Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sighet Prison, Museum of Arrested Thought. Torture, Theirs and Ours

Romanian children, Transylvania, traditional village

 Is there any culture that does not value its children. Is there any culture that has not inflicted physical and mental pain on nonconformists. How and what do we teach our children about their freedom of expression, or not? Petr Ginz: Places and the Legacy, offers a start: Petr Ginz, a Prague child, enduring the ghetto and then death at Auschwitz in WWII.  Does exposure to the sights and sounds of torturing another leave a legacy of heightened awareness, shaping that child's life.

Romania is not alone in its history of pain, purposefully inflicted. See the Human Rights Watch site,
Ask, for Romania and ourselves, how does abuse affect the brain. See Joy of Equivocating, Abuse Experience and the Brain: Distorts Perception.

Overview.  Romania has a reputation for political prisons and torture within; and a bloody history with Vlad II Tepes, the Impaler, and past President Ceaucescu. The course of events there is hardly unique, but useful as a starting place for thinking of torture, as we have to now, from the news.

1. Defining, Identifying. Gray Areas or Not. Torture is hard to define because the word itself is disagreeable - nobody wants it applied to their actions. By way of update, the issue is re-emerging in the United States with a probable release of Congressional examination of CIA practice.  Extreme interrogation is a likely term.

Vlad is notorious for torture, impalings, and other techniques, but still revered for keeping back the Turkish invaders, and coping with a disorderly time,. Torture was a common means for imposing a moral order and defense. Very intricate issues, looking back now. See

Now look at us. Our culture's view of the value of other lives. Inflicting pain is apparently ok if the goal is deterrence of something, or enforcement of something; or to get something the government wants. Or if we do not call it torture, but call it "extreme interrogation." Wordswords.

4. Everyday torture. We also do it. Is this true: Torture does not have to be political or religious. It has many forms and purposes.

4.1 Secret inflicting of pain is apparently acceptable, so long as it is kept secret. People don't intrude. Examples include domestic abuse, animal issues where we do not see the slaughterhouse, exterminators who do their work out of sight,

Do we really want pain infliction to be out of sight or easily digestible, or do we lose something of ourselves if we skip accountability. FN 1, a domestic diversion into the garden. But,
if we say we can only inflict torture if we do it directly, out in front, for reasons and to an extent that can be examined, there is another danger: If you do do it yourself, or let your institutions do it, maybe you or they won't quit. It snowballs. How to extricate - a push becomes an entanglement to worse.

4.2 Abuse is also acceptable when the words used create a disposable sub-class: Pest. Female. Gender-type designations. Unbeliever. The articulated goal - getting rid of undesirables - can also become a justification, so words used to label the victim count. Insurgent, not patriot. How do you label. Widdoo mousie? or Rodent. Vermin. A job may need to be done - rat control - but use of words facilitates, reduces resistance to how it is being done. Or, again as to words, torture is acceptable if the words used to describe the inflictee create a subclass as to whom pain is okay (a circular argument): as criminals, ethnic groups when they are to be controlled or exterminated, the death penalty. A different morality then applies to the pain.

"Tar-Baby stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low." From "Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings," by Joel Chandler Harris, Grosset & Dunlap, NY1921, at page 9. Touch torture and you'll get stuck.

4.3 Torture is acceptable if done in increments. Everyday homespun tortures numb us.

4,4. Torture is acceptable if it produces profit, eases the burden in business. Institutional and other cultural torture. Force and pain are apparently ok if produces a profit (ex. slaughterhouses as we have them), Or is the cheap way to kill. Look again at that horrid glue tray in the hardware store for mice.

We may need to control the infestation, but there must be a decent way, regardless of the label. Is it "just" an animal?. Make people put them on the counters, so they can see? Is infliction of pain not a moral issue for certain defined groups of living creatures, including people. Either way, inflicting pain is easy to digest when you get someone else to do it for you, or hide the horror tray back in the cellar.

The numbing. We get accustomed. As in the current movie, "The Kingdom," force the child to watch the bombing. See overview of film at

Or, more usual here, rather than forcing a child to watch people get killed in real life, we use the gradual warming of the water, until we as frogs let ourselves boil up and never knew we were dying.

4.5 Torture is acceptable if it fosters macho. More numbing, but also with the profit angle. Bull-riding. The rodeo from the bull's eye-ball view. It is expected to make the creatures fierce with pain because it is entertainment, produces a profit, or enhances macho. Or is that a false impression? See

Why not just ride a bull yourself, invite your friends to watch, and if it is a dull one, fine.

No, because that real event may not be profitable or consistently exciting as a made-up one.

Or Pamplona here. The bulls on the way to the ring. Condensed torture. Maybe twenty minutes in the ring.

On the other hand, Spain's approach for an individual bull hurt for that short time, beats years of hurt in the stockyards, then the slaughterhouse.

Small voice: should pain really be used this way, irrelevant for purposes of profit, or macho for Saint Fermin; relevant only as a dispensation when it does not count?

At least Portugal does not kill the bull. See their equestrian bullfights at //

4.5. Torture is acceptable for poliical purposes, for turf, power.
Back to political uses of pain: Modern times. Visit the building at Sighet Prison, Sighetu Marmetiei, Romania,; provided it and the rest of the old prison system is not being rented out - offshored. Outsourced. Then use the internet.

Go here to see the building, photos of inmates - that included professionals, politicians, academics, civic leaders - online at
More examples of institutional torture: See Petr Ginz: Places and Legacy for post on a World War II child's exposure to inhuman treatment in his era, as a Prague part-Jew, and his ultimate death at Auschwitz. In our own place: see,12271,1664174,00. Or, the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, at

5. The Traps of Torture

Problems: how to get a society to agree on what objectives can support torture, when pain may be inflicted, and how much; and the experiential fact that, once set on the enforcement path, the inflicter-forcer won't quit.

