Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blog 2. Torture on Planet Earth: A Zy Uzip Report

Senegal Hand-Carved Thinker. (Contours Look Female)
The Thinking Post. If you wish to contribute a blog and do not wish  to put your name to the blog for whatever reason, please use the name of Zy Uzip as an alternative. If you use Zy Uzip as your nom de plume, allow me to introduce you to your literary double.

Zy Uzip’s Background in Her Own Words. My name is Zy Uzip-that is the closest I can get phonetically in the English language to my given name. I am a reporter from a planet in a neighboring star system. That makes me an alien on planet Earth, known as Planet-Uzat1479 back home. I am in disguise as a human female in her late fifties for my stay on Earth. That way my presence and conduct, while somewhat eccentric, may be less noticeable and less threatening in a male dominated planet. I have observed that there are some eccentric middle-aged women on the planet. So I fit in. My assignment is to report back to my planet on the goings-on on sister planet Earth. I plan to make reports regularly, until I am recalled, or given another assignment.

I have been here on planet Earth for the past three years quietly observing, listening, and when possible interviewing the Earth’s political, religious, and cultural leaders, as well as browsing Google and the Internet. I have learned much from political and religious speeches and discourses, continuous newscasts, talk shows, cultural events, scientific symposiums, discussions at the United Nations, sermons in churches, mosques, and synagogues, and lifestyle observations. I have studied Earthling’s medical practices, college campuses, educational systems, belief systems, value systems, art, and creativity.

I have visited many of what Earth people designate as “trouble spots”- Iraq, Darfur, Pakistan, the West Bank, Afghanistan, Chechnya (I tried but did not succeed in visiting North Korea because the current ruler has decreed that his nation is closed to the rest of the people on the planet), and some of the planet’s “bright spots”-Northern Ireland, South Africa, (East) Germany, China, the Baltic states.

I have studied planet Earth’s history (at least hitting the high points) and have attempted to get my arms around such things as tribalism, early civilizations, discoveries, slavery, colonization, wars, reformation, enlightenment, and freedom movements, including the current struggle for freedom in Iran. I have also studied franchise movements, civil rights movements, exploration of outer space, and movements to abolish nuclear weapons, illiteracy, hunger, and disease from the planet.

I feel that being from another planet gives me a measure of objectivity in my reporting and the experience above gives me what The Thinking Post likes to call a large picture perspective.  I am sharing these reports with the people of planet Earth by placing the reports on The Thinking Post. I do this for two reasons.  Firstly, to get feedback on my reports and hopefully restore balance where my reports stray from objectivity. After all, I am an alien with limited understanding of my report topics. Secondly, to invite my Earth readers to put themselves in my shoes, project themselves outside their planet, outside their normal patterns of thinking, and view their planet as it were from the outside, and see what they come up with. That briefly is my bag – a large picture perspective from the outside.

Torture on Planet Earth: a Zy Uzip Report

Though recently in hot debate across planet Earth, torture is not new to the planet. It is seemingly as old as the planet’s recorded human history. But recent accusations that the United States, the planet’s most powerful nation state, has indulged in torture, has raised the topic to the forefront of planet-wide dialog. 

Within five months of leaving office, former United States President George Walter Bush and former Vice President Dick Chaney admitted publicly that they approved of water-boarding (regarded by most people as torture), this despite the fact that the United States is a signee of the United Nations Convention prohibiting torture. President Bush defended his decision to permit the use of torture on terror suspects in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 coordinated suicide terrorist attacks by saying: “I vowed to take whatever steps were necessary to protect you”. The attacks killed 2,974 people, including 19 hijackers of the commercial passenger jet airlines used to fly into and reduce to rubble the Twin Towers (110 stories each) of the World Trade Center in New York City. These devastating attacks shocked people across the planet and triggered two wars on the planet, still ongoing.

Definition of Torture. Before we go any further, allow me to define what I am writing to you about. What is torture?

