|14A067 Torture's Nature by Jim Davies, 12/28/2014
America doesn't do it, so we were assured by G W Bush, at the very time his goons were doing it daily; or so says the recent Senate report, which Bush's friends reject. He could say that with a straight face by defining the word to fit the circumstances. It all has to do with the definition - just as when Bill Clinton had trouble defining the word "is".
Wikipedia tells us that the UN (for what it's worth) defines torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental" and that's a start. But by no means good enough; what exactly does "severe" mean? The problem is the same as that of the wording of Amendment 8; "cruel and unusual punishments" are not to be inflicted. So what is "cruel", and what is "unusual"? The meanings are all flexible, open to any interpretation to suit the exigencies of circumstance. The only person likely not to be able to adjust the meaning of the word is its victim.
It's quite plain that there are gradations of torture, degrees of severity. But since the words used in those definitions are qualitative and not crisp and quantitative, I suggest that "torture" be understood as any action that causes the victim distress. Physical distress, obviously, but also mental distress. As the UN proposed.
If that's fair, then it follows that any action that distresses a person by over-ruling his wishes in any degree is an act of torture. It may not be severe, it may even be trivial, but if it grieves him or her, without provocation of course, then it qualifies as torture.
To place a person in a cage, when he has harmed nobody and threatens to harm nobody, is therefore certainly torture; for mankind is born free, equipped with the ability to reason and choose, so to be denied the ability to use those faculties by being imprisoned is a cause of acute distress. A prisoner does not have to be stretched on a rack, in order to be tortured; the mere fact of his being denied the right to live his own life his own way is quite enough.
We can travel further along the spectrum of torture, to the basic denial of freedom that is always created by any government. If your preference is being over-ruled by a governor, you are being tortured; for that causes you a measure of mental distress. Sometimes the measure may be so trivial as not to be a source of worry; I really don't care that I am forced to drive on the right hand side of all US roads, even though I was taught to drive on the left.
But increase the severity of the over-ruling (rack it up, so to say) and as the mental distress kicks in, so does the compulsion more obviously qualify as torture. Each of us may have a different tolerance point, but that point is determined by the torturee, not the torturer. A recent Guardian article suggested that solitary confinement is torturous, and said 80,000 prisoners in American prisons suffer it and that it drives many of them mad.
So torture is something that lies on a scale or spectrum, running from mild to extreme, and that tells me that the spectrum itself defines the word. If there is constraint or compulsion of a self-owning, self-determining human being, which is not a constraint applied to prevent or rectify some aggression he is committing or has committed against someone else, there is torture. That means simply that the very act of governing someone causes him some measure of "mental distress" and therefore is to torture him. Why not? - it is an act that violates the very core of his nature.
"America doesn't do torture"? - American governments, like every other government on the face of the Earth, never do anything else. Only in the coming zero government society will torture have finally been abolished.
This is the last ZGBlog planned for 2014, and if you visit regularly (if not, do get the RSS feed) I hope you've enjoyed them. It has on the surface been a terrible year for liberty, with state-sponsored mayhem even more intense than usual, and hobgoblins put about to scare everyone into submission and dependence, almost every week.
But behind the scenes, quietly where nobody can see them including me, there are students discovering in TOLFA the extent of the deception government has wrought; and after graduation they are each bringing one of their friends to the same course. No such graduate will work for government, and if that process is happening once a year, the number who so decline to support the state is doubling annually.
That doubling will not be noticed, until the state finds itself unable to recruit replacements for those leaving its employ. At that stage - not long hence - its eradication will have become irreversible. If you're not yet taking part, please make doing so your 2015 New Year's resolution.