Jose Rodriguez, The Holocaust and My Mind

It is May 1st, 2012.  President Obama just signed a 10 year accord with President Karzai of Afghanistan.  For the majority of my life, my country has waged war on the Middle East.

When beginning a discussion of deeply disturbing matters, how must I approach it?  Shall I approach this as someone who rationalizes human behavior with only his words, or through a direct expression of my own reaction, for an external reaction, ie. this writing, is an expression of my internal state, so let’s go with that.

This post is a response to a 60 Minutes interview with Jose Rodriguez, the CIA official who oversaw the “Enhanced Interrogation” techniques used by the CIA in extracting confessions from Al Qaeda operatives such as Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In short, Rodriguez defended his position on torture techniques and believed he was saving American lives with their employment. While watching, I listened and made no judgement whether or not the use of torture is effective in extracting information, for it very well may be. This is not the issue of this post, nor is the issue of morality. The issue I am talking about is my mind.

One cannot study the psychology of another, one can only glimpse into his own when ready. The study of oneself is an art and the insight gained from self observation is sometimes overwhelmingly true. But one is all the better to see truth than to remain in blissful ignorance, for that is no bliss at all, just a waiting room for death. True bliss can only enter when the heart is cleared of the things of the mind. And the things of the mind are many, so those things can exit when the heart remains open and the inner sight remains watchful.

Living and learning in this world is a test. Life is the teacher, your relationships are your classmates, but ultimately you are responsible for your performance. So this past week was a test of my emotional state. I read all of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, a first hand account of a prisoner from four concentration camps in Germany. I also learned of the enormous amount of civilians deaths, including many children, as an aftereffect of the drone strikes in Pakistan. As a cherry on top, I watched a man on a CBS evening news show, defend torturing another individual in the name of “Freedom.” My mood was shit.

Sometimes I am overconfident in my love of life. I push my awareness to such degrees where I am completely present, filled with joy and buzzing with energy. I see so much in an instant and my life is renewed in this state. I try to grasp it and its gone. It is an art that I am in love with. Naively, I wish that everyone could feel what I feel, see what I see, because then we could talk about fixing this world. But, we are all different, with different beliefs. And that is the problem.

Belief is a killer, belief can only cause division in humanity, internally and externally. One person has one belief and another person an opposing belief. The division takes place and in seeking comfort from the unknown, they fight and never see the cause of this division. A step in the right direction is tolerance of belief. In that way we can make civil laws designed to protect people’s rights to believe anything they want, but that is only the first step in an evolution that, if we don’t annihilate the planet first, will take us to such a cultural actualization, I can only imagine the effects it will have on the state of the world.

So, back to Rodriguez. He was pretty straightforward in his defense of torture. He made it clear that his definition of the enemy was anyone who was plotting against the United States. Those enemies, must therefore, be tortured or killed so we can defend the land. I cannot stand by a simple belief like this. I know he must believe he is doing right by his own definition. We all are the good guys in our own life experience, a direct expression of our ego, condemning what does not fall into our mental image of ourselves and how we relate to the world. However, can we not see the simplicity in this? Have we forgotten the holocaust, the atrocities committed against Jewish Europeans in the 30′s and 40′s? I feel silly having to recall this. Does one have to walk a death march in order to see the effect of violence?

I am not writing to condemn Rodriguez’s actions or beliefs, I am writing merely to say this is what is. Violence cannot be answered by more violence, or can it be countered by non-violence. Violence is a fact of life, and it is naive to dismiss it as a fluke of evil men from a bygone era. I won’t even go so far as to call it evil, for the human mind is capable of carrying out the most inhumane measures in the name of ideology or belief.

So, the holocaust, drone attacks, “Enhanced Interrogation” including “the contained drowning of waterboarding, slapping and stress positions, keeping detainees in a cramped confinement box with an insect, keeping them naked and awake for days on end by any means necessary, holding electric drills to their heads and telling them that their female family members would be raped in Middle Eastern prisons.”

There is a link between all of these things, my mind. How do I respond to this knowledge? Do I dismiss it, write it off and live my life in full acceptance of the capabilities of the human mind, for all of these atrocities are just the groundwork for the modern man to understand. The mind is capable of so much. Can you see this? Can we not accept nor condemn it, it is a fact, a fact of our ability as humans?

Now, in seeing it for what it is, can one see the belief, the twist of the mind that lay behind it? The belief is what makes a man pull the trigger, sign orders for torture, makes him feel superior than another. It is belief that does this, and belief is simply a reflex of the mind and we are slaves to it.

However, we evolve according to our resources. No judgment or analysis necessary, belief is the root. In seeing this, one can uproot belief and see the truth of what is, and what is is more amazing than what is not. How can a belief, a mental conjuring ever contend against life, living and breathing the atmosphere, ever discovering, smiling without effort?  These are the things that becomes so overwhelmingly important when one sees the false as the false. The mind is born anew, allowing the past to die, and the individual sees life with the fascination of a child, a sublime innocence. Without effort, love fills the emptiness and full integration is experienced, something anyone can experience. See the false as the false and the truth is made visible in shear beauty. I hope I’ve made myself a little bit clear.  It’s hard sometimes.


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