Jeff McMahan - Tortury i zbiorowa hańba (Torture and Collective Shame)

"In Waiting for the Barbarians, one of Coetzee’s finest novels, forces of an unnamed
imperial power torture not only “barbarians” captured in their colonial frontiers but also
the insubordinate mayor of the colonial outpost in which most of the story takes place.
By having the mayor as narrator, Coetzee affords himself occasions for representing and
musing on the shame, humiliation, and diminishment endured by victims of torture.
These sensitive reflections cohere well with contemporary philosophical analyses of
shame as the experienced public exposure of one’s vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or flaws,
particularly one’s inability to control the aspects of oneself that one presents to others.1
Under repeated exposure to torture, the mayor is reduced to a putrid, feeble animal that
impotently writhes and howls, wholly at the mercy of others.2
In Coetzee’s most recent novel, Diary of a Bad Year, torture and shame reemerge as
central themes, but the focus of discussion is different.3 Whereas in Waiting for the
Barbarians there are long passages on the evil of torture and what it does to its victims,
all this is simply taken as given in Diary of a Bad Year, which instead poses the question
how Americans should respond to the shame, dishonor, and defilement brought upon
them by the Bush administration’s practice of torture in what it ridiculously calls the “war
on terror.” The subject is no longer the shame of the victim, or even the shame of the
perpetrators, but the vicarious shame, or collective shame, borne by the perpetrators’
fellow citizens."...

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