Fourth Week: Torture Should Not be Greater Than Our Conscience

Posted: August 5, 2013 in Uncategorized
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“It is sad that our actions are not driven by our conscience.”

I am going to take a different approach today and answer according to the questions provided.

  1. Do you believe that some lives are more valuable than others? Does the life of a drug dealer have the same value as the life of an 80 year old? What about a small child with the potential for a full life? How do we make judgements about who gets what?

I believe in the phrase “the value of a single life depends on how and what it was lived for.” So, no. From this perspective, I do not believe one life is more valuable than another life. We all have different goals and dreams no matter how long our life span is. We cannot say a baby who has a long life ahead is more important than a drug dealer or an elderly. Some may argue that the drug dealer “deserves” to be seen as less valuable or even ostracised, The same could be said for the elderly but we replace the word “deserve” with the phrase “she/he’s had a long and fulfilling life.” This seems to be a kinder expression, however it is just as morally wrong. In other words, all lives should be considered equal and we should “never” forget that even if our minds sometimes move subtly towards preserving the baby’s life first. In conclusion, since we live in a world where we are “judged” by our “actions” and maybe intentions which is more difficult because we cannot “see” it, we can never truly judge correctly because to do that we would need to understand each person’s personality thoroughly. It is sad but the action and intention system may be the only “plausible” judgement regimen.

2. If all lives are equal, then when, if ever, is torture OK?

In my opinion, torture is never okay and this should be plastered and set in stone everywhere. As the article about “Zero Dark Thirty” stated, “The argument cannot be that we should not torture because it does not work. The argument must be that we should not torture because it is wrong.” This statement is exactly what we need to address. The article goes on to further state that torture may attain valuable information during interrogations even though we know this is morally wrong. In these situations, our conscience is rendered insignificant almost as if we completely ignore it in order to protect our selfish greed. In conclusion, we need to value “life” more than our selfishness and find a effective but non-torturous method to gain valuable information. And if by using this non-torturous method, the information is not received, then ask your conscience if this is okay? If it is, then we can start moving in the right direction and vice versa.

3. What other morally ambiguous scenarios can you come up with, where your sense of what is right may be challenged?

Here is a piece I wrote about profit-making and its required global balance. 

We all want to make money no matter how and when in our lives. In fact, we love money so much we will throw away dignity for it. It is almost the best trap for humans if they want to be caught and to compare to an extreme; cheese to trap a mouse! Of course I am not degrading the human race because I know we are extremely intelligent… but even with this ability we sometimes let our true values wither in the face of monetary enticement. As Ghandi once said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.”

The aforementioned brings up the world wide concept/epidemic of profit-making with a “profit-mindset.” This reminds us that the world suffers more than it needs to because each individual with this mindset will always want and want some more. If I am not mistaken by exaggerating, the majority of people live and work through everyday with this concept in mind. However, arguments can and will arise to say that each individual is just working to provide for their own family. This is indeed 100% true and I agree. But if you can and have provided for your family then maybe start giving back to where its needed. As cliche as this may sound, we all live in this world together so we need to balance our needs and wants or else the world will just wither away if not naturally, then it will be by our hands.

 I could be wrong but another interesting perspective to add on is that students who have studied Business related fields tend to have a stronger and more stubborn profit-based mindset. What they need to do is just always remember that there needs to be a balance between making profit and flourishing in their large companies and the everyday life they live. Basically, the more money you make, the more you should give back to help others because only then will balance be maintained.

The point of this discussion is to remind people that the “excess” profit we all “want” to make comes with a “true” price, the world. And if we keep thinking with this mindset and greed then everything will surely decline. Therefore, we need to remember that we are not the mice who mindlessly dart at a piece of cheese, we are each highly intelligent individuals who can easily realize that a balanced mindset between how much we need and how much we want is the goal we should achieve.

Do you agree or disagree?

4. Do you believe that those who “live by the sword”, should “die by the sword”? Is “An eye for an eye” a useful criterion against which to measure our responsibility towards other human beings?

All I can say is that there is so much wrong in both those criterion’s which are sometimes used to measure human responsibilities. As Ghandi once said, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” There is so much truth and reality in this phrase that it is something everybody should know and abide by. With that being said, lets say we “did” live by those criterion’s, the consequence would be a spiralling downfall of ignorance and devaluation. Thus, we would never ever learn the value and significance of human life because we would simply kill someone because they killed. What about “accidental killings?” are they also going to follow these criterion? If we did we would never become morally intelligent.

  1. Wendy Walker says:

    Hi Jackie, thank you for this well argued post. However, I do wonder if maybe you’re painting things in black and white. I agree totally that torture is morally wrong, an evil act, and thus should not be legalised in a truly liberal democracy. However, in thinking about the second question, might you be able to imagine any scenario (admittedly it’s likely to be a very extreme one) in which torture might be considered to be the lesser of two evils?

