I’m teaching a course on Justice. I always invite students to engage, both with the real world and with each other. Yesterday students facilitated a discussion on their own topic of interest: torture.
I’m disturbed that some students think torture is justified. I’m much more disturbed that some leaders, like former president George Bush, endorse it. And passive endorsement is just as bad; as Jack Harris said: “Why is this government getting Canada into the torture business?”
Like in my student’s debate, we’re still asked: is it ok to torture someone in order to extract information to save lives?
But that’s not actually the question to ask. That’s a question that keeps us trapped in “us vs. them” mentality. The only seemingly common sense answer in this scenario would be sacrificing one to potentially save thousands. It’s amazing that Bentham’s utilitarian argument – the greatest good for the greatest number – still has an influence on our answers.
I’m interested in getting us out of that destructive, fear-based paradigm and asking what else is possible? No one wants innocent people to die. So really the question is how do we best prevent violence and terrorist attacks?
Torture would not be the answer to that question. Information gained from torture is certainly suspect since people just want to stop the pain. Inflicting pain on someone to prevent pain being inflicted on someone else simply does not make sense. Nor is it the kind of world I’d like to live in. Dehumanizing people is actually part of what is required for war and violence.
Humanizing all parties involved would be a step in the right direction. Reaching across our differences to develop understanding, respect and accountability makes sense. And that’s what works.
I’m intrigued by Marshall Rosenberg’s bold claim: it takes about 20 minutes to resolve any conflict once each party can clearly state their own needs and can clearly acknowledge the needs of the other party. So far this has proven true, even between warring tribes with mass murders.
Desmond Tutu, in response to the bloodshed occurring in Syria right now, confirms: “Dialogue, however difficult, is the only way to work toward a lasting peace”.
So if we truly want to save lives, we have to commit to that target and that must include our so called enemy’s lives too. Otherwise, it would be terribly hypocritical to judge some lives as worthy of respect and some lives as worthy of torture. There are no disposable people. We’re all in this mess together. And the only way out is to raise our collective consciousness.
I appeal to our entire global community to uphold the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Imagine what our world would be like if we all just took that step?