Saturday, January 06, 2007

Video of Saddam's Execution

I was thinking about the video of Saddam's execution. I have to say I surprised myself, in that I tried to watch the fairly cleaned up version on the internet, thinking (fearing? or hoping?) that there might be some ghoulish delight in it. (Let's remember, as the Zombie Scholar, I have something of a reputation to uphold now.) But I turned it off after a few seconds. I don't think there was anything particularly "disturbing" or "shocking" about it, at least not in the sense that we use those words to mean something evil or rotten. It was all fairly pedestrian as I watched. I suppose that's what made it different than movie or literary horror: it was just so darned ordinary. And that made it much harder to watch, I think. For what it was above all, I think, is private (or should've been) and it wasn't that I felt bad for Saddam as I watched, but I felt sullied and degraded as a voyeur for watching. Even if he "deserved" to die, I most certainly did not "deserve" to be watching. Maybe his victims or their families or his own family would deserve to see that (though I could understand their desire not to), but certainly not me, sitting here in my safe and private home, sipping wine in complete comfort.


Blogger PB said...

I'd be interested, Kim, in your reading of the Leontius passage in Plato's Republic. To summarize: Leontius was walking by the place where criminals get executed, and there happened to be some fresh bodies there. Ashamed, he struggled not to look, but finally he couldn't help himself. "There, you damned wretches!" he said to his eyes. "Take your fill of the fair sight!"

What's going on here?

(I'm curious about your own take. We could also talk about Socrates' interpretation of the story, but he may or not be correct -- or he may be ironic.)

10:44 AM  
Blogger PB said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:45 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

How terribly Platonic, to blame one's eyes. This is "lust of the eyes," surely, but I think Augustine would put the emphasis on the "lust" not the "eyes." I really believe very few sins can be laid at the door of our flesh. *Maybe* lust, but even then, only when we're teenagers and haven't learned some self-control. Our bodies reject many of the sinful things we force on them, until we build up a physical tolerance or addiction - tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and I'd even add non-substantial things like cruelty or wrath or envy, though exactly like a drug addiction, these will ultimately take on physical manifestations. (A friend fascinated me by pointing out that the habitually angry may actually develop a craving for the adrenaline that comes from their outbursts.)

6:51 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Boy, one non-horror, socially-relevant comment, and Peter jumps back in! I'm glad there's something for everyone here.

6:56 PM  
Blogger PB said...

Yep, here I am, shuffling in from the shadows.

I wonder whether Plato (or Socrates) blames Leontius' eyes as much as he does.

Is it important that the bodies were those of criminals? The curiosity, morbid though it may be, isn't just about people who have met their end, but about those whom the authorities have given the ultimate punishment.

And as a matter of fact, I'd wager that there's a connection with zombies there. Could it be that Leontius (or his eyes) are wondering if executed criminals ever walk again?

10:53 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Oh, I have no doubt that we could put a "moral" patina on it - "I wanted to see that monster get what he deserved, so it's okay to look. And gloat. And spit on him as I walk by." - and that might make it more acceptable. Much more acceptable than just "Corpses are cool!" And here there might be some physical involvement: it FEELS good to gloat and spit (I don't know if the eyes are the right culprits, but something in our bodies). But again I think I'd invoke the personal aspect, and our really very perverted attempts to highjack it: if Saddam's victims' families wanted to line up and spit on him, go for it. But I don't get to participate in that with a clear conscience, and I should just admit I'm a sick voyeur. And *I* am a sick voyeur, not my eyes.

12:03 AM  

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