What is torture? What is the structure of one human doing destructive acts to a vulnerable, fellow human being? The question about torture, “Does it work?” is not an appropriate question. Of course it works, but to what end does it work and what is it effective at doing? Simply, what are the goals for torture and how are those achieved? What are the whys and the hows?
The How of Torture is Built on Pain
The abstract how of torture is quite easy to cerebrally understand. Indeed, it is simple – the means of torture is overwhelming pain inflicted on a thoroughly vulnerable person by another human being. As one inflicts massive amounts of pain on the other, there is fundamentally a great gulf created between the torturer and tortured. The tortured has lost, while the torturer has forcibly taken, control of the relationship resulting in one of the most sadistic, one-sided relational situations ever conceived: “Every weapon has two ends. In converting the other person’s pain into his own power, the torturer experiences the entire occurrence exclusively from the nonvulnerable end of the weapon.”1 There is no gifting in such a relationship, only violation and impressment, for violence and blinding pain is the ruling language and defining experience.
1. Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 59.