[Marxism] Torture "fundamentally un-American" ?

DLVinvest at cs.com DLVinvest at cs.com
Mon May 10 14:17:03 MDT 2004

In a message dated 5/10/04 9:17:20 AM Mountain Daylight Time, 
illonph at pacbell.net writes: 
> it is clear that living with
> indelible shame is as bad as death for people in some cultures and the Arab
> culture might well be considered one of them.

Brutality of this sort is routine, endemic in US prisons and jails as a means 
of control, but not unique to them, and not necessarily systematic as this 
appears to be. I suspect that further revelations about the torture in US 
prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo and Afghanistan will show that reservist "grunts" 
recruited as MPs from US prison-guards (and many of them displaced workers who 
couldn't find work elsewhere) were allowed to indulge their sado-masochistic and 
racist tendencies as part of a deliberate technique of humiliating captives 
to "soften them up" for interrogation by "intelligence" operatives., especially 
where sexual attitudes and body-image could be exploited to degrade the 
detainees' self-conception of "manhood." 

Some anthropologists have tried to distinguish between "shame-based" cultures 
as distinct from those in which "guilt" is an emotional response that 
motivates a very different behavior. Shame has a collective attribute becase it 
derives from a relationship with family and clan in which others are dishonored by 
one's actions (or inactions).  This is especially true in cultures where 
pre-capitalist extended family-clan relationships have survived the "articulation 
of modes of production" under conditions of imperialist domination, as in 
Arabia. In the Americas, Christian missionaries subverted the indigenous clan and 
tribal mores with religious indoctrination that replaced "shame" with "guilt" 
while the structures of kin relationships were disrupted by massive dislocation 
of the population to supply labor to the mines and plantations for export, 
enslavement and genocide. 

There is a long history of imperial research on how best to dominate a 
conquered people: For example, near the end of World War II, the US Army 
commissioned social-scientists to study Germany and Japan for guidance on the occupation. 
One result was The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, the anthopologist Ruth 
Benedict's classic study of Japanese cultural attitudes and mores; she argued that 
the occupation had better take the distinction between shame and guilt into 
account in dealing with a conquered people.

Guilt is more individual and internalized. Shame often demands retribution by 
the aggrieved person's family and clan. The US has fueled the resistance like 
an arsonist spreading accelerant, and there will be hell to pay.

Douglas L. Vaughan, Jr.
for Print, Film & Electronic Media
3140 W. 32nd Ave. 
Denver CO 80211

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