Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Inquisitor Speaks: A Modest Memo

To: My fellow warriors for collective harmony, social justice, and a brighter future for all
From: Adam Roquet, Associate Executive Inquisitor and Tutor for Indoctrination in Advanced Inquisitorial Methodologies

Dear Colleagues,

In light of our stimulating conversation in the breakroom the other day, I thought I would write up the following memo to summarize my position on this all-important question: What shall we do with our witches? I apologize again if the flecks of quinoa that sprayed from my mouth during our conversation were interpreted by anyone as a microaggression. In the future, I will be sure to swallow before I speak.

In the days of old, inquisitors would burn, strangle, behead, and otherwise terminate the lives of witches. Recollection of that fact--and praise for it having now been discontinued--occasioned our conversation in the first place. While I for one am always glad to recognize the benightedness of the past, I think we should also be wary about throwing out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.

As they understood in Salem, Spain, and elsewhere, witches are a tricky lot. Because their influence can be so problematic, we have to be vigilant. A witch is tainted at the very heart of its being (what more primitive times would call a "soul"), and the Inquisition must be willing to monitor hearts for any sign of witchcraft. A single word can reveal someone to be a witch. What matters is the identity of the witch, not what a witch does. Words, thoughts, actions, feelings--anything can reveal a witch, and we need to be on guard for all.

Technology may be responsible for so much ecological destruction, but it has provided numerous opportunities to our Inquisition. The advent of advanced recording technologies has afforded so many more ways of monitoring the speech and thoughts of witches. The rise of mass media has given us the ability to focus on a single incident of witchcraft and turn the wrath of society against that witch, and the Internet has democratized the Inquisition, providing us with numerous surrogates with which to target and punish. The Internet never forgets, so a witch can never escape its sentence.

However, the very totalizing tendencies of the media combined with a permanent, centralized institution of cultural memory have posed a significant issue about what to do with witches. In the old days, a witch’s perfidy would not necessarily be universally broadcast. If shunned, the witch could go elsewhere. Now, a witch cannot escape once it is found out. So how will a witch live once convicted of witchcraft?

Let us take the following hypothetical: A witch has revealed its problematic core (by saying something problematic, dressing in a problematic way, having a problematic tattoo, liking a problematic book, and so forth), and the full wrath of the Inquisition has been turned against it. It has rightly lost its job or been expelled from its university or its business has been destroyed or whatever. It rightly stands as a beacon of shame and bigotry. It is rightly recognized as the less-than-human scum that it is. So what should be done with our witch?

Shall the witch get a new job? Our Inquisition has surely failed if a witch can get a new job after being terminated from an old one because of its witchcraft. Wickedness has stamped the witch with an indelible mark. Shame should follow the witch wherever it goes (ah, the glories of the Internet!). Who would want to employ this monster? Who would want it as a student? No decent person or socially conscious institution.

Exiled from the marketplace and the public square, the witch will rightly be unable to support itself. Perhaps the witch might turn to its family for financial support. But this again presents a problem for our Inquisition: Nothing--including family ties--should stand in the way of Inquisitorial justice. If its family supports a witch, they should be shunned and attacked, too. Perhaps its family can be blamed for making it a witch. Those who choose to aid a witch, whether family or friends or disinterested bystanders, are guilty of enabling witchcraft.

Exiled from employment and shunned by its family, should the witch get on public assistance? There, we have an ultimate irony: public funds being used to care for someone who is the enemy of the public. Public funds should be used to assist those who are victims of society--not witches.

Some of my esteemed colleagues have held out for the hope of reeducation. They believe that perhaps a witch can redeem itself by bowing before the might of the Inquisition and kissing the toes of the just. According to this theory, a witch’s brain can be cleansed of impure thoughts, and paying sufficient tribute can testify to this cleansing. I fear that reeducation falls short on a few levels. Thankfully, we live in a zero-tolerance age, but holding out the hope of pardon might suggest to potential witches that they could actually have a life after their witchcraft is revealed. That seems to me to be tantamount to encouraging witches. Witches likely have distorted personalities (as some psychologists have shown), so I am very doubtful that they can be saved. Very likely, their witchcraft would only reassert itself in more subtle ways. And besides, why should a “former witch” (if such a thing is even possible) have the opportunities of a true member of the community? While reeducation can show the power of the Inquisition, it might also provide aid and comfort to witches and their allies. The Inquisition is not in the mercy business but the justice one, and justice allows for no half-measures.

So a witch has been denied all hope of employment and of comfort from family and friends. It should have no access to public assistance, and reeducation is a doubtful prospect. The only remaining alternative for a witch (assuming it does not try to adopt another identity) is to live on the streets. While I am second to none in applauding the public immiseration of witches as a tool for instructing the masses, homeless witches could pose a security threat to the innocent. They could also continue to peddle their problematic witchcraft. Moreover, these disgraced witches would, no matter how small their footprints, contribute to the destruction of this earth through their consumption of various ill-gotten goods. (The long-term imprisonment of witches presents similar ecological, financial, and moral costs.)

Therefore, I wonder if the execution of witches might be a practical--and I daresay humane--solution to the problem of witches in the era of our beloved Inquisition. Execution would solve the problem of what to do with undesirable life and it would still provide an edifying spectacle to the nation as a whole. And I cannot see how it would be to the detriment of the Inquisition to offer witches an instantaneous death as opposed to a long twilight of suffering and exclusion. This death need not be burning. I am open to other suggestions, whether beheading or electrocution or lethal injection. Just because a witch is the embodiment of the horrific does not mean that we need to be barbaric in treating it.

A brief trigger warning: what I am about to discuss might shock, offend, and, even traumatize. But we Inquisitors must sometimes face unflinchingly the utmost of malignancies. Some partisans of the atavistic (may they soon perish!) might object to the righteous punishment of witches. They hold that, while we can censure certain actions, we should be wary about exiling people from the public square for their mere words or thoughts--that stamping out evil is different from crushing people. In defense of this position, such partisans argue that we are all fallen beings, that we are all sure to make mistakes, and that understanding is often better than wrath. They claim that what we term witchcraft others might think of as a fair-minded exploration of ideas and that different people might see different things as witchcraft. They suggest that our Inquisition, with its focus on punishing witches, can distract from the broader purpose of doing good and finding the truth (their words, not mine). They think that fear is often an insufficient goad to virtue and that escalating terror is no boon to society. Some of them even argue that tolerance has a positive value (not recognizing that tolerance is simply an acceptance of wrongs).

The preposterousness and perniciousness of such arguments make them beneath all rational regard. In fact, I rather believe that advancing them is a de facto admission that one is a witch. Nothing more need be said about those silly propositions (though much could be said and done to those with the temerity to make them).

Thus, my fellow fighters for justice, I believe that the principles of our Inquisition lead to the conclusion that terminating the lives of witches is the most practical of outcomes. The instant a witch reveals itself with its forked tongue, it should be expunged from the record of human history. Let us never shirk from the obligation to use terror to advance the cause of justice, nor allow doubting scruples to hold back the ambitions of perfection.

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