by Bodwyn Wook
[In England last week, Mr Charles Crawford, a retired diplomatist of HM Foreign Office, wrote persuasively in favour of the need in some cases for torture, to protect the public, and the following are a synopsis of my several replies on this point — BW]
FOR Starters, it should fairly be kept in mind that in our cultural set-up at least only individuals can have morals as such; and, the corollary is that especially large human organisations, even those made up like the UK and US governments exclusively of persons such as ourselves, all on the qui vive and all having exclusively good characters, wide views and deep self-awareness, nonetheless can only act together…
…as a large, stupid and sometimes violent animal. It is in this collective human atmosphere, and none other, that our public questions all are set, for good or ill.
Add to that the statistical sociopaths in every population sampling, the Gordon Browns and Lyndon Johnsons, the ‘Dick’ Cheneys and Bill Clintons, and all the other miserable dionysian excitement- and power-psychology cases, and you can begin to see something of the problem. Generally, I for one objectively suspect that all involved in the torture chamber more often than not are brought together by unconscious egotisms, self-absorption in different forms including the various religious and post-religious manias, compulsive excitement- and entertainment-needs. Most deranged in this context are those who try to take Heaven by storm and state that they are being ‘coldly logical’ and ‘practical’.
THIS Sort of headstrong rationalism is apotropaic merely, pathetic like a child alone in the dark, and slicks over a bottomless slough of fear: torture — especially perhaps ‘reasonable’ torture ‘rationally’ done — is a response of fear, to Fear.
There are two things people fear:
The crazy with an ax, The Shadow.
And, a load of crazies with axes, The Others.
In our set up formerly these were Negroes and Jews and, now, through media alchemy, ‘they’ have been transmogrifed into (ta, da) Mahometans and ‘South Asians’. But if one can bear to be at all objective about it, the fact is that Life is a crapshoot, and to paraphrase Stanley Baldwin on a different sort of bomber, the axman (or the Negro, or the Jew or any of the other Mahometans!) sooner or later must always get through.
Now the logical response is to keep a gun at home and a good standing militia, and be ready to blow these ever-changing gangs and relays of fashionable boogeyman all straight to Hell, if ever they actually surface. This means though that you are gambling on the occasional preliminary outrage, and naturally that isn’t quite good enough, certainly not from the viewpoint of Fear.
FEAR Is a powerful emotion and probably the one that only the individual must cope with alone in the end and all unaided, and yet if at all possible transform. On the other hand, ‘terrorism’, and even more convincingly our Tee Vee boogie stories about it, drive us into one another’s clutches in a blind social panic.
Fear in the first place is the problem here.
Fear and its delusions are become the raison of all government just as for all torture. It is the essentially cowardly desire for ‘uplift’ and to be better than we are, and above all to not have suffering. This is the yearning of all the babyishness. This is the root of all the smoking bans. In short, torture is but another activity of state liberalism, like ‘free’ health care and public education. The whole thing is not so much a lie as just immature, and all involved from the kindly credentialed transgender therapist on the corner to the bleakly pornographic, death-terrified and bad-hearted (!) Dickless Cheneys, all these weak people who get nervous when they are alone, all of these are common garden state liberalists of the most vulgar kind.
They are bewildered pimps who pretend to be somehow above the common dread, so as to be able to ‘keep us safe’.
HOWEVER, All of these somewhat lackluster characters, who sweat when you look hard at them and can’t sing and can’t dance, vie merely to pacify their own megrims and fidgets by getting on TeeVee lots. Along with the real celebrities. They want to finger the levers of state power in public and ‘make liberal’ with the public money, not to mention more privately the genitals of their ‘clients’. It is all to feel safe and ‘potent’ themselves, and so those ‘in government’ are just another kind of public client. All that government in such an end-game reasonably can be expected to do then with such moo cows and root hogs is to provide, and during financial downturns only serially, for the entertainment needs of the different personality types in public ‘service’. This is the essence of ‘democracy’ today, turn about and bend over, and I am afraid we’re stuck with it for good long time to come.
I am against torture and I will egg ‘my’ representatives on against it at every opportunity. But the ‘realistic’ advocates of ‘reasonable’ provision for ‘controlled’ torture of suspected ‘terrorists’ and other Tee Vee actors speak for a sizeable constituency. They speak for the many of the American and ‘British’ people who above all have been ruined for any actual liberty and freedom whatsoever. These folk alike have their own excitement needs and urges to feel fulfilled in some cause ‘greater than themselves’, and careers.
Naturally, their fascination with their own arguments is at least as solipsistic and interested as are my own….
And given these people, of course I am well willing to grant The Shadow the point in this question of torture — be it set that all the bureacratic operatives involved in any ‘episode’ would afterwards agree themselves to be put to death. By the same means as they needed to apply, I mean. That alone would be mythically and, hence, morally satisfactory, and restore somewhat of symmetry to our common human being, and our real condition as we are today:
Let that concession then in love be the final measure of the true love and devotion to “theirs” and “their kind,” of the esrtwhile idealist and dreaming, patriotic, torturer.
A Respondent in England wrote in reply to the foregoing:
‘In Charles Kingsley’s “The Water Babies”, there are two iconic females – Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid. These days, no-one in authority pays any attention the former, and the latter seems to have lost her clout.’
I replied that the Water Babies are lovely [but theirs was] another world. The Empire Victorians certainly superintended a certain number of outrages, but they had a saving (NB) hypocrisy that well may be, in History, the sole distinction betwen late- and post-modernity:
THE Most awful things got done to (and by, sometimes) Wogs; but, it was never, ever justified’ in this sort of basically repulsive public discussion. Even Heinrich Himmler, a child of Wilhelmine Germany and much the same bourgeois era, said it would be good long time before the allegemine-SS could ever tell a victorious Germany what they had done.
But then Himmler was some shortsighted little skidmark who’d never been in the trenches, so it was easy for him to talk about the ‘need’ for brutality.
Only he puked the one time he peeped through the peekhole….
[Bodwyn Wook all rights reserved 4 May 2009]