I give you an authoritative definition as found in Article 1 of the United Nations’  Convention Against Torture ( the United Nations is an organization of 192 independent states on Earth formed in 1945 to promote peace and security on the planet):
“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”.

I present this definition in the interest of clarity, because the boundaries between torture and, what some consider, legitimate interrogation techniques, have not been universally accepted on planet earth. This is particularly true with regard to psychological torture. Among some Earthlings, such techniques remain controversial.

Torture in the Earth’s Recorded History. Torture has seemingly been part of the human story on the planet from the beginning of recorded time. Torture has been used by governments and their surrogates including the military, the police, the “secret police”, and correctional institutions as a means of effecting political control, intimidation, extracting information, obtaining the names of accomplices in crime, re-educating people, instilling fear and achieving obedience from populations. In addition to state-sponsored torture, groups and individuals have inflicted torture on others for similar reasons or merely for personal, sadistic gratification.

Almost all human cultures on the planet and their ruling bodies practiced torture. In the Americas, torture and human sacrifice were part of religious rituals of the ancient Mayan, Aztec, and Incan societies. The judges of ancient Babylon decreed punishments that included cutting off feet, lips and noses, and gouging out eyes. The Assyrian King, Ashurbanipal, who reigned from 668 to 627 BCE (formerly BC), cut open the bellies of his opponents as if they were young rams. The Romans, the Assyrians, and the Egyptians used torture routinely in interrogations and as part of their systems of justice. For centuries, a slave’s testimony was admissible in a court of law only if extracted by torture, on the assumption that slaves could not be trusted to reveal the truth voluntarily. The Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, boasted that he tortured and killed 1,192,000 of his enemies during his 10-year reign. The Roman Emperor Caligula had noblemen who fell out of favor sawed in half.

In the Medieval Inquisition, which began in 1252 CE (formerly AD) and ended in 1816 CE, torture was sanctioned by the Catholic Church (a leading religion on the planet) and by kings, queens, princes and their governments. Many of the most brutal tortures were inflicted upon devout heretics by even more “devout” priests and friars. Countless women were accused of being witches and were tortured and burned to death. In Colonial America, women were sentenced to the stocks (an instrument of punishment consisting of a wooden framework with holes for securing the ankles and the wrists, used to expose an offender to public derision). Wooden clips were placed on their tongues for the crime of talking too much. I am glad that I came to Earth later in its cultural development, otherwise my disguise as a woman might not have been the best of ideas.

In more recent times, Adolf Hitler established concentration camps throughout Germany and subject countries in the 1930s and 1940s. These camps included whipping posts, torture rooms, and gas chambers, mass graves, and ovens to burn the remains of victims. Throughout the 20th century, Communist countries established labor camps where political dissidents were subjected to forced labor, deprivations, torture, and death. During World War II, in Germany and Japan, medical torture was practiced by medical doctors to assess what victims could endure and to determine the best torture methods to extract information. Joseph Mengele and Shiro Ishii were two of the more infamous practitioners of medical torture. Torture methods used to interrogate enemies of the state in the Soviet Union included the drug, Aminazin, a drug that causes its victim to grow intensely hyperactive and uncontrollably restless.

At the risk of turning your stomachs, I have picked what I consider the six most cruel and abhorrent methods of torture inflicted upon humans by other humans on the planet. They are all revoltingly horrible, but number six is by light years the worst.

1). Slow slicing of the human body with an extremely sharp knife, beginning with ears, nose, tongue, fingers, toes, belly, thighs, buttocks, shoulders, etc. –the entire process of up to 3,600 cuts lasted several days. This torture was used In China from about 900 CE to its abolition in 1905 CE.

2). Impalement, whereby a person is pierced with a long stake going through the rectum up through the mouth and then planted upright in the ground. This was practiced in Asia and Europe throughout the Middle Ages, from 500 CE to 1600 CE, an entire millennium.

