Musings of a morbid mind

The general ravings of Scott Baldwin

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Iraqi prisoner abuse

Although very disturbing, the abuse of prisoners in the now notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, is predicted quite well by studies such as the stanford universities prison experiment conducted in the early 70's in which normal students placed in an extreme (although constructed) scenario are capable of quite degrading acts.
The problem has occurred because of the fact that for one nation to declare war on another nation requires the demonisation of, if not the entire nation, at least a subset of the people. This dehuminisation allows guards to ignore the fact that these "things" that they are detaining don't qualify for basic human rights. They no longer give them the basic transference of being in any way similar to themselves, they are no longer someone's "son" or "daughter", they are no longer someone's "father" or "mother".
It is this same dehuminisation that I believe allows us rational, caring Australian citizens to detain people who are trying to obtain asylum in our country. It is no surprise that their are so few images of the people being detained either here or in Naru. The only time we seem to get footage of these people is when they are causing a disruption in the prison.
I think we would have a harder time condoning the practice of detaining refugees if the media and political parties would stop using words like "illegal immigrant" the term conjuring up violent images of criminals.
I think we would find it impossible to maintain the practice if we were able to see these people doing things that we do like nursing their children, laughing with their friends, having a meal with family.
If we were to see such images, we would be forced to concede that the differences between "us" and "them" are not that significant, and we would be forced (at least in part) to put ourselves in their shoes and understand (as Raimond Gaita would say) that they share a "common humanity".


  • At 3:14 PM, Blogger ChrisBritton said…

    Hi Scott

    Just read you blog on Iraq prisoners as you emailed me.

    You are a briallient and convincing writer!!! It was fantastic.

    Now I'm going to go back to getting drunk and screaming a lot.


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