by Bodwyn Wook
Some are critical of my occasional citation of ad hominem argument and, still worse, its entire legitimacy in argument. It is a matter as the Sufis say of discernment, and of learning to perceive the deployment of right methods, but in the hands of the wrong person. Still more urgent is to reveal the situation when the wrong person is pursuing wrong purposes, a kind of double black mark against the tally of human progress as it were. It is not a matter of mathematics in which two negatives equal a plus. However, I do agree with ad hominem critics on the point of principle of good manners in web logging as on any other social occasion, and so will most certainly try to restrain myself.
Nevertheless, an analysis of one another’s actual moral condition in this sort of thing, for instance arguing for and against use by governments of torture, is the quintessence.
The key is first of all self-knowledge.
Again, it is the problem of the shadow, collective and personal. Of course we can only get at this personally, first of all by work on our ourselves, self-knowledge again. It is a source of hard-won, sometimes shaming but always indispensable information:
I know what I am like and, case in point, therefore I distrust any too-glib rationales for torture.
Also, the police in Edinburgh have just had thrown into prison a load of paedophiles who had pictures showing ‘the sexual abuse and torture [emphasis added] of small children’ (BBC ‘Radio 4’, to-day). Indeed, reportedly some were but babies. Now I am sure that government supporters and advocates of torture personally all are on the side of the gods, so to speak, and that they at least not advocating anything like this.
Not they, themselves.
But a desperate operator ‘in the field’ (or cellar) in some sort of panickey scenario of the sort so often popularised on Tee Vee conceivably could, and therefore one of them one day will (Mr Saul Bellow, qv), go so far as hurting a child or baby in front of some exceptionally obdurate ‘client’. This objectively alas is what the high up theoreticians of state power are giving implicit power and sanction. I do not insist that they lose sleep over it, after all PM Churchill did not go sleepless as far as we know over the 1943 Hamburg fire-storm. To point this out is, I hope, not to make out anybody heartless any more than it is traduce anyone’s consciously held dearest beliefs and opinions and theories.
But rather it is to point again to the doubtlessly humiliating fact that mainly we are all in the dark as to outcomes, and nowhere more so than in human relations so to speak.
The important story of Haroun ar-Rashid and the assassination plot comes to mind in this connection, and it may be found in Idries Shah (pbuh).
[Bodwyn Wook all rights reserved 7 May 2009]