An Education

        Torture is all hierarchy intensified, magnified, brought back to its archetypal and most brutal level, the archaic pairing of master and slave.  Anachronistic, oversimplified, all gradation, nuance, and shade proscribed.  It is to create categories essentially artificial and fraudulent; ahistorical in this time, even if created through the medium of technology, bureaucracy, up-to-the-minute gadgetry.  Not only atavistic and throwback but the product of costumerie.  Cheap dramatization, sordid enaction, posturing; the torturer permitted to release and enact the most ephemeral fantasy, to do the unthinkable.  Things imagined, dreamed of, joked about, acts that exist only in language or fantasy.  All that does not, must not, cannot take place.  The putative world, the shadow place, acts merely contemplated, notions so insubstantial as to be dismissed, pictures that float through the mind, glimpses of rage or evil only guessed at, intuited; the spectral and illusionary.  
    
       Grounded only in the scream of his victim, for whom it is all real.  Only this reaction could convince the one who commits the cruelty that it is actual, does not exist merely in the realm of the anticipated, but is in fact material, is taking place.  And as that unheard-of permission is granted by the state–enjoined in fact, indoctrinated, commissioned–the sensibility of the torturer is unleashed.  Whatever it be, whether subtle or simple viciousness.  Refined, educated, sensual, ascetic, angry, satisfied.  Or gross, ignorant, repressed, vulgar, gleeful or furious.  Nourished by the culture which sends him forth, primed on violence, steeped in hatreds, spurred on by extra pay, further privilege and prerequisites, additional indoctrination, specialized training.  
                                             —from The Politics of Cruelty 
                                                Kate Millett 

      I have read books about the history of torture in jurisprudence, but I have not studied it–torture–otherwise.   I suppose this is an unforgivable oversight, given my vested interest in the subject matter.  Heinrich was taken aback, and promptly set about patching this embarrassing hole in my education.  He has about a hundred and sixty books on the subject, plus a metal file cabinet of journal articles and documents from the academic literature and organizations like Amnesty International and The Red Cross.  

         “Ever had a client ask you what’s up with all the morbid subject matter?”  I asked.  

         “Well, there is a reason I do not store them at eye level, ja?”


3 thoughts on “An Education”

  1. “Torture…

    …Anachronistic, oversimplified, all gradation, nuance, and shade proscribed. It is to create categories essentially artificial and fraudulent; ahistorical in this time…”

    Ms Millett scores a hole in one. In matters of sexual politics, gender politics, or just politics in general, we need to escape from those vast edifices of fraudulent constructs that imprison us.

    “Grounded only in the scream of his victim, for whom it is all real. Only this reaction could convince the one who commits the cruelty that it is actual, does not exist merely in the realm of the anticipated, but is in fact material, is taking place.”

    Herein lies the ultimate moral truth about real torture, real sadism, as distinct from consensual play. The real-life torturer derives the identity that he seeks, his existential essence, his sense of actually being something, from the pain and suffering of his helpless, non-consenting victim. Real-life torturers are dead inside. Like dreadful parasites they derive their life from the death of their victims – not necessarily the death of the body, but the death of the soul. The body can be kept alive for further torment. The real-life torturer’s goal is to kill a man’s soul, while leaving the body alive. He is, in every sense parasitic, a ghoul feasting on blood and agony sanctioned by the state or some perverted ideology.

    Parasitic real torture is not the same thing as consenting ‘play’ torture which is symbiotic.

    Real torture as Sartre points out is like gangrene. It rots everything it touches. And, where it is sanctioned and encouraged by the state in the name of ‘security’ it is, even as we speak, covertly rotting our democracy from the inside out.

    1. I was granted an extension yesterday because I was writing a project for another place that I cannot share on this blog.

      I also had to pull a few posts until the blog is moved into its new Internet home. Privacy reasons. I do not want to feel uncomfortable around the professional that I hired to help me with the move.

      Don’t worry. Everything will be restored.

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