Monday, 1 January 2007


Of all the increasingly bizarre discussions on CiF, the comments on Conor Foley’s attack on torture – ‘A Dangerous Equivocation’, 29th December – take the biscuit. An endless stream of self-professing ‘democrats’ and ‘defenders of Western values’ queue up to justify torture as an acceptable tool for the defence of ‘our way of life’. The few who demur are derided as woolly minded pacifists and [needless to say] ‘effeminate’.

The feeble excuses offered by these ‘realists’ for their ‘tough minded’ stance include the priceless one that all us European wimps don’t comprehend the fearful trauma Americans suffered through the 9/11 atrocity – which, apparently, gives them and their hangers-on such as poodle Blair carte-blanche to emulate Hitler’s and Stalin’s torturers and concentration camp guards to save freedom. The immediate response to this which springs to mind is “Diddums”.

There is, as several comments point out, a racist dimension to torture as now being practised. It is black and brown ‘others’ who are being subjected to it – not white Caucasians like ‘us’. As one comment recalls, Graham Greene made this pretty obvious point in Our Man in Havana :

"The poor in my own country, in any Latin American country. The poor of Central Europe and the Orient. Of course in your welfare states you have no poor, so you are untorturable. In Cuba the police can deal as harshly as they like with emigres from Latin America and the Baltic States, but not with visitors from your country or Scandinavia. It is an instinctive matter on both sides. Catholics are more torturable than Protestants, just as they are more criminal.”

The whole thread is worth reading, if you are in the mood for apoplexy. Yet again, this generation of so-called ‘liberals’ seem to have shot their moral compass. The issue is pithily summed up in a quotation from Winston Churchill:

“In opposing evil, our greatest peril lies not in defeat, but in becoming that which we would oppose.”


Merkin said...

“In opposing evil, our greatest peril lies not in defeat, but in becoming that which we would oppose.”
"Too late", was the cry.

anticant said...

It's never too late, merkin, but it's going to be a damned close-run thing.

zola said...

To the barricades me artys

Anonymous said...

Is there an evil that I cannot imagine myself involved within?

Szwagier said...

You can blame Thatcher for all of this. Without her, there would be no Blair. Without Blair, this would not have happened. He's just smart enough to follow someone else's rules, but not smart enough to invent his own.

Churchill would know, wouldn't he? His wartime rule was relatively dictatorial, wasn't it? At least, I recall an argument being put forward somewhere that that was the case.

I'm not about to boost CiF's number of visitors by going to the column, so I'll have to take your word for it that it's worth reading. Which, of course, I do.

This, of course, relates to your other post about collective awkwardness. Here is something all of us can agree on, but what do you propose we do about it? Should I, for example, be concentrating my fire on Blair, who allows, or even initiates, the torture? Or the Polish government, which allows its territory to be used as a waystation for fear of offending Uncle Sam?

anticant said...

What do I propose we do about it? Wish I knew! That's precisely why I started blogging in the first place - in the hope of finding some answers.

The nub of it all is that we - the West - have lost our moral compass since 9/11, if not before. Churchill had to be dictatorial to some extent in wartime, but he - unlike Blair - was a great respecter of parliamentary government. The worst offender was his Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison - Mandelson's granddad.

zola said...

Moral compass?
Does that mean a navigational aid to pick little mushrooms and manufacture big mushrooms?
Oh dear me what poppycock.

Toby Lewis said...

A stirring New Year's message!

Could it be the case that such things like torture in our name will be inevitable in a war (in this the "realists" are right) but that as soon as this happens and people in authority or the public are aware of it the action should be condemned in the strongest terms?

anticant said...

Welcome back, Toby. I hope that you and Ana had a wonderful Spanish Navidad.

Edmund Burke said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

anticant said...

When somebody said of Herbert Morrison that he was his own worst enemy, Ernest Bevin retorted "Not while I'm alive he aint."

zola said...

Welcome back Toby.
I am unconvinced that torture or even disgusting acts are inevitable from a kind of military or war like situation.
I mean this very seriously.
War is a socio-political act and it is not any kind of individualistic aggression.
It is not you but it is the fancy New labour party that has tried to make private selves to be Hobbsian and in this the "blame" will easily be placed upon individual "need" for expanding their aggression.
What Toby will YOUR newlabour be doing in the future to avoid this kind of humbug?

anticant said...