3). The breaking wheel, used in France and Germany in the Middle Ages, whereby a person was placed on a cartwheel with limbs stretched out along the spokes, and with the wheel slowly revolving the victims bones were broken with an iron hammer, and the victim was left on the wheel for days until shock and dehydration caused death. This torture was abolished in 1827 CE.

4). The bamboo treatment, whereby a person was stripped naked and suspended between two trees, back to the ground, with growing bamboo chutes that were sharpened placed at the person’s back. Bamboo chutes grow up to five feet in one day, forcing their way up and through the human body. Chinese warlords felt for centuries that this was their best method of extracting information.

5). Slowly peeling the skin of a person’s body from head to foot, then smearing the peeled body with a substance to attract rodents to feast on the person’s flesh.

This is very grisly stuff.

I cannot but conclude that torture is deeply embedded in the planet’s human culture. To underscore this fact, I put the question to myself: What do the most popular guides to human behavior on the planet, the Judeo-Christian Bible and the Muslim Qur’an, have to say about torture?

A lot. Earthlings can go to their favorite research engine on the Internet and type in “Torture in the Bible” and “Torture in the Qur’an” to see what is presented.

From my reading of the passages in the Bible and the Qur’an that deal with the concept of torture, both the Bible and the Qur’an in many instances prescribe, promote, and condone torture. Judeo, Christian, and Islamic apologists try to explain away such passages, but they fail to confront the clear meaning of the passages head-on.  I forward these downloads with my report, so you be the judge.

Both the Bible and the Qur’an have a lot to say about the horrendous and most unique form of human torture – the burning in hell fire for all eternity. This torture is presented by both holy books as the will of God and the will of Allah, and this mother of all tortures is not addressed by the apologists at all. This leads to the most horrendous torture of all:
6). The worst torture. I have identified burning in hell fire for all eternity as the sixth and by far the worst form of torture known to earthlings.

How Widespread is Torture Across the Planet and which Earthlings are the Worst Tortures?  Modern sensibilities on the planet have been shaped by profound rejection of the worst forms of torture outlined above and by the crimes against humanity committed by Germany, Italy, and Japan in the Second World War from 1939 to 1945 and by Communist countries during the last century.

Even so, despite near universal condemnation of the practice as repugnant, abhorrent, and immoral, and the existence of treaty provisions that forbid torture, many states and individuals still engage in it. According to some estimates, over half of the nation states on the planet (97 nation states) currently practice some form of torture.  These states either practice torture in silence (official denial), in semi-silence (known but not discussed or spoken about openly), or openly acknowledged to instill fear and obedience. In researching this topic, I came across an article in the New Scientist, a prestigious British magazine that concluded that the systematic torture of individuals for political reasons is a growing technology that incorporates the latest advances in physics, electronics, biochemistry, behavioral psychology, and pharmacology; and that the governments of some nations hire specifically trained scientists to set up and manage torture programs.

Earthlings’ rationale for employing torture is tenuous, at best. Some modern writers on the planet such as Alan M. Dershowitz, Mirko Bagaric, and others argue that following the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on prominent United States landmarks, terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should be permitted to use some degree of torture to elicit information that saves innocent lives.  To support their thinking that torture can be warranted in extreme emergencies, they present the ticking bomb scenario. This scenario asks what to do with a captured terrorist who has placed a nuclear bomb in a populated area. If the terrorist is subjected to torture, he could explain where the bomb is and how to defuse it. Hence, they argue that, in this circumstance, torture, the lesser of two evils, is justified.

Others argue that there is simply no scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of torture. They point out that torture victims usually tell their torturers what they want to hear, and are happy to implicate innocent people to bring an end to their agony. Hence, torture is likely to elicit unreliable information.

Napoleon Bonaparte, a French Emperor, stated in 1798: “The barbarous custom of having men beaten, who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile."

Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, an American commander in charge of detentions and interrogations in Iraq, pointed out that after coercive practices were banned, interrogations saw an increase of 50% higher value intelligence. Despite many claims by government officials and others, nobody has presented a single documented example of lives saved as a result of torture.

