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Over Easy: Torture

Choke Pear – wikimedia commons

This seems to me to some contentious subject of late.  However torture seems to be a human theme for a very long time. From the ancient Greeks at least to present day. Though the methods have changed some what over time, the stated reasons have not.

Interestingly enough though, torture has rarely, if ever, resulted in obtaining what the reasons stated. Such as acquiring of information, either from the subject or his or her accomplices . Nor has it been a viable means of  detouring undesirable behavior. And yet though the ages has remained very popular.

From the medieval forms   to present day forms. Though the death of the victim of torture was  not necessarily the point, death oft occurred and was not considered a negative consequence.

Indeed a torturous  death often was the final punishment whether or not the victim gave the torturers what they wanted or not.  During the the Spanish Inquisition this was usually the case/ Whether one confessed or not they would eventually be put to death in some horrible fashion.  Being burned alive was very popular for this.

In fact executions  themselves have always been torturous even to this very day. If not physically then psychologically. And up until the 20th century executions were often a public event, held in the town square where all could attend. The last being in 1937. Though there are those who feel that the closed circuit television execution of Timothy McVeigh qualifies.

One has to wonder what the whole point of this is, for it certainly does not have the desired outcome. It is very labor intensive and  time consuming to put a person to torture and put someone to death is this manner. And far too often has the opposite effect or the desired  outcome. Causing the victim to become a mater of some sort, there by instilling  even more desire in those who may adhere to and follow his or her cause.

I personally wonder if  part of it has to do with some sadistic need or even entertainment value. Maybe some deep psychological need.


A few years ago a group of Swiss researchers scanned the brains of people who had been wronged during an economic exchange game. These people had trusted their partners to split a pot of money with them, only to find that the partners had chosen to keep the loot for themselves. The researchers then gave the people a chance to punish their greedy partners, and for a full minute, as the victims contemplated revenge, the activity in their brains was recorded. The decision caused a rush of neural activity in the caudate nucleus, an area of the brain known to process rewards (in previous work, the caudate has delighted in cocaine and nicotine use). The findings, published in a 2004 issue of Science, gave physiological confirmation to what the scorned have been saying for years: Revenge is sweet.
A thirst for vengeance is nothing if not timeless. It is as classic as Homer and Hamlet, and as contemporary as Don Corleone and Quentin Tarantino; as old as the eyes and teeth traded in the Bible, and as fresh as the raid that took the life of Osama bin Laden.

We can see this in nearly all drama and literature.  When the “Bad Guy” gets his due. We each of us wish for this in all we determine to be the “Bad Guy” or anyone who maybe related to or in cahoots with  the “Bad Guy”.  The more realistic and brutal, the better.  That the effect of this is the same as doing Cocaine or smoking is very interesting indeed.

If this is indeed true – and I suspect it is – we then need to be a lot more introspect about who we determine is a “Bad Guy”.

And that’s the name of that tune.

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