    • jackiewong88 says:

      Thanks Wendy!

      Wow that is a tough question haha. Hmm. In my opinion, I think the concept of torture should have no “grey” at all. However, if I had to imagine a scenario that torture may be even slightly considered is if the torturous actions bring about “real universal and mindful change and we must follow them without excuse.” In other words, the outcome of the torture will not blind us and encourage us to use it more in the future even if it works. But even after stating this, I know it is not a concrete scenario. I just could not come up with one because in any situation involving torture, it would be inhumane regardless of the outcome.

      Can you describe a situation where torture is the lesser of two evils?


      • Wendy Walker says:

        Well, if you go to my blog, Jackie, you’ll find I’ve written about a commonly quoted thought experiment called The Ticking Bomb which is a scenario in which I believe it might be arguable that torture is the lesser of two evils:
        I’ll be interested to know what you think…

      • jackiewong88 says:

        Ahh I see it now. nice grey argument Wendy! 🙂 That is indeed a tough scenario to deal with. But from what you have written, it does persuade me to believe that under rare situations such as the ticking time bomb, that torture may be the best form of action to take. I agree it is the “best” action to take to save the greater good, but from a moral perspective it is still wrong in the end. In other words, I agree that it is necessary to save innocent lives but the torture it self is still wrong. So as long as we remember that this torture upon the terrorist “cannot” be abused for lesser scenarios, then it may be justifiable. So yes, during that situation I would say I have to agree with you.

        As for the schizophrenic scenario, even with torture, I think the accuracy of the information attained would still be ambiguous.


      • jackiewong88 says:

        Also, the notion about torture being morally worse than killing could be argued by some. In dramas, tv shows, movies, etc, there’s always people begging to die rather than suffering through the process of torturous actions. So in this sense, death could be seen as the easy way out and peaceful compared to torture and living a life after the trauma.


  2. Wendy Walker says:

    Thanks, Jackie. Yes, I too would say as you do that the torture in this circumstance is necessary but “still wrong”.

  3. Wendy Walker says:

    That’s a very good point – I can certainly imagine pleading for the release of death from severe, prolonged torture…

  4. liinapaabo says:

    Hi Jackie,
    I wanted to comment on what you wrote about profit-making. I agree that this kind of profit-mindset in general endangers the sustainability of the world, but also, when it comes to torture, it can be seen that these kind of market values are being applied, e.g. if we torture this person that much then we can save x amount of lives etc. And I find it quite appalling…
    PS. Loved the Gandhi quote!

    • jackiewong88 says:

      Hey Liina, thanks for commenting! I am glad to have read your interpretation about my post. And yes, I agree with how a profit-mindset can tie in with torture. It is indeed appalling. I think we need to start taking old/ancient quotes more seriously and not just as an intriguing read.


  5. […] is thought to have done something so appalling to deserve torture? Not to become like them? I think Jackie’s quote from Gandhi described really well my thoughts about the principle “an eye for an […]

  6. tismej says:

    I agree that sometimes the action and intention judgement system may often be faulty. We will never truly know someones intentions or judge their past present and future actions absolutely correctly. I feel lives should be treated equally regardless of age/history/role in society, but you’re right that this is not always the case – judgement will be made either consciously or subconsciously.

  7. […] This basically tells us that torture is a vicious cycle as one feels it is only fair that what you do unto others should be reciprocated. It’s funny how that being said when good is done one doesn’t always seem to consider this statement. I also feel that prevention is the key to this cycle from occurring and that “we would never ever learn the value and significance of human life because we would simply kill someone because they killed” as Jackie stated.  […]

  8. Hi Jackie.. I completely agree with everything you’ve written and discussed. I agree with you that if we follow this notion of an “eye for an eye”….”the consequence would be a spiralling downfall of ignorance and devaluation”. If we say that if a man rapes a child, he must be hanged or deserve being tortured or stripped of all his dignity and humanity in prison. What about a man that is found guilty of raping a child and sent to prison, and then on appeal after case review of the forensic and circumstancial evidence, he is found innocent and was released… What then..

    • jackiewong88 says:

      Hey Chantelle, thanks for the feedback!

      I agree with your statement. If what you said were to happen every time then it may be a “regretful cycle” and we will live with that in our conscience forever. These are mistakes we do not want to risk.


  9. […] will end off with the words by Ghandi as quoted by Jackie and […]

  10. liinapaabo says:

    I hope you don’t mind a little movie suggestion but Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” is a great movie on a similar topic (and Mads Mikkelsen is a wonderful Danish actor who plays the main character).

  11. […] Jackie’s thoughts on this, I find myself completely agreeing with her. She says: “lets say we […]

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