Torture is an exercise of enormous power over others, and power is deeply seductive to many people on Earth. That is why, as the history of torture on the planet has shown, there is an inherent, institutional receptivity on the part of military, police, and correctional institutions on Earth to the use of torture. This permits the culture of torture to grow and become accepted in times of crisis, revolution, war, and threats of terrorism. To legalize torture in such extreme situations is akin to legalizing and institutionalizing slavery in similar circumstances. That, torture prohibitionists point out, is totally inconsistent with liberal democracy on the planet. Despite near universal condemnation in recent years on the planet, torture remains a contentious issue for ethics, philosophy, law, and governance.

Torture has been endemic on planet Earth from the advent of humans up to the present. It is seemingly part of the human condition, a serious flaw in the human psyche.  It is like a disease that keeps re-occurring and popping up unexpectedly across the planet. I have concluded that torture, like many human traits, illnesses and diseases, might be traced to specific human genes. Around 23,000 genes are found in human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms (and some viruses) on Earth. Earthlings compare their DNA to a set of blueprints or a recipe, and it is what makes humans what they are.

Out of curiosity, I have asked people to identify whom they consider to be the worst torturer in the their history or in their literature. Most identified more recent torturers: Adolph Hitler, dictator of the European State of Germany, whose surrogates tortured and gassed 6 million Jews and others in the 1930s and 1940s; Joseph Stalin, Russian revolutionary and ruler of the Soviet Union and head of the Communist Party from 1929 to 1953. Stalin was one of the bloodiest despots in the planet’s modern history. His rule was a "holocaust by terror" that victimized the population of Russia for twenty-five years, causing the death of an estimated 20+ million of his own people; Marquis DeSade, French aristocrat who lived from 1740 to 1814 and whose writings gave rise to the term sadism (enjoyment of cruelty) in the English langauge; Idi Amin, brutal ruler of the African State of Uganda in the 1970s, whose eight-year reign of terror encompassed torture and killing of an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 Ugandans. He was known to randomly kidnap young women and girls for sexual indulgence; and Mao Zedong, ruler of China from 1949 to 1976, who forced millions of Chinese to live in rural communes and work in agriculture, launched an economic program known as the “Great Leap Forward” that led to the death of an estimated 20 million Chinese, jailed and murdered political rivals, established himself as a cult figure with statutes of himself in most public places, and occupied the neighboring country of Tibet, brutally crushing all opposition.

Who Stands out as The Worst Torturers? No Earthling I spoke to identified who I consider to be the worst torturers. To my mind, the title of worst torturer goes to twocharacters in the planet’s literature. They tie for this dubious distinction. All other torturers pale in contrast. These characters in human literature are the God of Jews and Christians and the Allah of Muslims.

These two characters, according to the Bible and the Qur’an, created a state or place of everlasting torment and condemn creatures of their own creation to eternal torment. This is far out crazy stuff even for a planet with a history of wild and crazy torturers. Some Earthlings attempt to explain to me that evil people bring the horrible torture of the burning of hell fire for eternity on themselves. But no matter what evil some humans on the planet earth commit, the torture of hell fire for eternity is inflicted upon them by God and Allah, and by nobody else. Nobody else to my knowledge has that kind of power.

It is God and Allah, whom many Earthlings revere as the epitome of virtue and goodness, who devised the torture chamber of hell, cast the victims into the eternal fire, and hold them there in torment forever. God and Allah, traditionally acknowledged as the paragons of virtue, are the torturers. No humans are capable of inflicting such punishment. All torture by humans mercifully ends after a relatively short period of time, either by cessation of the torture or by death. But the torture of hell, unmercifully, never ends. 

