Friday, May 20, 2005

Surrendering humanity

I've just seen on the news that a British tabloid [The Sun] published pictures of Saddam Hussein wearing nothing but big, white briefs.

Frankly, I'm thoroughly disgusted.

Saddam Hussein was a dictator, responsible for thousands of deaths, for misery and thirst, for hunger and disease, for cold and fear. He broke his people's spirits and doomed them to a life of utter desperation. Were he to drop dead of a stroke, I promise you I would shed no tears and would probably feel a lifting in the earth's force field. Extremely bad people taint us all, irrespective of distance.

Regardless of my personal opinion of the war in Iraq, dictators belong in jail. Jails we help pay for, where they eat food we pay for, wear clothes we pay for, watch the TV we pay for. And all this with good reason. We owe it to them, it is our duty, from the moment they take on prisoner status. And that duty, make no mistake, is a rather sacred one.

Everyone has the right to be respected as a prisoner, that is a fundamental right. We agreed it was a fundamental right. And we did so bcs there needs to be a supra-entity in the shape of a body of rules that ensures, or tries to, that we do not become blinded by our own emotions and inevitable hatred. Because, who decides that it is all right to bend the rules THIS TIME bcs THIS TIME it’s different? Who will ensure that YOU are given proper treatment should it happen to YOU? Who will watch the watchers when it becomes personal? We define ourselves in a very explicit way through how we treat the underdog.

Every prisoner has a right to be respected as such - even more so when, by our standards, they have never shown much respect for anything to begin with.

Murderers, pedophiles, wife- and child-beaters, rapists are despicable. They have a right to be treated with dignity. Not appreciation, not affection, not understanding. DIGNITY.

When they are not, we lose ours. We lose face. We mock that which gave us the right to imprison them.

When they are not, we blur the dividing line.

When they are not, it tolls for us - and it’s a requiem really.

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23 Comments:

At 20/5/05 21:41, Blogger Noorster said...

I agree with every word in this excellent post.
Add me to the disgusted club.

 
At 20/5/05 22:17, Blogger Rozanne said...

You hit the nail on the head. My sentiments exactly.

 
At 20/5/05 22:26, Blogger Viscondessa said...

Magnificent post!

 
At 21/5/05 00:09, Blogger Candace said...

Yep. That's why we have the Geneva Convention, and I'm sure Great Britain follows it. Or should, and the paper should be ashamed.

 
At 21/5/05 00:32, Blogger Susie said...

I completely agree. Very well said.

 
At 21/5/05 03:41, Blogger amyesq said...

I totally agree. That is what separates us from them - I would hope - is that we try to give every human dignity. We certainly failed in this instance.

 
At 21/5/05 04:05, Blogger Lorem ipsum said...

I agree, but there's another point to be noted here.

Nudity isn't shocking anymore. Not at Abu Ghariib, not at Bagram, not at Guantanamo Bay. Prisoners are always dehumanized, regardless of regime or reason, and so I looked the other way when I saw the Sun. (Yes, I saw it. My husband says, 'Why do you read that crap?' He's the Charlotte Church fan!) Not out of anger or disgust so much (although disgust was definitely there), but out of boredom. Who is it shocking? Who is more humiliated, the Sun or Sadaam?

Still, shame on whoever took it. We didn't need a reminder that he's still in custody. We have THE WAR to remind us who's still in the White House.

 
At 21/5/05 09:13, Blogger paulmonster said...

I strongly support your articulation of the principle of human dignity. I'm deeply troubled that no one on the world stage has either the credibility or the wherewithal to sustain it. The trouble with ideals like "The Rule of Law" is that it takes everyone behaving at their best, ALL the time, for it to even begin to take root, whereas it takes only one little exception (would we accord the same dignity to Stalin?), to effectively demolish the pretty facade.

Perhaps this line of thinking is why the death penalty, barbarous as it is, is still such a tenuous issue in my country. Not to mention the mess we're causing in the rest of the world (sorry about that, by the way).

Still, conflicted as I am, I have to believe that Human Dignity is worth it, ultimately. Even if the ideal of the Rule of Law is never fully achieved, it's more than worth working for. Why do any of us save money for our retirements, raise our families, get up in the morning at all, if we don't believe somewhere, somehow, that this next day is going to be worth it?

 
At 21/5/05 09:15, Blogger paulmonster said...

And on an entirely different note, MAN do I hate blogger.

 
At 21/5/05 09:22, Blogger The Lioness said...

See, this is my problem w tabloids. I remember the big bruaha when Princess Diana died, and the world pretty much saying it was the paparazzi's fault. How is it their fault if they are doing their job, and the reason they actually get paid for it is us enabling it by buying their work?

