Thursday, May 27, 2004

Farewell to Arms....

I went for a farewell drink with a library staff member who has given up on our neglected and underfunded service, and gone to get a proper job.

I enjoyed it, even if this was the second night this week, of drinking too much.

When home, I always sober up before going to sleep (my only good tip for not having hangovers). Unfortunately I ended up watching yet another programme about US torture. I can't be surprised at this particular stuff - appalled, yes. Soldiers have to learn to do horrific stuff.

I am a bit startled to hear soldier's attorney's using the "they were only following orders" defence - as over here in the UK we have always used that line as a sick comedy line about certain Germans during the second world war (sic) who tried to deny any human moral responsibility with that defence. Like, you shouldn't defy bad orders...

And I understand what kind of personal threat THEY were under if they didn't follow orders, of course. The British have been shooting or humiliating deserters and conscientious objecters for centuries. It isn't just Israeli Intelligence inventing torture methods - a lot of them were honed by the British while building an empire, and some were (closer to home) really polished up in Ireland (which I take a bit more personally). And the religious aspect can't be left out. Christians have famously tortured anyone who got in their way for centuries. As an atheist with witchy tendencies I would have been burned at the stake anywhere in the last few hundred years "to save my soul". Check out the Spanish Inquisition.

When the Cathars quietly pointed out that this 'God' seemed to be a minor, arrogant, bullying demiurge (a local planetary ruler) in this great unknown universe, (really just a demon or fallen angel) they found themselves in a Hell of eternal torment staffed by Christians....When they said this life was a fall of spirit into matter, and that this life was the low point, a purgatory, they found themselves condemned to live through the Christian's own image of hell STAGED by Christians. What is that description of hell (demons with hot pokers, etc)? Where did you end up in this life, if you didn't believe that was where you ended up after death? Right. A torture chamber. Magic, huh? You don't believe in our Hell? We'll show you....

You may wonder why I quote surrealists and 'pataphysicians, but it's because (to me) most of the debates are avoiding the obvious, denying any straight human thinking, so basically absurd and completely evasive. And they always have been. I didn't want that 'British Empire' training (Church and State joined), which is why I dropped out in The Sixties. I am not claiming to have done a lot of good since then, but (Hippocratic Oath) at least I tried to minimize the harm I did, while being (unavoidably) a white English-speaking male.

And although I am glad this stuff is coming to light, I am really shocked both at the prurient 'reality tv' aspect, and at the hypocrisy of the people who funded it all - in denying that they knew the kind of tactics being employed.

'Rules of war' always made me laugh (I come from the first sick joke generation) - surely if you can agree on rules you could agree on an alternative to fighting - once you are fighting there can't be any rules "Rules?In a knife fight? No rules!".

When I was growing up we were told the Germans and the Japanese ignored the Geneva Convention - sure, and the British aren't famous as possibly the best at dirty tricks....we won fair and square. Sure.

Sick to my stomach - and now sober - I am going to bed.

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