Such torture boggles my mind. I like to think that this is merely literature, fictional literature. Only the human imagination could think of such torture and try to pass it off as real. I like to think that this is Earthlings fashioning their Gods in their own image, which, if true, underscores what I said above, that torture is a serious flaw in the human psyche. And millions, even billions, of people on Earth accept the unending torture of hell fire without question. That sends ripples of repulsion to the core of my alien mind, and draws up serious questions about the level of civilization that people on Earth have attained.

By believing in the existence of the torture chamber of hell, Christians, Jews, and Muslims and all others sharing that belief, support, accept, or acquiesce in the righteousness of torture in certain circumstances. That is a major problem for the United Nations and groups such as the World Organization Against Torture, and Amnesty International, attempting to banish torture on the planet.

As an outsider, I do not presume to tell Jews, Christians, and Muslims what to believe in, but a belief system with a torturer-in-chief as its God or Allah needs some adjustment, to say the least.

Inputs, expansions, adjustments, counterpoints, rebuttals, etc. to the above are very welcome. 
Zy Uzip

Blog 1. The Planeticians

The Thinking Post. The Thinking Post is committed to enlarging our worldview and exposing readers to a variety of points of view.  Leaders and followers in all disciplines and at all levels need large picture thinking. So do folk like you and me no matter where we are in the pecking order.

Here are a few large picture perspectives: there are billions of solar systems akin to ours; there may be millions if not billions of planets akin to ours; there are 6,910 different documented languages on our planet; you and I share a spaceship with 7 billion+ other humans, traveling through space at the high speed of 67,000 miles or 107,826 kilometers per hour, day in day out; there are billions of microscopic creatures co-existing within and without each of us in a parallel universe – on our skin, in our bowels, in our carpets, and on our sheets; and there are over 50,000 different religious belief systems on our planet. Few of us are used to dealing with such perspectives.

A short 400 years ago everybody understood the earth to be the center of our universe. Then the Polish astronomer and priest, Nicholaus Copernicus, in the 16th century had the epiphany that the earth was revolving around the sun, which is regarded as the starting point of modern astronomy.

Most of us are too busy with daily multiple challenges of work, family, and local community to ponder what is outside and beyond our immediate surroundings. Is our thinking too small? Many of us may be like the frog at the bottom of a well. The frog thinks the sky is only as big as seen from the bottom of the well. If he surfaced, he would have a much larger and a much more realistic view. 
The Thinking Post invites us to ponder a larger worldview. Think large. Expand your horizon. Be critical. Evaluate all the ideas that come your way. Sharpen your perspective and understanding.

Relax in your favorite chair with a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, a beer, a glass of wine, or your beverage of choice, and let your mind soar and grapple with different perspectives. Let the thoughts roll around in your mind awhile. Your thinking matters as long as you share it. Your thinking shapes the lives of those around you and shapes their worldview. Your thinking may even shape the worldview of generations to come. We begin with observations on our planet in a blog entitled “Planeticians”.

The Planeticians
A Perspective that All Humans on Planet Earth Need to Consider

I am reminded of the words of a US/Chinese astronaut on seeing planet earth from space:  A Chinese tale tells of some men sent to harm a young girl who, upon seeing her beauty, become her protectors rather than her violators. That’s how I felt seeing the Earth for the first time. I could not help but love and cherish her–Astronaut Taylor Wang, China/USA.

Astronaut Taylor Wang captures the commitment of planeticians-to protect and cherish the earth and not violate her in any manner. Planeticians see themselves first and foremost as citizens of planet earth. Their focus is the planet as a whole, not this or that political, economic, ethnic, cultural, or religious group. Planeticians are committed to improving the quality of life for all inhabitants of the planet. This quality of life depends directly on the interconnected and interdependent systems of land, air, and water and how all humans use and manage these systems. Damage or violence to the systems anywhere impacts all systems and all life as we are seeing in the growth of carbon dioxide emissions and the effects on climate change and global warming.

