I am a student of The Feldenkrais Method®, a system of movement learning and relearning that looks superficially like "bodywork" but might be more accurately described as "brainwork." Its founder, Moshé Feldenkrais (1904-1984), a polymathic scientist and judo master who was born in a Russian shtetl and lived in Israel, France, England, and the U.S., understood that movement is the first language of the brain, the most primal and potent way its neural connections are originally formed and can be re-formed quite dramatically at any age. Few of us realize that the tensions we feel, or hold so habitually we've ceased to feel, in our muscles (and therefore in our psyches) are actually held in the brain, where they can often be released with seemingly magical swiftness.
This Method could be described as the diametrical opposite of torture. It involves gently moving and curiously sensing oneself, or gently touching and curiously sensing another, linking skeletons and nervous systems in order to "remind" their awareness and their brain how effortlessly and elegantly movement can flow through our structure when unnecessary, "parasitic" tensions are released. While Feldenkrais taught that you can never directly feel what someone else is feeling -- you can only sense yourself touching them -- the whole point is to attune yourself respectfully to the reality and difference of another, and not to impose your own assumptions or intentions. You're not trying to "fix" someone (much less "break" them!), but to create the conditions for their own learning and improvement on their own terms. It doesn't get any further from torture than that (although we students, awkwardly trying it on each other, sometimes get closer to the torture end of the scale!).
Feldenkrais practicioners are both by inclination and by training gentle, sensitive people, and I have the impression that the majority, though not all, are also politically liberal. On Feldyforum, an e-mail list for practicioners and students that I subscribe to -- as in so many other forums, as Alberto Gonzales' appointment is scrutinized -- there has lately been some discussion of torture, what it is and whether it is ever permissible. Not surprisingly, most contributors to the list say vehemently "No, never!" One practicioner, who is from Israel, thinks there might be rare circumstances when it is justified. My own horror at Abu Ghraib centers on the fact that the great majority of detainees were guilty of no known hostile activity -- and that the "torturers" were sadistic amateurs, getting off on the fear and shame and pain they were causing. I think severe interrogation techniques should never be used unless, first and foremost, you know very well who you've got and how much they know, and second, never but by a small and unenviable elite -- in other words, only on professionals, by professionals.
Still, some of the best arguments I've seen against torture, I've seen on this list, and I want to share a couple of them. **BUT I'VE NOW BEEN TOLD I CAN'T WITHOUT THE POSTERS' PERMISSION.** So I'll have to cut down to the part that's from another source.
"Now, if you know the tradition of the United States Army, one thing has been consistent and that is that we are aggressive and tough on the field of battle, but when you take prisoners they are treated
humanly and with respect.
"That's the rule that was set by George Washington in the battle of Trenton on Dec. 25, 1776. The soldiers of the continental army took the Hessians and said these soldiers are mercenaries and we should take retribution on them. They wanted the Hessians to run the gauntlet and they would beat them with sticks.
"General Washington said we will not do this. He said these people will be treated with respect and dignity and they will suffer no abuse or torture, because to do otherwise would bring dishonor upon our sacred cause.
"That's one of the first orders given to the continental army and that antedates the United States. It has been military tradition for 240 years, and it was stopped by Donald Rumsfeld."