". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Our Culture

I've recently spent an intense span of time considering culture and identity in the context of the personal and the national, the colonialized and the colonizer. This was within the matrix of France and Europe, in the Caribbean and New World. You might think that the issues of the U.S. would be peripheral, at best, to this matrix. And it was, though it loomed, for a fundamental consideration for those who are a "colony of citizens," as brilliant Laurent Dubois has called them, is that if they are NOT France, then they are very likely to become subject to the U.S., which they view as contemptible, and thus fear.

And thus one inevitably must begin to consider the 'culture' of one's own home, which in my case is the U.S.

And this seems to be, from the wider perspective, to be more and more what the majority culture of this nation is:

[ California highways have been shut down by wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes and police chases. And now road rage.

Drivers inconvenienced by a road-widening project subjected construction workers to so much abuse — death threats, BB gun shootings, a flying burrito — that the state shut down California Highway 138 altogether. ]

[ Last September, Charles Fenn was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon on accusations that he clipped a flagman with his vehicle on his way home to Wrightwood.

“I’m the victim,” Mr. Fenn maintained in a brief telephone interview, declining to say anything else. ]

These are indeed the children of clownface, and why the rest of the world sees this nation by and large as filled with obese, selfish, cruel, mean, ugly, ignorant hordes that they don't want in their back yard.

[ A new executive order signed by President Bush does not authorize the full set of harsh interrogation methods used by the C.I.A. since the program began in 2002. But government officials said the rules would still allow some techniques more severe than those used in interrogations by military personnel in places like the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. ]

The wording is so vague that anything short of actual death appears permitted.

Anyway, it proves its mendacity that the regime felt it needed to execute an exec order re torture, when it claimed all along that it did not torture. Just like it claimed it didn't have secret prison camps. Nobody even bothers to deny the existence of the secret prison camps now. Feh. Crooks & Liars from start to finish. How can they put the words democracy, human rights, free and fair elections in their mouths and tell OTHER NATIONS they must obey such injunctions as issued by them? Thus we are the nation that employs torture -- not because it is useful, as it has been proven time and again, over the ages, not to be. But because we like it. It is another example of the top trickle down.

You all know that the first mention in primary media -- the New York Times -- of this clownface, was in the case of him defending the use of branding with red hot coat hangers the freshman being intiated into his fraternity. "It's no worse than getting burned with a cigarette."

These are the behaviors of sociopaths.

Sports fans abuse the players of the teams they support when the players make errors, they abuse the players of the teams they don't support, because they are the 'other.' They riot against each other.

The ignorance and brutality of the so-called Dark Ages reign.

Yet, as in the Dark Ages there are pockets of resistence and light -- the kids who go to New Orleans to help build houses for the evacuated that the fed gummit keeps gumming up, deliberately, the works for them to return home; the people who dare to write and speak publicly against the evil and ignorance spread by those on top. How long, how long ....

Many of the worst villains in literature and other 'entertainment' media are torturers. One of sf's great character - villains is Dune's Baron Harkonnen, straight out of the 16th / 17th Revenge Tragedies, is an unabashed sadist-torturer, who takes great pleasure in being so. However, his creator does not ever suggest anything other than that he tortures because he is a villain and he's a villain because he tortures.

SF has also contributed Gene Wolfe's Severian (the name of the principal character in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose partially autobiographical novel Venus in Furs, is the most famous S&M novel ever).

THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN series is considered by many as a stylistic masterpiece of manners; others see it as creepy (not to mention dull), particularly within the context of other works Wolfe has produced. It is creepy to attempt to make a torturer guiltless and sympathetic. Severian loves torturing -- oh, but he has a soul, and feels guilt. Sort of. It is necessary to this sympathy that he belongs to a Guild, quite like the Inquistition. This is to legitimize what he does. Supposedly.

Yet Wolfe must go further than this to make him a sympathetic character; Severian's had to be coerced, and then trained, when still a most malleable youthm into the sophisticated wielding of his 'art.' I.e., it's not supposed to be his choice.

However, Wolfe also chooses to include the information that these meticulous tortures are inflicted -- NOT FOR INFORMATION, but for the inexplicable satisfaction of Others. Often these people are entirely innocent of anything.

Civilized peoples don't torture. Period.

The Iroquois's tortures of their captives have become legendary in their prolongation and attention to physical detail -- keeping the victim alive and suffering as long as possible. Those tortures were not inflicted for information either; they were done for the pleasure of doing them. The only possible justification to that then, for the victims, was to make the endurance and suffering a manhood test. Yet, they, like Apaches and Commanches and any other of the Natives who ritually practiced torture, were considered savages. The accusation that one had 'gone native' included practices like scalping of Indians -- mostly an innovation provided by the invading Europeans. Most shocking of all was that women of these tribes also tortured their enemies.

The greatest villains of all, in literature and popular media, are, of course, women, women who participate in torture -- because when a woman does so, we have crossed so clearly the line that our cultures have set up to separate humanity and civilization and value for the spirit into the world of evil. The names of the (few) women engaged in SS tortures will live in infamy through recorded history. It is when women are involved with torture that it becomes utterly clear how connected to the toxic, evil eros-thanatos impulse torture is, because, you know, that's why they make those movies -- it gets guys hot. That's much of the impulse that keeps the SS constantly in the forefront of bad guys, and movies dealing with them and their activities are still being made, books are still being written. It gets guys hot.

Those who justify torture seem not to realize what their eager justification reveals about themselves.


Graeme said...

HBO had a show on a few months back about Abu Ghraib that made my stomach turn. the abuse was systematic, there is no doubt about it. no one besides a few low level guards have been held accountable. sick.

Foxessa said...

What is even more sick-making is that the face of the torturers was that nearly mentally challenged young woman, Lindy England.

Jollies, fellas, just jollies.

She was one of the very few who was convicted of anything.

This nation is so mentally ill.

Kivem C,