The key to the success of any undertaking to improve the earth’s quality of life is the understanding that planet earth is a shared spaceship adventure. All inhabitants of earth-all human, animal, and plant life travel together through time and space aboard this spaceship at the high-speed of 67,000 miles or 107,826 kilometers per hour. All humans are crammed onto this huge traveling home for a ride that is often perilous because of the calamities that are experienced on our planet from time to time. These calamities, some brought about by people, include wars, famines, floods, earthquakes, epidemics, genocides, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, tsunamis, and the daily death and suffering that humans inflict on each other. Then there are the less obvious calamities that are also very corrosive of the quality of life on the planet such as pollution, poverty, the arms race, poor health care, discrimination, and prejudice.

To contribute something worthwhile to improving the quality of life on the earth spaceship, we urge each individual person to transcend the limiting and often harmful confines of her/his cultural, political, social, and religious systems of thought and practice, project themselves outside their environments, and try to see the earth as Astronaut Taylor Wang saw it from space. We know that every person yearns to live a life that is worthwhile, and one sure way of doing that is to become a true planetician, and make the betterment of the planet a first priority.

The concept of shared traveling on planet earth and hence shared responsibility for conditions on the planet is extremely difficult to get across to our fellow citizens of the planet (Al Gore and Kevin Wall with their Live Earth Concerts have pioneered a way). Hence, our first big challenge is to get all peoples on earth to transcend their own closed worlds with their separate political and religious allegiances, their separate and unequal cultural and scientific advancement, their histories of hot and cold wars with each other, their arms races, their development and use of weapons of mass destruction, their use of suicide missions against each other, and consequently the buildup of deep mutual distrust handed down from generation to generation, and come together and reach consensus on how best to work in harmony for the common good of their spaceship-planet earth. This is planet earth’s greatest challenge, requiring hard choices, change, and commitment from all humans to be care-givers to an ailing planet.

As we climb that difficult mountain demanding sea changes in attitudes and behavior, we need to hammer out a blueprint for the betterment of all inhabitants of the planet going forward. And thanks to the Internet, we have the tools to succeed. We have at our disposal all the information collected over the centuries in our libraries; the findings of our many research institutes; the writings, insights, and dreams of scientists, scholars, and ordinary people across the planet; and the necessary communication tools. And we have at our fingertips the many search engines of the Internet system to access the vast reservoirs of information and knowledge that we have accumulated.

We would also want deliberations on a blueprint for the betterment of our planet to be interactive, so that the entire planet is directly involved in fashioning the outcomes of any deliberations and corrective actions that need to be taken. To that end, we would want our deliberations to have total visibility to every human being on the planet-broadcasted across the planet using all media including newspapers, blogs, television, and radio with opportunities for feedback and input from readers, viewers, and listeners. To achieve this we need resources. We need the participation and support of philanthropists, media organizations, and national and international organizations and their networks, as well as the participation and support of each and every human on the planet. In the interests of full visibility, total openness, transparency, and interaction, we want deliberations conducted before live audiences at various venues around the planet. We will rely heavily on the Internet as a principal tool in gathering and disseminating information and feedback as well as in fostering total openness and transparency.

Happily, we are informed by our best scientific minds that our spaceship-planet earth-has the raw materials, the natural resources, and in this year 2007 the technology for all its inhabitants to enjoy a life of quality. But we are also very much aware that a shared quality of life is not now actual, but a dream to be realized. All humans across the planet, the rich and poor alike, have hitched rides on this spaceship for very short periods of time. And the challenge during our short ride on the planet is to contribute to the development and enrichment of the planet's quality of life. 

To get started, we invite people everywhere at all levels to get involved through discussions and actions to contribute to the betterment of the planet. We invite all schools from kindergartens to universities, all churches and the many groups within each church, all neighborhood groups, all community and social organizations, all local, regional, and national government organizations, and all international and global organizations to become actively involved, for it is going to take the combined efforts of all caring humans, young and old, to effect change for an improved quality of life for all.

Inputs, expansions, adjustments, counterpoints, rebuttals, etc. to the above are very welcome.