Re: Torture: its practices, its sturdy purposes, and its pleasures


David Wingeate Pike, the well-known specialist on the Nazi period, writes from Paris: The struggle against evil has been considered too big a subject for a WAIS posting. It should not be considered so, not for WAIS, because no subject is more important. Evil is present in every one of us, and the infliction of pain is a major part of it. I have spent most of the last twenty years studying the men (and women) whose characters were sufficiently malleable for them to serve the purposes of the SS. That study led me to examine their adolescent period when their characters were still in the plastic state. The ability to take part in the torture of helpless animals is a positive ingredient in that development. Once the individual human nature can develop a sufficient numbness to the pain inflicted, and move from that to a perfect  indifference and even pleasure in watching the reaction of the helpless, the result is ordained. She and he have graduated to the higher level. Animals, humans, all can then be reduced to mere instrumentality.

RH; Indeed, This shows the importance of education, which is more than just instruction.  The French ministry of public instruction was renamed Ministry of National Education, Higher Learning and Research. France even has a Ministry of the Family and Children. An especially disturbing development in the US and Latin America is the growth of ruthless youth gangs, a development which the Blair government is trying to stop in the UK.


David Wingeate Pike, the well-known specialist on the Nazi period, wrote from Paris: The ability to take part in  the torture of helpless animals is a positive ingredient in that development. Once the individual human nature can develop a sufficient numbness to the pain inflicted, and move from that to a perfect indifference and even pleasure in watching the reaction of the helpless, the result is ordained.

Gene Franklin comments: Those interested in this topic, which should be all of us, should be familiar with the famous experiment on prisons by Professor Philip Zimbardo of Stanford.  A group of randomly selected students were divided, again by random selection, into 'guards' and 'prisoners'. The guards were given no instructions other than to keep the 'prisoners' confined. In a matter of days the 'guards' began to treat the 'prisoners' with cruelty to the extent that Professor Zimbardo ended the experiment before he had planned.  The reasonable conclusion is that any human can treat others with cruelty if given control over them. It's not a comforting thought.

RH: I was misunderstood when I said that the problem of evil was too great to be taken up in a WAIS posting. I meant one posting. Obviously WAIS is fundamentally interested in the problem of evil.




Ronald Hilton 2005

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last updated: April 13, 2005