in abstract
May 19, 2004 11:53 AM

Someone said of the photographs of tortured Iraqi prisoners that we're not so much outraged by the acts of torture that accompany war but by the fact that we've been forced to endure the pictures.

There's some truth to that.

I've heard people say torture is just what we have to do to protect others. Torment information out of one guy in order to save thousands. Okay. A trade of one for a thousand seems logical in abstract. Seeing or even reading about seeing a photo of someone suffering forces you to empathise with the one guy. Creates feelings we don't want to feel about our "enemies".

I think most of us recognize that horrid things happen during a war, but we'd like to believe in their horridness as abstract. If it's not abstract, then it shines light on things terrible and uncomfortable.

Does anyone think torture is a good idea? I mean, from a sit-down-at-look-at-it perspective, ethically and otherwise. I don't think so. But we're willing to accept it as an undeniable part of the way we wage war, and willing to accept war as part of the way we live. As the thing we do when we can't negotiate. Or sometimes, without attempting negotiation.

Is it possible to shift our paradigm enough that those undeniable things no longer happen? Or can we only expect that a few rules about how cruel you can be will be enforced and adhered to? Perhaps the best we can hope for is that war will maintain a veneer of civility, that at least we won't have to see it up close. [Er, a side note... which is that "civil" is of cities or culture, and I wonder if war isn't precisely that - what happens when we draw boundaries around ourselves.] Perhaps violence against each other is essential, ingrained, or part of the nature of living in a civilized world.

I don't know.

TrackBack : in generally political stuff « this is a good country, dammit. | Main | directions to the fight »
your wicked thoughts

Which "we" are you talking about? The American people collectively?

I don't, for example, accept war OR the associated atrocities as "a part of the way we live" for a single second, or agree that "civility" in war is either possible (as so clearly demonstrated in the news) or desirable (in that I do believe that it's ultimately possible for sentient beings to coexist peaceably). Hm.

these are the thoughts of house9 on May 20, 2004 09:47 AM

The "we" was more the people I'd been talking to about this. But it's also kinda abstract.

There's another thing, which is that when people accept that war is really horrid, even though they think it's unnecessary, they don't seem to have practical ideas to get rid of it. Is war getridofable? Don't know. I'd like to think it is, but it requires such a dramatic shift in the way the world works that it's hard to conceptualizing getting to a peace-having world.

these are the thoughts of april on May 20, 2004 11:26 AM

Yes, well, we'd already decided that we have to scrap the whole system and start over because of the Wal-Mart dilemma, anyway. Arguably (I mean, Karl Marx argued it, didn't he?), doing away with capitalism would have pretty far-reaching effects in terms of establishing a lasting peace on earth. Dramatic, yes. Practical? Maybe not immediately. Requires some additional strategizing, as you imply.

these are the thoughts of house9 on May 20, 2004 08:04 PM

please note that your IP address is logged when comments are posted, and comment abuse including spam will be investigated and reported to your internet service provider.

in this section
miss anything? (monthly)
artsy stuff
books & tv & internet stuff
fat & health stuff
feministy stuff
generally political stuff
nerdy & silly stuff
sexually liberated stuff
vaguely personal stuff
work & money stuff
i have a livejournal, too
more info
email me
design by seven ten


about the site wicked thoughts edge of the season arts links we have brains