by A Dervish
The topic of torture is as subtle to talk or write about as its variations are endless, at least in the hands of the creative operator.
Earlier here Bodwyn Wook mentioned the American Indians who did this sort of thing. He connected it probably wrongly with the amusement needs of a simple “primitive” people without WalMart, Pro Wrestling and Viagra, but there are important distinctions too. In England today Mr. Charles Crawford of the British diplomatic service argued for the practical purposes of torture by officials of what some call the “Nanny” state, and the “universal” goal of keeping the hundreds of thousands of halfwits there “safe” at all costs during their many importantly busy activities. Needless to say other thinkers along these lines have discovered the need to eliminate constitutions right along with the terrorists, as they are called in the news these days. It will make affairs safer, or the less limited at least, for the big semi-public global corporations that are in cooperation (for now) with the managerial states.
The talk of course reassuringly is still just about “increased velocity of service delivery” and “enhancement of efficiencies.”
Now this is the ordinary late-modern thought and all well and good, we study it here as exchange students and it’s OK except perhaps for the little problem of timing. The sufis say that timing is very important. We really are all living now like hijacked air passengers in the crumbling Third World air terminal of the postmodern age. Although if I read Mr. Crawford and others just right, then it is only a matter of torturing, you know, just a few of the “wogs”, just enough I mean to find out when the last plane is due out. After all “back in Blighty” like in World War Two the late-modern is going to last forever. Just ask UK Home secretary Jacqui Smith, and she will tell you so. Later on the plan is that the English Speaking Union will have to invade these “sand niggers” again maybe and sort them out some more from their religious delusions.
All of these are the many tried and true utilitarian conceptions of history in the west, all firmly grounded in the heyday of the imperialism of the century before last. Only that imperialism had a functional purpose the Sufis would say, so the question is what is the real point of torture now?
In the example of of the Ohio Indians above and for many centuries before that, roasting and skinning people alive who were unfortunate enough to fail to run the gauntlet was not so much a matter of getting “information.”
These Indians were all “savages”, and they already “knew” this about one another after all.
It was instead about testing courage, spiritual power and the final dignity of a man.
The goal of the indignity was cruelty, and it was to defeat the one tortured, make him ask for the pain to stop. That last battle put at stake eternity, and wandering forever, and never reaching the other world. That kind of battle was highly ritualized torture, really it was about the end of the world. At least it was about the end of the world of the victim. This was and it is not something we can easily understand in the west now. To call it like Bodwyn Wook did earlier something about public amusement is only the poorest description.
To speak of it next as “cultural pathology” as some neo-conservatives do goes way beyond “poorest,” though, and takes right off into the blue. That is as crazy as Nazi philosophy. This by the way is a strange fate for neo-conservatism which has attracted so many Jews.
Only when we in the west torture people to get information, this is naturally not sick or wrong. It is probably medical as well as a security matter, it is like stopping swine flu and I suppose it is going to change history, or something. That’s the idea anyway.
The difference here may well be the historical problem of dignity.
In the long history of the west, the last time this was a question came at the end of late Rome.
I know that here I am going back to an old idea of Roman historian (he was more of a biographer I think), Tacitus. It is right there in the primary written sources. So there are no real fallacies in history, and so why not ask the question about what Romans called “dignitas?” Tacitus wrote about the moral decay he saw was at the root of Roman decline. Historical fallacy comes from the misapplication of ideas for interpretation, nothing more than that. I want to point out here that the big fallacy (besides “we are NOT degenerates!”) of the west is that we are still late-modern here, we are still powerful in that old meaningful sense that Sir Winston Churchill understood, and so that therefore these ideas like the machineguns at Omdurman will still “work” perfectly well.
What makes this a lie — what threw the idea of what is practical right into Auschwitz and Hiroshima — was the total collapse of any public concern with dignity whatsoever in the west. It happened just in the century after Omdurman. The abandonment of dignity and its restraints and very helpful hypocrisy led England to Suez in 1956, and in many ruined private lives to HIV in 1981. Many other penalties and costs were laid on us all both in between and afterwards. This sort of disaster is rare in western history, mostly the more naive of my fellow muslims are envious of your nice things and so it is not surprising that most historians do not, actually cannot, see this and all that is really going on.
Anyway, there is nothing more humiliating to the full range of human possibility and purpose than the “useful now”, because what is useful now is only so here and now. It offers nothing more and it cannot offer more. And even less is the merely useful any sort of open gateway to the future. It only offers in disguise the so-called “Asian” myth of eternal cycles, nobility and evil all over and over again, but never going anywhere outside of themselves.
Speaking frankly as a man without credentials, but student of the sufis and a man who instead was blessed to have had a very dignified grandfather, I find the badly timed outdated vision of the politicians of the west in the end not so much evil as it is boring, pessimistic, stupid and hopeless.
So do the people see it that the western officials propose to torture with it.
What no one wants to see is that our dead technology finds us drifting along in the middle of the Muslim fifteenth century. History as the English Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton said makes puns, and all of the abu Ghraibs and Guantanamo Bays in fact are the testing ground of the islamic fifteenth century Renaisscance. The act of torturing anyone now is additive and it all goes with increasing velocity very far. Only like Sir Winston Churchill said to the drunken young subaltern, it goes far “in the wrong direction.” The act of torture by a certified CIA-MI5-6 “professional” simply challenges dignity at the hands of the indignant. Resistance in turn (this is of course of course completely unanticipatable by these undignant ones) confirms manhood.
And fully affirmed human being confirms also faith in — and, working with — something greater than the dead end of mere therapeutic socialwork existence.
So now when science finally does bring us into posthuman being, it will be under the high dome of renewed islamic civilization in full flower. It is then that men and their heirs will leave earth for the heavens. Since monotheistic men all are western men, this will be our second Renaisscence in the Old Atlantic West of Bodwyn Wook too. The sufis would probably say that we have to be against each other now. So maybe the thing to do is to speed up the torturing and bring in more prisoners. If there is any so-called “wisdom” at work behind all of this, Mr. Crawford is doubtlessly being prompted to say and write certain importantly hypothetical things because of certain operations unknown to himself. Mind control like this of course is no doubt insulting to him as it is to us all, but this is an effect now which may well be accomplished by invisible rays, or something.
More is generally not known than known to those momentarily in power, that is the human situation now, and it is the nature of history as well as the future to anyone inside the time flow.
[Bodwyn Wook all transcription-rights reserved 7 May 2009]