Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I was so tired last night I had to lie down at about 8. I didn't sleep soundly until five -- up every couple of hours -- but I did sleep until five. Nine hours. The time change always throws me a little, messing with sleepiness, with wakefulness, as it does. There was a bad dream in the first interval. I don't remember what he was doing or asking me to do, but my bad dream had a bad man in it. It figures, after watching those bad men in that film from Janus collection. "Haxan" was the title: Witches, by Ben Christensen (1922).

The Inquisition was the topic, but maybe not the oft-caricatured Spanish Inquisition. Monks were in charge of the torture and execution in the parts I saw. The witch era, they kept calling it on this silent movie, with information in text on the screen between shots, with English subtitles because it was in Danish. The sound track was classical music from various eras, sometimes played on an organ. So many possibilities for Monty Python humor right now... The movie described torture tactics and equipment, portrayed scenarios based on accounts that have survived of ugly old women and pretty young women and everyone in between getting killed in horrible ways to keep the world safe from witches and the devil. Horrible stuff. The stuff of fear.

I am reminded, by reflecting on that movie, that witch hunts can erupt again even in the well-lit modern times. Movements who hate other movements can witchify their opponents. Teachers are being portrayed as evil. Administrators can be portrayed that way by teachers. Rich donors can be "thingified" (that's Michael Apple's term; he warned of "thingifying" students as the scientific curriculum men did) in this way, too.

Instead of torture we can have jobs lost, schools closed, fences erected along miles of border. Strangers can be jailed rather than questioned. Machines can be invented to search us as we wait to enter airplanes, lest a terrorist with a bomb slip by and cause death. It is frightening how innocent it can look and sound, and thus legislation is justified, even lauded, that we might never have considered.

Yes, these words we use are powerful things. We must stay in control of them, not let them control us.