Thursday, October 23, 2014

George Grant: Amnesty International and Edward Said - Ron Dart

George Grant (1918-1988) is considered by many to be one of the most significant Canadian public intellectuals in the latter half of the 20th century---Grant was also a High Tory of the highest calibre. Grant was a prolific writer and many have commented upon his wide ranging renaissance breadth. There has, of yet, been no essays on Grant and Amnesty International and Grant and Edward Said.
Amnesty International published The First Torturer’s Trial in 1975. Grant did a review of the book in the Globe and Mail (June 14 1977). 
The focus and reason for the publication of The First Torturer’s Trial was the trial in Greece in 1975 of 32 Greek police officers and military men who had tortured opponents in the junta from 1967-1974. The junta finally collapsed because of the courageous work of Archbishop Makarios (1913-1977) in Cyprus who had been elected as president in 1959, 1968 and 1973. Grant did a sustained commentary on the report, and, in many ways, Grant argued torture was the crudest form of the will to power of ideologues.
There are those on the political right that argue that it is the left that uses torture to inflict their will and way, and the left has argued that the right often uses torture to silence opposition. There can be no doubt that both totalitarian and authoritarian states of the left and right often use their wills to end meaningful civic and civil dialogue. Grant’s meditation on The First Torturer’s Trial brings this obstinate fact to the fore again and again.
Grant argues that “Torture is obviously the central crime against justice”. This means that central to Grant’s understanding of political thought and life is the quest for justice and the good—torture undermines both the good and justice. Grant makes it clear that to only focus on the 32 Greek military and police officers that did the torturing misses the deeper causes of those back of the torturers who justified and commanded the officers to engage, from 1967-1974, in torture as a state practice. The means was subverted for a dubious end and dissenters became disposable objects.