The topic of waterboarding is not a hot one right now, but it is a great example of today’s rampant emotionalism. Who is not harassed by human rights activists at least once a week?
My Facebook feed just happened to spit out a joke about waterboarding today and I got curious. There’s no shortage of fat slobs and so-called experts who attest that waterboarding is torture inhuman beyond imagination. Yet despite the pseudo-intellectual debate, waterboarding is not black magic. You need a can of water, a cloth, and you need to lie down. What the hell keeps me from trying this?
People sometimes say that you need to experience something to be able to talk about it. I don’t agree, not generally. But it does, on an emotional level, make you more convincing.
Unlike this guy, I didn’t prepare a great set up. I laid down on a flat floor, put a shirt over my head, and spilled water over it. Now you may say that it is not representative and I need an inclined platform. You would be right, but it is irrelevant to my point.
Yes, it’s nasty. Having been close to death one or two times in my life, I have a sense for the kind of panic that grips you and it is indeed similar. I managed to breathe in some watery air through the wet cloth while I wasn’t pouring further water on it, but during the pouring, the discomfort was unmanageable for me.
I didn’t go as far, nor am I as trained, as the guy in the linked article, but I can easily imagine how—if you took it to the edge—you would make statements such as:
“I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You know you are dead and it’s too late. Involuntary and total panic.
If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I’d take the fingers, no question.
It’s horrible, terrible, inhuman torture. I can hardly imagine worse. I’d prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again. I’d give up anything, say anything, do anything.
It’s torture. No question. Terrible terrible torture. To experience it and understand it and then do it to another human being is to leave the realm of sanity and humanity forever. No question in my mind.”
The author clearly struggles to express the intensity of his emotion. No wonder—immoderate formulations are so overused in this sensitive world that words lose their meaning. When will the first person scream rape for a glance at a woman’s butt?
I think the emotion is a natural reaction. Life has shaped the biological body in order to sustain itself. Obviously, this means that the fear of death must be an absolute. At a certain point, the programming takes over and this loss of control may be impossible to reconcile with the belief in an untouchable soul.
In daily life, we overuse strong words to the point that they can’t represent really extreme experiences anymore, leading us to believe that these don’t exist. We feel offended by sexual proposals and work ourselves up over tweets. These kind of things become the limits of what we deem humane.
Yet nature doesn’t know limits. Inhumane, to us, becomes everything that simply can’t be, must not be. But that’s wishful thinking.
White lies about white torture
Yes, of course it is torture. How the hell do we think it works? The point is not whether it is torture. It is.
If it wasn’t too horrible to accept and live with, how would torture be supposed to work? That is the whole point.
Most people actually seem to think that the kind of interrogation imposed upon potential enemies of our civilizations should be humane. If the pain and devastation of a person being tortured was acceptable, well, the victim of such treatment would be able to resist it and defy the point of breaking that person.
Considering the intensity of the experience and the widespread delusion of the categorical imperative, it is not surprising that you often hear the statement “If you had experienced it, you would think otherwise.”
Of course you don’t want to be tortured. You don’t need an expert to tell you that. But despite Kant, doing unto others is not the same as having something done to you. It’s part of growing up to learn to distinguish between yourself and others. Between your group and other groups.
So do the words of somebody who was in great distress carry great meaning?
No, they don’t. No matter how intense one’s emotions, emotions don’t become wisdom. A young man will find it intolerable to be left by a girl—a seasoned player will laugh about it.
White-collared sheep have never experienced anything close to certainty of death. They live in a world that seems to run by itself and have daydreams about utopia. They want the state to tell them bullshit about white torture and the state does so.
Not because the state really believes that, but because white-collared sheep could never be expected to have the strength of character to do a terrible thing.
The important question
The question is not whether it is torture. The question is whether it leads to usable results, and whether these results justify the methods used. And the answer can not automatically be no.
Atrocity is not an argument. Strong nations have always gone through war, which is atrocious. To become and stay strong means to fight. And to fight does not mean to respect limits, to be careful. It means to break limits. The notion of humane warfare is laughable and not more than a public relations gag of a government.
Torture is horrible. And that’s because life is meant to be precious. It’s an absolute in our brains to fear death. Yet, in a time where one is taught to empathize with practically everybody—because everybody is equal—it is more critical than ever to distinguish between your will to live and the will to live of others. There was once a word that described this concept: Enemy.
I leave it open for debate whether torture leads to any results and whether it should be used.
Read More: Give Her Tingles, Not Torture: Erica’s Story