Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Inquisition Revisited 

ā€œSt. Dominic Presiding at an Auto-da-fe,ā€ panel by Pedro Berruguete, c. 1503; in the Prado, Madrid
Archivo Mas, Barcelona
It becomes evermore difficult to achieve a balancing act the way that Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)  managed, observing the world with a half-cynical eye, recording the absurdities of human behaviour to fool ourselves into believing that we are decent and committed to the advance of civilizing humanity while at the same time practicing the deceit of mountebanks in the very act of committing atrocities. He was a folklorist, a humourist and a misanthrope, in one grand swoop of personality.

There is a tragic linear continuum that history records in the affairs of humankind, where religious devotion, ideological transfixion, tribal and sectarian and social customs hold those who are outside the mainstream of rigid beliefs to be inferior, heretics to the prevailing social, religious or ideological order. From Torquemada to Stalin, Hitler to Pol Pot, Islamic State and al-Qaeda to Abu Ghraib, we see dehumanization of one's perceived enemies graduate to mass murder justified by the social perception that those accused and held imprisoned, then led to their death have no justifiable reason to live.

The auto-da-fe and instruments of torture that preceded torching humans to death, were refined centuries after the Spanish Inquisition (which itself was adapted from much earlier inquisitions) and perfected into an industrialized mass annihilation machinery by the Third Reich which had succeeded in marginalizing, violating, and finally murdering millions of Jews to rid the world of what the Nazi propaganda machine named a sub-human pestilence. That sub-human species which despite their relatively slight numbers within the human population has been recognized with more Nobel prizes than any other ethnic group.
auschwitz, auschwitz-birkenau, death camp, gas chambers, nazi, the holocaust, concentration camps, extermination camp, world war II, crematorium I
This gas chamber was the largest room in Crematorium I at Auschwitz. The room was originally used as a mortuary but was converted in 1941 into a gas chamber where Soviet POWs and Jews were killed. History
As far as ironies go the fact that a brilliant Nobel-prize-winning German-Jewish scientist, Fritz Haber, invented Zyklon B (hydrogen cyanide gas) as an pesticide that was later used by the Third Reich to destroy the lives of six million Jewish children, babies, men and women, young and old, remains a postscript to history.

What could one expect from ardent anti-Semitic fascists? Perhaps precisely what one might expect from committed anti-Semitic Communists when Stalin's Great Terror purged his one-time Jewish allies from the elite ranks of the Communist order, then proceeded to target Jews in the Soviet orbit more generally in his fit of anti-Semitic psychopathy. Both finding common cause in ridding the world as well, of Sinti, homosexuals, the mentally impaired, their political opponents and any who dared question the higher purpose of their aspirational intentions to turn the world into a finer place where their own visages would be worshipped as demi-mortal.

Now, out of Australia, news that inhumanity prospers in a Western society through its treatment of teen-age prison incarcerates where techniques favoured by the Grand Inquisitors of yore are in fashion, with mechanical restraints, hooded prisoners, hands and feet bound, kept in extended isolation; a method tried-and-true to break the human spirit of a 17-year-old whose defiance of authority ran counter to general expectations, meriting his placement in a facility for children whom the justice system views askance.

Dylan Voller's sister Kira appealed to the public when  her brother's plight was featured on an Australian television program: Her brother, she said, "deserves his life back" after having "lost everything ... lost hope. The last time I went to visit him there was no smile, there was no emotion, there was nothing. I couldn't give him anything to be positive about and that really broke me. I want him to know he's still a person and people still love him and he still has hope for a life."

Even more tragically, Dylan Voller's case is not unique. The prison's inmates, all young people, undergo the same ritualistic dystopian 'cures' for their anti-social behaviour that so enrages authority that it saw fit to mete out various forms of  'civilized' behaviour modification techniques. Not quite the cures utilized regularly by Iran and Saudi Arabia, but sufficiently notable to bring a black smudge of infamy to the reputation of the country.

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