Zola, I think you are confusing one's moral compass - an essential personal tool - with the mythical 'moral fibre' whose loss used to be so lamented by the Whitehouse/Festival of Light brigade. Someone once likened this to a sort of ethereal national compost heap - doubtless highly suitable for growing magic mushrooms!

zola said...

Why do you think that Anticant?
What is my confusion?

zola said...

Maybe my confusion was in standing up against nuclear wars and bombs and the guns and the bombs.
This when those "inner-moral-compass" souls ( usually spoilt and very well bred)failed to turn up for the real protests.
J'accuse those that will confuse even if I love bullshit for fun.

anticant said...

Zola, your moral compass has just given a very clear pointer to Toby. And what else made you stand up against wars, bombs, and cruelty?

My compass is pointing to the hospital, and I'm off there now. Back this afternoon.

zola said...

Wish you well I do.

Merkin said...

I don't like morels, I prefer champignons.

zola said...

Oh me speeling agin.
Oh me Merkin thou art always lurkin

anticant said...

Toby and Zola: Scarcely any human behaviour is 'inevitable'. It is practically all the outcome of choices. What we are seeing in the world today is the sick exercise of conscienceless power by governments, groups, and individuals who offer feeble excuses such as that they have 'no alternative', or have been 'traumatised'.

What shocked me in that CiF post was the spectacle of self-styled 'intellectuals' queueing up to justify torture with weasel words - the hypocritical tribute that vice pays to virtue.

zola said...

Anticant : Blairite you are.
Choices is it?
You said you studied history at Cambcringe ( better you were at Oxford methinks). Too much punting you have had methinks.
But would that really have made a "difference"?

anticant said...

So now it's down to swapping insults, is it, Zola? Blairite indeed! Blair never has any choice. He is a TINA person, guided by the Hand of God just like La Thatcher and Dubya. ["It wasn't me, mister. It was that pesky God aka billstickers up there wot made me do it"]

Jose said...

Curious how we turn humoristic when we cannot do anything to fight torture, or anything untoward for that matter.

The exchange here has turned into something that has got nothing to do with the infamous procedures those people mentioned practice.

I don't know whether to let myself be carried by the stream or swim up current.

Gentlemen, torture is a very serious treatment. I remember that nose tweaking of my childhood.

anticant said...

Jose, you are addressing a very deep problem. While one cannot be serious all the time, the way in which banter, teasing, and word-play constantly erupt on these Awkward Squad threads, whatever the topic, betrays to my mind a helplessness, almost amounting to despair, on the part of intelligent sensitive people who feel they are powerless to influence things for the better. I do not believe that, nor I think do you, which is why we blog. I enjoy a bit of fun and verbal wit as much as the next person, but that is not my main reason for being here.

Jose said...

I believe so, Anticant. What can we do to fight injustice?

In my opinion spread all over our protest, link the protest to more blogs until a clamour be heard everywhere. Generalising the protest is the way, by keeping it individualised the protest ends up dying.

zola said...

May I agree deeply : I feel no need for self-defence here ( although if anticant is believed too much and seriously I am one that avoids the difficult issues as I turn to various colours of humour)but anyone checking my site will see a certain serious support for justice in action.
In fact my links open up some very critical pedagogical work.

Yet whenever I have mentioned real political issues the thread rarely even starts. I continue however. It is not that simple.

I believe that too much left ( or god help us right) talk quickly leads into absurdity. A playfulness is also needed.

Am I a situationist?

anticant said...

Yes, Zola, we do indeed need the playfulness, and I am enchanted by yours. But we also need the seriousness, and the issue with which I'm grappling in deciding whether or not to go on putting so much of my limited energy into this 'Ring' is how to get more worthwhile discussion of serious issues going. I've put a great deal of time, thought and effort into making the burrow an interesting and varied place, but so far with vey little response except from you, Szwagier, Merkin, Jose, and one or two others. What we could do without, IMHO, is the billstickers phenomenon - see my latest comment on Toby's site.

Now back to bed.

Jose said...

Yes, Zola. I haven't visited yet your site but I promise to be a regular one as soon as I set my bearings.

We have the most powerful weapon humankind has ever wielded, the means to get united with a common target. Why should we waste it?

The Internet should be kept pure, flawless by us users, and its effectivity used at a maximum degree. Our leaders are the servers of the tip of the societal pyramid, while the base - us - are their servers, the politicians' servers. We should upturn the pyramid thus achieving that the weight of the base is more effective that the said tip.

After all we live in democracies, don't we?

Excuse me if I sound pontificating, I just want to be serious.

anticant said...

Jose, I am entirely at one with you.