In 1992 Quentin Tarantino, now a famous filmmaker, directed his opera prima called “Reservoir Dogs”. One of the most remembered quotes from that movie is “Listen kid, I’m not gonna bullshit you, all right? I don’t give a good fuck what you know, or don’t know, but I’m gonna torture you anyway, regardless. Not to get information. It’s amusing, to me, to torture a cop.” In this particular movie, torture is used to get a sadistic gratification, but torture can be also used to obtain certain information from soldiers who are fighting a war. In 2008, Christopher Hitchens wrote “Believe Me, It’s Torture” an essay in which he pushes himself to try from first hand a torture method called “waterboarding.” This method consist of putting a man on a table with his head covered with a cloth while somebody pours water over his face. The essay narrates the whole procedure while Hitchens had to resists as much as possible as he could of this torture method. The rest of the essay relies on questioning about if this practice should or shouldn’t be called torture, and at the end he finally claims that “waterboarding” is a method of torture. It is interesting that he needed to actually try the process in order to completely convinced that “waterboarding” should be considered torture. The solely fact of putting a person under that extreme psychological pressure it is for definition an act of torture and it shouldn’t be allowed of being practice because torture dehumanize us.
If we talk about torture, first we need to define the term in the context of present time. The Geneva Convention defines torture as “means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…” (Convention). This legal definition seems to be very accurate, however we should analyze the reasons why humans have to come to the point of creating laws to defends us against ourselves. Probably this currently method of torture, waterboarding, is used to get information from terrorist groups or used by this terrorists groups to get information from soldiers that are part of the army of powerful countries such as USA. Corporate interest hidden behind a country and warfare can also push under certain circumstances the use of this torture method. Finally, political interests can also lead to the use of torture. The World War I, The World War II, the big conquest of Charlemagne, The expansion of Romans, even the discovery of America were about political interests. We cannot say the same about the origin of the torture in the middle ages. During the middle age for example, a way of torture was “dunking”. This method consisted in sitting the victim on a chair and lowering down the chair into a river so the victim starts to drown. They used this method on scolding woman in England in the early 18th century. The Greeks had the “Brazen Bull” to execute criminals and the Chinese used a variation of the “Iron Maiden” during the Ming Dynasty to punish the non loyal citizens to their king. Many of this torture methods existed as a way of punishment, in order to get a confession or to make and example of others. Therefore, we can conclude that we haven’t showed the most ethical behavior as a human race. There is a barbaric instinct that pushes us to commit these horrible acts without judgment, or at least until the Geneva Convention. Now we have limits and they have been enforced since 1949.
Some people who actually don’t know how torture is practiced are advocates of it. They think that in order to get peace or to liberate a country of terrorism, Torture is something that can be tolerated. In terms of ethics, this is totally wrong. It’s unacceptable to put another human being under torture because it is a way to dehumanize him while we are dehumanizing ourselves. The mere act of infringe torture in someone else, means we are not giving any meaning to our own life, it is like to losing respect of our most precious gift, our existence. Hitchens states “when contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay.”(6) This seems to undervalue the real problem behind a torture technique, torture is torture no matter what, it can’t be softener, it can’t be diminished. It just can’t. How can somebody agree to allow torture when you hear a testimony of Ms. Ayress, a Chilean woman tortured by the regime of Augusto Pinochet during the 70’s? Here is part of her testimony:
Tejas Verdes was the place where they trained people to be torturer, there I suffered the most brutal tortures. They forced me to have sex with a trained dog for tortures. They put rats inside my vagina and then electric shocks. With the electric shocks the rats sink their claws in my vagina. They urinated and defecated in my vagina, introducing me the toxic virus of toxo plasmosis. Torturers raped me repeatedly and touched me in sexual ways, cursing and forcing me to have oral sex with them. They cut me with knives; once they cut the first layers of my belly with a knife and I lost a lot of blood…
Victor Jara, a famous songwriter in Chile, suffered one of the most horrific tortures that someone could imagine. One of the officers crushed his hand and said “you’ll never be able to play the guitar again.” Later he was executed and his body was found with 44 bullets. This horrors can’t be tolerated, in our modern society torture must be banned forever, because torture simple and clearly dehumanize us.
“Convention Against Torture.” Convention Against Torture, United Nations Human Rights, 26 June 1987
Hitchens, Christopher. “Believe Me, It’s Torture.” Vanity Fair. N.p., 02 July 2008. Web. 07 Oct. 2016.
Wadler, Joyce. “Years After Torture, a Cry Against Pinochet.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Feb. 1999