Sunday, January 11, 2009

The ability of humans to inflict pain.

Last week's Law and Order broke my heart. I couldn't stop crying. I put it in my Twitter feed. It was about adoptees which is a hard place for me to begin with and then--I had heard of people adopting children to get servants, but the self congratulation of these "parents" as though they were doing a "good" thing and the place where it led took me apart. Ruth Rendell wrote a novel about the problem in Britain called Simisola and that one shook me too. Rather like the Elizabeth George novel "What Came Before He Shot Her." All we get is the result--child becomes murderer. Not the terrible whys that could take a sweet child there.

How is it that we are so ready to inflict pain both mental and physical on other humans? That we spend so much time and energy planning it--we as a race--through out recorded time. We caught a show the other night on torture devices of the middle ages--and I thought, as I've often thought, who thought of those devices. Who sat around with the limited knowledge of the human body of the time and thought of ways to inflict the most pain without actually killing. Who thought of waterboarding--that ancient and so simple torture (and it is torture). It is bad enough of course that film makers must think of imaginary ways to kill--that the ante is always upped to create something never seen, but of course, they need not consider that the people would probably die of shock and blood loss long before the final frame of Saw or any other of the new and bloodier horror films. The torturers wanted long and slow pain before death--to bring you close to death but not quite.

On New Year's Day one of my teeth started aching. At first it was intermittent but by the night it was continuous. I ate a tube of Orajel and nothing helped. The pain would start with a slow burning sensation along the gum (possibly from overuse of Orajel) and progress rapidly to the sensation that a large house nail was being driven into my jaw. Oddly the only thing that relieved it (and thank God there was some form of relief) was to drink cold water--it gave blessed relief for about 5 minutes and then it would begin again. I spent the entire night drinking water and dozing between. On the hour I would go to the bathroom and refill my glass. By morning I had drunk an entire gallon of water. By 7:30 I was looking for dentists, any dentist who were open on Jan. 2nd and could see me immediately.

I remember thinking of those torture device--some of which were designed to drive the teeth together until the jaw was broken and I thought that if I was forced to endure that pain in all my teeth with no respite I would tell anything, sell anyone to make it stop.


musing said...

I do not understand, either. There's enough pain in the world without people creating more.

But, I imagine it has something to do with not empathizing with the "other." Objectifying human beings so they are treated with the same amount of compassion as one would a toaster.

Novel said...

Nick and I talk about that--that if you can reach a point where you no longer see them as human then you can do anything.

I don’t believe in what you believe
You skin is filthy
And your gods don’t look like god to me
--The Banality of Evil, David Sylvian (Nine Horses)