Monday, November 07, 2005

Torture & Martyrdom

It's a short post, but Matthew Yglesias is right on in his discussion of 'The Pragmatics of Torture -- specifically, torture as a means for a regime to hear what it wants to hear.

And that's precisely the sort of thing torture is really good for. If you already know what the truth is -- perhaps because it can be deduced from regime-type rather than boring intelligence gathering -- but just need some more evidence in order to convince others, then torture is a really, really, really good way of getting that kind of evidence. That's always been the main historical use of torture -- you have your prisoner, you want a confession, so you torture him until he confesses. It's not, after all, as if the administration was genuinely wondering about Iraq/al-Qaeda ties. They knew what they wanted to prove and they needed to make the case. Torture was an excellent way to get the job done.

Yglesias' point, I think, extends beyond torture to my own thinking about religion / theology -- to the point, even, that I may even agree with a friend who has recently stated that torture is the theological problem of modern times. (This is the case, for me, insofar that we are all being tortured, in a way, by our socio-political & religious regimes -- tortured to the point of our capitulation, i.e. quiet resignation to reality, or perhaps even to our deaths. For some, the solution comes only in a certain kind of death that opens up the possibility of something new -- something along the lines of a martyr's death, which rallies the forces of change. Perhaps. But certainly not one death, that of a history redeemed, such as that of a Cross or otherwise. Rather, only inasmuch as that martyrdom is representative of the only death that truly is, that which always comes from within at every moment, whereby life is but a certain kind of death, and thus that which betrays the transcendent / true / perhaps even eternal sovereignty of those regimes as necessarily false, as a projection of our own capitulated confessions.)