Volume No. 1 Issue No. 95 - Monday March 27, 2007|
Qualitative bites: What Have You Learned About The Captor
By Steinberg Henry
I search, to find the History Channel looking at torture in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. What terror treasure. According to the documentary, the English were perfecting the art in the sixteenth, representing Europeís ground zero for torture.
Their ingenuity knew no bounds. This was interesting in the context of West Indian slave society. Branding was only one technique. The torturer had to be inhuman to hear the screams and not be moved. Inhuman?
A society is, however sponsoring them as he breaks shoulder-blades, breaks,
forcing blood out of eyes, ears and other orifices of the body. Drinking on Sunday was punished.
Dekalb County, Georgia does not sell alcohol on Sunday. Too reminiscent. Europe? Offenders were made mobile in public places, and suffered injury when passers-by struck them with objects. A brand could be r for rogue, t for thief.
The thiefís hand was sometimes cut off and a peeping tom had his eyes removed. How intriguing, how innovative. Boiling alive was carried out in the public square The executions had fireworks providing spectacular entertainment for the masses. The documentary was about punishment in Europe.
As a man was turned on a wheel, the executioner struck him with an iron bar, breaking his legs first, then the arms. And if after a while the victim was still alive, a final blow would be made to the heart.
Castration, entrails dragged out, men cut in quarters. Nothing unusual. The head was cut sometimes and held high, so that the public could see the person was executed.
Parts of the body were placed at various points in London as a deterrent. Consider a Black, handsome slave, seduced by a masterís mistress, (yo tay sweff) and caught on a 1760 West Indian slave plantation.
In Europe, being hanged, drawn and quartered was reserved for the worst. There was the theory that the offender was killed, put to death closest to or at the place where he committed the crime. All had to see.
The longer the suffering, the greater the entertainment. There would sometimes be twenty executions at one time: twenty swinging bodies provided quite a bit of excitement, but hanging was considered after a while a lowly way to die.
In Europe aristocrats then chose cutting of the head with an axe, leaving the French to introduce something: all criminals should be given the same treatment because it seemed that one executionerís axe became dull!
The French created the guillotine. It was described as a mass production line of death. I, consider pre-independent Haitian society. French ladies had little earrings made in the shape of a guillotine. It was in.
The eighteenth century however, saw a movement against torture because people began to abhor the spectacle. Imprisonment, the documentary observed, became the way, taking off in the United States where it was felt that people placed behind bars and put through a rigorous regime, would be transformed. Thoughts of slavery flooded my head.
Branding. We read the history texts at high school, but no one categorized it as torture, not even teachers, not even Dr. Cecil Goodridge. It was described as part of the process of owning.
It was transference of hideous practices, part and parcel of an economic agenda that treated its labor force as chattel. I think of West Indian slave society when the first shipments arrived on Barbados and St. Kittís in the sixteenth century and beyond.
Think now of Europe, and England perfecting the art of torture then. Think of a slave rebellion, resistance to branding, the rise of insanity, and the rebels being caught. Consider the public.
Itís one thing to torture your own; itís another to practice the art on your property, especially when the latter has originally been constituted as inferior and thus, less than human.
Imagine the terror, the anger, the pain, the resolve. Imagine who was being entertained, their drunkenness. I pray that one day, a bright Caribbean student, male or female will look into, uncover a history of torture and punishment in West Indian slave society, 1550 to 1850.
As for the Black American experience, thinking of it leaves me speechless most times. They were real property, and like West Indian chattel, held no rights. Says Angela Davis, now Professor at University of California, San Francisco, if property commits a crime Ö it canít be morally accountable, it canít be legally accountable. Moreover, there were, she contends so many different punishments. Those for Blacks were far more severe, than for White people who had committed the same crime.
Branding, lynching, cutting, hanging, ripping off bowels, raping, the horrors of winter, hurricanes, floods, death threats, hunger, systemic exclusion, savage in-fighting, dreadful psychological moments when slave brandishing promotion, turns upon his own people.
Chris Rock runs a story of a White man jumping on the back of an old Black man as a means of transportation, and when the White arrives at his destination, jumping off. The Black man walks away cursing the White under his breath. Oh God, did you allow this? I pray that justice comes not only through lyrics of hip-hop!
Today, there are more Blacks in prison in the United States of America, than there are in College! I understood itís one in three Blacks, one in six Hispanics and one in seventeen Whites.
