental energy of a specific frequency — which varies based on the individual and must be identified — is pushed through the being who is to undergo the process. That being’s spirit is dissolved by the influx. It is then replaced by Elal’s natural processes, making the being whole once more.
The spirit is the source of every being’s thoughts and ideas. It is a being’s personality; it is what one might call the mind. It is related to and connected to its physical partner, the brain, but it is also separate. When it is destroyed, the brain continues to function. The brain is then reconnected to the new spirit, just as the new spirit is connected to the soul and the rest of the body.
The being that exists after Erasure has taken place retains the same soul and body, with a new spirit. That spirit is always similar to the one which was replaced, since the shape of the soul and the connection to the body influence the form of the spirit. This means that a person who has undergone Erasure will be barely different, at base, than they were before the process.
They will, however, be missing some important things. A person whose soul has been replaced loses all of their memories along with it. They have no knowledge of themself before the procedure, and no connection to anything — people or places or actions — that they knew before.
The only thing consistently retained by those who have undergone Erasure are what one might call “skills.” A person whose soul has been replaced will still know how to speak any languages in which they were previously fluent, for example, though they will likely lose knowledge of languages in which they were not fluent. An Erased individual might continue to be good at a sport, though they will not remember the rules. They might retain excellent kitchen knife skills while having lost any recipes they might have had memorized.
Some opponents of Erasure believe that the Vastati government would be better off reinstating the death penalty. It is, they point out, less expensive, and creates no ongoing financial burden. Erased individuals must reside in the rehabilitation facility until it is assured that they will be able to function in society, and that they are not likely to repeat their previous crimes.
It is also, they say, an even crueler alternative to death. A person who has been Erased does not know their own family from strangers. Should an Erased man meet his wife of thirty years, she will often find that an entirely new person now inhabits his body. He may look the same, and even some of his behaviors may seem similar, but he might have an entirely new set of habits and interests. Certainly, she will find that they no longer have any shared experiences.
Proponents of Erasure point out that this is still preferable to the death sentence, no matter what an Erased individual’s prior loved ones might experience. After all, Erasure is saved only for those criminals who have committed reprehensible crimes: murder, rape, and worse. More extreme opinions point out that those who love murderers and rapists should not garner pity.
Others say that Erasure gives loved ones another chance with their Erased spouses or fathers or brothers. Though the Erased individual no longer knows them, their spirit is similar, and it is possible to redevelop a relationship. As the Erased individual has no knowledge of the past crimes, committed by what was essentially another person wearing their body. They are thus unburdened by the guilt of what they might have done.
There are also those who support Erasure for religious purposes, believing that any punishment, regardless of its implications, is morally superior to death. They believe that Erasure grants a chance at redemption, a view which is shared by the King of Vastat and was his primary motivation for instating Erasure as the government’s primary punitive process for particularly heinous crimes.
The debate over Erasure has spread no only to neighboring Chormanthyr, but into countries across Elal. There are people who wish to incorporate Erasure into their own legal systems, and those who are pressuring their governments to intercede in Vastat, claiming that Erasure represents a major violation of human rights.
Chormanthyri lawmakers actually proposed a law that would replace their current death penalty with Erasure, but it was defeated handily in the popular vote, with only 26% percent of the population in favor. By comparison, the laws that require Powered individuals to be detected and analyzed at birth both passed with over 94% in favor, and the law that requires Powered individuals to intercede when they believe an un-Powered person is in danger passed with 76% in favor.
At present, however opposed they are to using Erasure in their own country, popular support for action against Vastat is low in Chormanthyr. Though there has been no official, mandatory vote, polls place the percentage of the population in favor of interfering in Vastat as low as 11%.
Analysts expect this is due to the recent surge of support for people of Vastati descent who still live in southwestern Chormanthyr, who have been seen as a marginalized minority for years but whose plight is only now gaining popular attention. Guilt over the fact that the current inhabitants of Chormanthyr displaced the Vastati and relegated them only to their two small islands has risen, making it difficult for Chormanthyr’s leaders to interact with Vastat in any way the populace views as negative.
Like the death penalty itself, debate over whether or not Erasure is an ethical form of punishment will likely continue for as long as it remains practicable. All forms of punishment have endured a similar debate over the centuries, and like many ethical questions, they are difficult to resolve.