I dove deeply into humour research from an ethological perspective when I was writing my thesis. It's all abt us vs them, it's all abt others' misery reinforcing our identity as something better. Most humour is accomplished at someone else's expenses. I don't know, I suppose I have fauith but am not very hopeful...

 
At 21/5/05 10:40, Blogger brooksba said...

Johnny,

This is an excellent post. I have my opinions about the acts of dictators and those that treat others without respect. And when it comes time to punish the actions, there needs to be humanity involved. Otherwise the prisoner and the prisonee are no different.

Beijos.

 
At 21/5/05 14:24, Blogger CarpeDM said...

Yes, exactly. If we treat Saddam like this, aren't we just stooping to his level? Aren't we saying humanity doesn't matter to us?

Speaking of Princess Diana, I have never understood why The Sun or The Enquirer or any tabloid for that matter, insist on taking pictures of celebrities to such an extent - such as those pictures you see of the celebrities who have gained weight and are (shocked gasp) still daring to wear bathing suits. Who cares? And then I remember they're in business because people love to read about this stuff. It's quite sad, actually.

 
At 21/5/05 20:02, Blogger Serialangel said...

I was so embarrassed by that photo. It was taken a while ago, and somehow just decided to leak itself, how ridiculous...
As british lass who wants to be a journalist one day you would have thought that they had some understanding that people should be treated with dignity and not because some convention agreed them to it.
I join the disgusted club.

 
At 21/5/05 23:02, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's clearly a violation of the Geneva Conventions. I'm surprised there's so much shock in Britain, though, considering the low quality of the tabloid press there. but then again, the New York Post ran it as well.

 
At 22/5/05 00:54, Blogger D said...

Ok, I'll bite. For all the J sycophants here: What exactly was wrong with seeing the sunny (no pun intended) side of ole Saddam? That photo's were taken? That they were published? That somehow his 'dignity' was violated?

THE GENEVA CONVENTION??

You people have no moral right to judge the photographer (sick corrupt individual that he is), the editor (unscrupulous corrupt SOB that he is) or the tabloid that the photo was published in (disgusting corrupt rag that it is).

I am willing to bet a lot of money that NONE of you people EVER spent as many words, let alone a more serious effort against Hussein. This is not a case of 2 wrongs don't make a right. This is not even a case of misplaced moral equivalence. This is a case of "if you didn't speak up at a THOUSAND actual serious human rights offenses, then SHUT UP NOW".

J, Saddam is responsible for MILLIONS, not thousands of deaths. Still no reason to kick him when he's helpless and harmless. But really, where's the sense of priority? A giggle would have been so much more elegant, so much more appropriate.

 
At 22/5/05 01:00, Blogger The Lioness said...

Dany, more appropriate to whom?

 
At 22/5/05 01:23, Blogger D said...

The occasion.

 
At 22/5/05 12:56, Blogger The Lioness said...

Dany, chill, babe. I am not discussing politics w you. People are entitled to their outrage, as you're entitled to yours over ours - and how do you know they didn't do anything? Have a little faith, Belinfante!

Let's not do politics, you know we hardly ever agree and I have me some studying to do. But hey, anyone else, feel free to jump in. Wtach your throats though. I just bought a new perfume, looked everywhere for Sushi Nori and found none so am pissy, and not in the mood for politics today at all. Desperate Housewives starts today - let the world crumble away.

PS - And if you think I'll discuss AI in depth w you, or anything along those lines when you come in July - NO! We'll just have fun and chill over some Portie sangria. Deal?

 
At 22/5/05 20:15, Blogger Diana said...

Not wanting to really jump into the fray, commenting late and feeling lazy, I do agree that there are lines that a moral society should not cross. Sadly, I do not seem to live in one, although I am obviously not by any means alone. It all just makes me sad. Horrible deeds leading to horrible deeds.

 
At 22/5/05 21:08, Blogger D said...

J said: PS - And if you think I'll discuss AI in depth w you, or anything along those lines when you come in July - NO! We'll just have fun and chill over some Portie sangria. Deal?

Ok, not in depth then... And this IS your blog, so I'll refrain from politics here. Any offense given was purely intentional...

 
At 22/5/05 22:06, Blogger The Lioness said...

Dany, you're welcome to disagree, as long as I'm not given any grief for refusing to bite.

 
At 3/6/05 21:31, Blogger Rinat said...

Ola! Fiquei curiosa ao ler sua mensagem no meu blog. Em primeiro lugar, obrigada, se e que voce me entende. Ninguem entende o circulo de sentimentos que a vida nesse pais louco chamado Israel.
Voce e portuguesa? Morou aqui?
Beijos! :)

 
At 4/6/05 17:03, Blogger The Lioness said...

Olá, entendo, sou e morei, 3 anos. Agora estou apensar que seria melhor deixar a resposta no Balagan? Lá vou eu.

 

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