Speaking in post-Katrina New Orleans to a Prison Abolition Group, Critical Resistance, Angela Davis told her audience that now racism expresses itself under the sign of equality, under the sign of due process. The negative affirmation of the legal personality of Black people continues to hold sway today; and the proof of the participation of Black people in US democracy, is precisely the fact that they have received due process before being sentenced in such disproportionate numbers.
Canadian, Marshall McLuhan wondered aloud whether the cell would be of any benefit to correcting human behavior in the 21st. century. The Barbadian musical group Crossfyah summed it up nicely: jail me wrongfully, and Iíll still be free.
When the body, the controlled object was regarded as source of labor and that alone, torture and the cell might have been rational. That alone, stream? What about when a human is arrested and held, having been deemed a source of information?
Is labor, therefore equivalent to information? And if the cell followed torture, what follows information? Certainly, not labor. And what is it when the cell combines with racism? We then have what Davis calls the prison industrial complex.
On American and West Indian slave plantation society, the body was all that mattered. It was the hours, the wage, the extraction of physical power. Psychological and spiritual? Those did not exist in a source of labor.
everywhere: when the part is sick, deal with the part. It is still dominant in medicine. It is largely unresolved in psychiatry. I may be wrong, as somewhere in our psyche, the turbulence of the unnatural must have left its punishment circles on our mindís eye.
We now have to emancipate ourselves from a slavery that is mental, and not us alone. But let us deal with our business in this time of a liberation harvest and leave torture to those who own the means by which to hide the victimís soul from Jah.
As far as I know Marxís interest in slavery was captured in his reference to it as trade in black skins. He might have known that long before the economic was discussed, there had to be a basis on which the White race decided to capture Black people and make them slaves over distance.
Roy Augier of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica would call Marxís reference to black skins, a trace. The micro-experiment hypothesized inferiority, a body fit only for labor and punishment. It was also a larger academic enterprise.
The body was constructed as machine. That philosophy was superficial, and would become efficient. Hundreds of years later this same philosophy seeks to account for environmental destruction. We who come from slaveryís roots hear and see them hustle to establish again that superiority in duality, time and space.
But timelessness, that consciousness weapon we did not deliberately use, has come now upon them. Timelessness too, has come to bear on, to move discourse and a psychology of human punishment as they face terror. I do not rejoice: they are my fellow humans. But for once in my lifetime I choose to be a spectator. We chew corn and turn on prime time.
They did not know that color was a philosophy that conceived of, constructed the human body as architecture to quote the Barbadian poet and historian Edward Kamau Brathwaite. Death was celebration.
Terrorists are not new, neither are suicide machetteurs. Freudís notion of the symptom was integral to Marxís surface, trace, representation of a process of production. Even if it be of disease.
When a community is attacked by men from another land, men who seize, chain and transport other men because the latter are deemed inferior, we are dealing here with a history of surfaced disease. Albert Einstein thought so. Here is a race that captures treasure to take it to another land-mass where no one else can see its treatment of the captive.
Its aim is to extract maximum labor, today, information. Captors abuse to death, separated to alienation, and killed at will if not obeyed. Here is a race that takes by force of arms, strategists, builders, artisans, dancers, diviners, makers of fine cloth, teachers, healers, philosophers and does not recognize quality in its cargo. It perceives no inherent value in its load, save the economic.
It first constructs them as inferior and thus to be exploited since in its world episteme, the captive is unable to reason, logicize or even suggest that it has an inner self. Its captor does not know the depth of such a self in himself, and treats its captive as empty beyond muscle. Little do they know that todayís babies lighting torches feel rhythm, are themselves being moved.
Those men who sought to legitimize private ownership of anotherís body, thought they were the only ones who understood private. Their interpretation pursued, what they would call, genetic traces of selfishness and greed. They found gratification in torture, balancing impotence with brutality, violence.
What low self-image, Freud might have thought. What a path to civilized societies, my Father concluded. How dangerous is absolute power, when it succeeds in alienating a worker from himself, from goods produced and from his or her partner in the field.
Yet, there was sufficient slave consciousness to bridge that gap, and secure forces for rebellion. Under sunlit skies, there were times, when Lands on which this mass exploitation, torture and murder took place, belong to no one, neither master nor slave. Yet all that it was, its rivers, seas, vegetation, mountains, soil, wildlife, trees appeared to be the abode of captive rather than that of captor. Naturally.
There was a dysfunction. The one who treated the other as an object had to be the same or lesser. In the presence of the captive, the captor was terrified.
There would come a time when this relation shifted beyond mere individual consciousness. To the surprise of many, we may say, it was also mediated by rhythm, one made pliant today in what Martin Carter called, a liquid fire. I listen diligently to those who prescribe that this harvest has no weeds.