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Administration of pleasure and pain in the future society

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I have read an interesting article in The Washinton Post. It's William Saletan's "Shooting Pain," The Washinton Post, Sunday, February 18, 2007; page b02. Acording to Saletan, the US military has invented a new beam gun, which can cause unendurable pain without actually harming the body of a target person. A volunteer reporter said he felt as if he had been surrounded by fire when he experienced the power of the beam gun.

He says it felt like heat all over his body, as though his jacket were on fire. The feeling is an illusion. No one is harmed. The beam's energy waves penetrate just 1/64 of an inch into your body, heating your skin like microwaves. They inflame your nerve endings without burning you. This could be the future of warfare: less bloodshed, more pain. (web)

Imagine a battle field where US troops equipped with the beam guns shoot the enemies, or the terrorists, who do not have such weapons. What does it look like? Isn't it another form of "collective torture"? Actually, this technology can also be used as a useful tool for torture. Saletan, too, talks about the possibility of applying it to torture, and suggests that the use of this weapon on the street by the army won't be a crime under the current law.

People might think that causing unendurable pain in the battle field would be more humane than killing, but is this really true? In clinical settings, the patients who continuously experience unendurable pain sometimes would rather die than survive under such conditions. In the battle field, soldiers have to fight to the point that they cannot continue to fight, and this means that they continue to be exposed to unendurable pain caused by the enemy's beam weapons. Is it any different from a cancer patient suffering from severe pain on the bed?

Michel Foucault used the term "biopouvoir" or "biopower" to refer to the function of modern power in which people are forced to "live" rather than to be "killed." I believe what comes after the era of biopower will be the administration of "pleasure and pain" among ordinary people, and in the above case it appears as the controll of the pain of enemies in the battle field. This is one of the core messages of my book, Painless Civilization, published in 2003. It is a paradox that in the age of painless civilization the military seeks to invent painful weapons, and tries to spread across the world. I have to write a sequel to Painless Civlization in the near future.

Related post: Pleasure seeking, maintainance of stability, and sacrificing others

Photo: A Buddhist temple, Osaka

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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