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May 11, 2009 | by  | in Online Only Opinion | [ssba]


Waterboarding. Sounds innocuous, eh?

Towel over head.

Water over towel.

When Sebastian first told me he wanted to be waterboarded for his article [page 28], I didn’t know what to do. He was young and able. It was 3am. It seemed like a good idea. Somewhere in the haze, common sense got the better of me and the call was made—no innocent volunteers would be harmed in the making of this issue.

My (albeit lame) attempt at waterboarding in the Salient office was born out of a morbid fascination triggered by Seb’s request.

Unlike Christopher Hitchens, I had complete control of the situation. Lying back, I put the towel over my face. Pulled tight. Water was poured over me. Suddenly my head shrinks and although air is coming in, water is too. Claustrophobia kicks in. Panic emerges. Towel sticks to face. Sinuses burn. Towel thrown off. Face red. Gasping for breath.

The vacuum created when you breath in pulls the wet fabric over your face, smothering you. Forcing you to breath in air and water. You only have one option: horror. I can’t describe it. I shouldn’t have to and I don’t want to.
Until recently the world’s self-proclaimed ‘leading democracy’ didn’t even class this as torture. Former Vice President Dick Cheney referred to it as a “dunk in the water”. Meanwhile his boss George W. Bush said, “No President has ever done more for human rights than I have.”

Human rights are a dream. They are idealism’s purest manifestation on earth. Charters, conventions and committees; we make laws, ideals and ethics and then break them over and over again. There is nothing ‘right’ about the way we as a species conduct ourselves, which is why this issue is dedicated to ‘Human Wrongs’.

You don’t need to be on a PT boat cruising up the Congo or Nung rivers to see the horror that surrounds us. We are part of it. We see it on CNN, in The Dominion Post, and across the internet. So much so that fatigue sets in. It takes the most shocking of events to break the fourth wall and pull you into the story. Even then, that’s all it is—words on a page, images on a screen.

Parsimony is discarded if the end seems decent enough. Whether the end is eradication of terrorism, spreading democracy, eradicating poverty, economic growth or construction of stable government, it seems we never stop and think. Newton’s third law is a reigning principal in international relations as well as physics.

Unless governments take human rights seriously—from Obama to Mugabe, McCully to Yang Jiechi—that is to say, stop and think about the implications, then no progress will ever be made. That goes right down to you, the student. If you’re going to burn a flag you should do it for some reason other than drawing attention to yourself.

That someone can effectively drown another person repeatedly goes a long way to explain why we can sit back comfortably with only the slightest twinge of liberal guilt and watch human wrongs unfold around us.

In unrelated news, come along to Deb Soc’s public debate, ‘That Capitalism is in Crisis’. Luminaries such as Roger Kerr, Stephen Whittington and myself will be speaking. Rutherford House Lecture Theatre One, 6:30pm Monday 11 May.


About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (2)

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  1. G says:

    I think you should do a photo feature of the graffiti in the toilets on the 2nd floor of Hunter building.

    4 foot long penises?! Juvenile but HILARIOUS.

  2. Guy A says:

    There’s also a strange looking one in the mens bog, bottom floor student union building. Apparently.

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