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Unfiled August 23, 2002
Let's Get Physical!
By John Dolan Browse author Email
Page 4 of 5
Whereas I, enduring his torture, "the inability to love," would merely feel that I was at last psychologically equipped to live in California. Newly endowed with "the inability to love" I would be, for the first time in my life, cool.

Because that's what cool means: "the inability to love." And don't -- just plain DON'T -- try to tell me that cool people suffer "Hell." You know damn well they don't. They have a great time. They get the best sex, the best jobs, the most fun.

If we were to take our revenge on them, the last thing we would want to do is subject them to "unlove." They like it. That's why physical torture is so fascinating: it works on everybody, whether they like you or not. A cool person who desipise you won't mind your attempted snubs -- will revel in them, as a matter of fact. But if you break that cool person's nose, and then come back six hours later and hit it again, as hard as you can, they will cry. They have no choice, and they can't pretend they don't care. The body decides for them: it cares.

Of course, many people who'd like to try torture write to me saying, "Dr Dolan, I'm convinced! Torture should be physical, and I'm brimming with ideas!!! But isn't it awfully expensive setting up a torture chamber? I'm not real 'handy' around the house and can't afford to shop at those leather shops. Besides, I'm too embarrassed :)! How can I get started in torture?"

Well, you'll be happily surprised to learn that torture isn't an expensive hobby at all! Torture, after all, begins at home -- and I'll bet that you have all the devices you need in your home right now. And they're actually scarier than all that campy bondage gear -- because that makes the victim feel important, the center of attention. Better to express contempt by torturing with ordinary household gear: the faucet, the door, the pliers, the range. These few simple implements are all you need; the possibilities are as wide as your imagination!

One of the most shocking torture scenes in any film involves simple household equipment: in Shallow Grave, a couple of Glasgow gangsters burst into a flat and tie the flatmates up. Then the leader of the gang goes over to Ewan McGregor and without speaking smashes a crowbar into his shins three times. Ewan talks. In fact, he squeals. His character, an obnoxious, ironic journalist, feels more pain in three seconds than he's felt in the last five years!

That's the beauty of physical torture: it works on everybody, even the most ironic. Dennis Miller would get serious if anybody had the kindness of this crowbar to the legs experience.

Moral torture is nothing -- a hobby, a pleasure. Real torture is all body. We all know this; that's why we like to deny it. Arthur Koestler, pseudo-intellectual extraordinaire, denies it at length in Darkness at Noon, inventing moral tortures for the Moscow show trials defendants when the simple fact was that those poor bastards were beaten and tortured into confessions. I read an account of the Cheka's favorite tortures once, and they weren't moral. They were strange, but they were all physical -- inventive things such as plugging the victim's rectum with cork, waiting for him to swell up, then beating him on the abdomen with sticks.

Shalamov, as usual, tells the truth Koestler denies. Shalamov says in one of his Kolyma stories that Stalin's interrogators at the time of the show trials were divided into two factions: the "psychologists" and the "physicists." The psychologists were partisans of moral torture. They favored haranguing defendants, appealing to their Bolshevik loyalties. The drolly-named physicists took a much simpler view: they believed that any defendant could be made to confess any crime by applying Newton's laws to the body -- cigarette lighter on skin, hammer on toe.

The physicists won out, of course. Moral torture is a tricky business, all too easy for the body to evade. Is it even pain at all? The body has a clear view of what is most to be feared. The body was designed for the African Rift Valley several hundred thousand years ago. It's a MacIntosh, a complex machine designed for stupid users. And it feels quite certain that the real risks, the ones which have to be signalled to the user as savagely as possible, are physical: bones breaking, burned skin, lion's claws rending skin of back, toxins in the GI tract.

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