Thursday, April 30, 2009

It is four, it is always four!

Sometimes one thing reminds one of another, and sometimes there is chain of provenance of memories and works. Last night I had a couple of discussions, and in between them I remembered a scene from a television show. The scene had the actor, Patrick Stewart being subjected; the scene is a retelling of Orwell. The character O’Brien, was portrayed by Richard Burton, in an extremely grey Nineteen Eighty-Four [which I do not remember well] at the picture show, but the motivation of the interrogator (read torturer) was shown better in Star Trek as, the unnamed, Gul [captain] Madred. The two and two formula of truth, I have remembered maintaining many times as truth and freedom, and have been appalled by the other conversant not agreeing. I remember Dostojevskij, and other russians, and Aristotle, and Aquinas, and the epitome of the self evident.

In a two part episode,
Chain of Command, of the second Star Trek, which came out very late in 1992, Captain Picard is captured by the next series main villains, Cardassians. They want military information and plans. The interrogating officer finds out Picard knew nothing of any military plans, yet the torture continues. He shows four lights. The answer he wants to hear from Picard is that there are five.

The torturer received news of the agreement which is to have Picard released immediately, he [the torturer] quickly attempts to fool and pressure Picard to verbally break, and to state the evident falsity as actuality. Guards come to escort Picard’s release, and are displeased that the officer does not have Picard ready. Picard stands defiant, “There are four lights!”

Elsewhere, Captain Picard remarked,“Torture has never been a reliable means of extracting information. It is ultimately self-defeating as a means of control. One wonders why it is still practiced.” The torturer says to his daughter: But human mothers and fathers dont love their children as we do. At times, the episode is chilling, it is even more chilling, that such scenes happen every day, and by fellow citizens. I have since read, that, the scriptwriter, Frank Abatemarco, was in contact with Amnesty International.
From, George Orwell,
1984, part 3, chapter 2:

'Do you remember,' he went on, 'writing in your diary, "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four"?'
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.
'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?'
'And if the party says that it is not four but five -- then how many?'
The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston's body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O'Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
The needle went up to sixty.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!'
The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!'
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Five! Five! Five!'
'No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?'
'Four! five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!'
Abruptly he was sitting up with O'Brien's arm round his shoulders. He had perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his body down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a moment he clung to O'Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm round his shoulders. He had the feeling that O'Brien was his protector, that the pain was something that came from outside, from some other source, and that it was O'Brien who would save him from it.
'You are a slow learner, Winston,' said O'Brien gently.
'How can I help it?' he blubbered. 'How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.'
'Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.'
He laid Winston down on the bed. The grip of his limbs tightened again, but the pain had ebbed away and the trembling had stopped, leaving him merely weak and cold. O'Brien motioned with his head to the man in the white coat, who had stood immobile throughout the proceedings. The man in the white coat bent down and looked closely into Winston's eyes, felt his pulse, laid an ear against his chest, tapped here and there, then he nodded to O'Brien.
'Again,' said O'Brien.
The pain flowed into Winston's body. The needle must be at seventy, seventy-five. He had shut his eyes this time. He knew that the fingers were still there, and still four. All that mattered was somehow to stay alive until the spasm was over. He had ceased to notice whether he was crying out or not. The pain lessened again. He opened his eyes. O'Brien had drawn back the lever.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four. I suppose there are four. I would see five if I could. I am trying to see five.'
'Which do you wish: to persuade me that you see five, or really to see them?'
'Really to see them.'
'Again,' said O'Brien.
Perhaps the needle was eighty -- ninety. Winston could not intermittently remember why the pain was happening. Behind his screwed-up eyelids a forest of fingers seemed to be moving in a sort of dance, weaving in and out, disappearing behind one another and reappearing again. He was trying to count them, he could not remember why. He knew only that it was impossible to count them, and that this was somehow due to the mysterious identity between five and four. The pain died down again. When he opened his eyes it was to find that he was still seeing the same thing. Innumerable fingers, like moving trees, were still streaming past in either direction, crossing and recrossing. He shut his eyes again.
'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?'
'I don't know. I don't know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four, five, six -- in all honesty I don't know.'
'Better,' said O'Brien.

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