Not the Fluffy Chair


Three Colours: Red

If my foggy memory serves me right, the title I use here comes from Monty Python.  Tell me if I’m wrong.  In one hilarious scene someone is being whisked away to be tortured to death, apparently.

The person shouting orders goes “Take him to the fluffy chair!”

The victim begs “No!  Not the fluffy chair!!!!”

Imagine the rest of the sequence for yourselves.

This morning I was asked by Avaaz.org to sign a petiton to stop the stoning to death of a woman in Iran.  Here is part of the text:

Yesterday an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, was saved by global protests from being stoned to death.

But she may still be hanged — and, meanwhile, execution by stoning continues. Right now fifteen more people are on death row awaiting stoning in which victims are buried up to their necks in the ground and then large rocks are thrown at their heads.

–Avaaz.org

Back when I was still giving lectures to university students, the matter of the death penalty came up.  I think it was around the time it was being debated by lawmakers.  The government through the years had been pressured by various differing lobby groups to either abolish it or have it reinstated – a number of times, if I remember correctly – like it was a game of table tennis, with the rules changing as the game went on it seemed.

One of my students posted the question: what if you were the child of a person set to be killed by the state?  What would you feel towards the government?

In the film Three Colours: Red (the final part in the magnificent trilogy) by the late Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, one of the main characters is a former judge who monitors his neigbour’s secret conversations.  It asks us how much do we know the people around us, or the people we may encounter very briefly?  In the end, how do we, indeed, how can we judge another person to a certain fate?  By appearance, police records, media, religious stands?  Yes, all of us tend to weigh each person’s worth, each person’s relevance to our lives.  Often it is a matter of perspective.

Here is a leap.  Why feel horrified by a pile of stones reserved for a person buried in the ground up to the neck?  Is lethal injection or the electric chair a more humane option?  (bitter laughter please)  How about torture (yes, I see that as slow killing) in a secret detention centre – no, what about a known detention centre, say Guantanamo and others like it in other countries?  Would that be more palatable?

Let us not forget that it is not just the act of stoning someone (a mere head protruding from dry ground, apparently) that should be seen as disgusting, but the very notion of capital punishment (which, in historical and literal fact, means severing the head!).

If you sign the petition, keep these thoughts in mind.  And be surprised at this list of countries that continue to impose the death penalty.

Yes, I did sign the petition.

Now, can someone tell me what that Monty Python movie is called so I can get it out of the video shop?  Please?

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About matangmanok

Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates poetry. Sometimes he tries his hand at essays and stories. In 2011 the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in Manila released BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN (poems in Filipino) and ALIEN TO ANY SKIN (poems in English). The same publisher released his most recent poetry collections SOUND BEFORE WATER and KALMOT NG PUSA SA TAGILIRAN. In 2015 a new poetry collection in English, A THOUSAND EYES was released. His first collection of short stories in Filipino, SANGA SA BASANG LUPA, was released in 2016. UK publisher The Onslaught Press launches his latest poetry collection, WINGS OF SMOKE, worldwide in February 2017. View all posts by matangmanok

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