Human and institutional corruptibility. Dangerous addictions and desires arise. Marquis de Sade. See Torturers don't quit, as to subjects or methods. Examples: See Sighetu Marmetiei in northwest Romania, the Maramures region. See earlier posts on Maramures and Sighet. Those people were not even criminals who hurt people - they were intellectual dissenters. Still criminal?

6. Individual leaders and torture. The Lure of it working. Here it can be winner take all. Individuals can bull things through, if they have enough talent, or have enough people around as a substitute for the leader's lacks. Lackeys! Surrogates can get the job done for you. For a time.

Leaders find that repression, misrepresentation and torture work - but that is true only for a while. Specific leaders may thrive, then they lose. Or do they keep on winning? What does it take to stay in power. Muscle, combined with inflicting Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and reminders of a threat if the people do not stay in line.

Example in Romania is Vlad Tepes II, The Impaler, "Dracula." His torture was for a purpose: to keep the Ottomans at bay, as well as do acts to deter locals from breaking laws - maintain order in a disorderly time. See Romania Road Ways - Vlad Dracula sites; and overview at "Vlad Tepes - The Historical Dracula" at

See again that lovely Lake Snagov, where we found Vlad's island earlier. It also is the place where Nicholae Ceaucescu, late dictator, had his palace, there at the shore. President Ceaucescu: see /

6. Torture, the Captive-Fear Experience, and its Stockholm effect. The Stockholm Syndrome.Despite its irreverent air, this is a good overview of the phenomenon between jailers/oppressors and jailees/oppressees, known as the Stockholm effect: go to

In summary, the receiving end of oppression ultimately plays along, if they get little rewards.

That is the dynamic. Theoretically, and often in practice, the torturer gets you to identify with the torturer by giving you little benevolences as time goes on. Moral issue in spite of that: If that does not happen (any at Gitmo?) does or should the torturer just go on?

Read more about the Stockholm Syndrome - See Here it is again: Just put out a) that there are threats to your survival out there, b) isolate what they can see or hear other than the captors, c) throw them a lolly once in a while, and d) make it clear that there is no escape.Here is a big one. Worth exploring. Another reason why perceived captivity, deprivation-infliction and torture work.
Make a verb of Stockholm effect: "To Stockholm." That way, we get out of the mold and can see how it as a technique can be intentionally used by governments, institutions, individuals.

Example: our gleaned definition, including the elements we have found:

Stock-holm (stock'-holm). v.t. -holmed, -holming, -holms.

1. To throw sporadic benefits at a person who
a. believes there is no escape,
b. is kept isolated and ignorant of views other than those of the captor,
c. is subject to ongoing and extreme deprivations, or is being tortured, and
d. believes that his or her life is in danger, with the result that
the person begins to identify with the controller and his or her goals.

2. To foster the psychological shift from one's self to the perceived need to keep the captor happy.

Do your own search for the Stockholm, Sweden, 1973 study following events and results of perpetrators holding persons captive at a bank robbery.

6. Enslavement by Imposed Belief Systems. Is this a form of Stockholming? Do news stations and politicians effectively Stockholm people?

Brer Fox again. Put out the bait, see who dares touch it.

Why not use fear and invective and volume, repeated, to Stockholm the citizenry. Stockholm the middle class, the poor. Let Rush prevent opposing views during his hours' advertising time and get paid (this a later update July 2008) his $32,ooo,ooo per year for the next 8 years. See old salary at://

He could sponsor an entire district in Romania.

Back to the method: Isolate addicted viewers. Increasing deprivations imposed on the middle and lower classes by their government, but then a taffy. Bet there a memo on it. A function of propaganda. Then they won't focus on what you are doing.

7. Global citizen torture issues: in weighing all that is said in its defense, or how offensive it is:

7.1. The danger of pleasure felt by the torturer. Does inflicting pain give pleasure to the torturer. This has been the subject of investigation-denial-interest. See this view of the inquisition - Like a garden party. No big deal, just people being gullible about what happened.

It must give pleasure? See the Marquis de Sade site above. See all the violent sites also on the net, that you can find on your own. The topic must give pleasure, to be so prominent and colorful, universal and fascinating. Pain on the silver screen. The addiction early. The dance, abuser and abusee. The Stockholm syndrome - identifying with the abuser. See

7.2. Whether torture can ever be kept under control. The torturer doesn't want to stop. You psychologists out there? When does boxing turn into it. What if the referee likes it. True or false?

7.3 Legitimacy based on longevity. It has a long history, so some may see it as fine because it is familiar. Good for schools who approach torture as a subject: see this school student oriented Elizabethan era overview of the history of torture, with its information as to the deeper past -

7.4. How long is it effective. Before long, it gives rise to resistance, more fervor behind it, to support the tortured. What if the bees could horde back. Run! What is happening outside when you are busy inside.

The Transience of Defeat - Even Vlad the Impaler's fabled impalings to deter the Ottoman advance only lasted for some 40 years. They came back, of course. Lay low for a while. See Romania Road Ways - Vlad Tepes-Impaler Sites. Vlad is revered for his effectiveness. See Romanian history from the consulate in Athens, at

7.5 And how is a citizen to keep from being Stockholmed, by getting those little ditsy bones occasionally, into compliance with what else the ones in power want. See above. Have to outfox the fox on your own, because you won't get any help. Too many people making money and enhancing macho by inflicting pain.

FN 1 - Discussion of domestic colonialisms has been moved to Spain Road Ways, Seville colonialism post, Columbus Day.

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