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In the 'Remnants of Auschwitz', Giorgio Agamben highlights the literature prepared by one of the survivors of the Auschwitz, Levi. In this book, he probes the philosophical and ethical questions that arise during testifying. In section 1.8 of this perpetual commentary on testimony, Agamben's probing relates to the sonderkommando whose role in the concentration camp was to manage the gas chambers and the crematorium. They were tasked with leading the naked prisoners to their death and also maintaining order among the ill fated prisoners. This special team of the deportees was then to drag out the charred pink remains killed by the cyanotic acid, wash them with water, search for any valuables hidden within their bodies, extract gold teeth and finally incinerate the bodies in the crematorium. They would then empty the ovens of the ash (Agamben 25 1999). The sonderkommando were part of Jewish prisoners who were made to work in these gas chambers. Their periods lasted between 2 and 4 months and finally were themselves liquidated by the Germans.
In this story, Levi recounts a story told by Miklos Nyszli who was one of the survivors of the last 'special team' that during interruption of their work, the sonderkommando took the Nazis in a soccer match (Durantaye 256). During the match, the spectators were the rest of the Nazis and the Sonderkommando who took sides, bet, applauded and urged their players on as if nothing was happening at their backs.
According to Agamben, the time when this soccer match was played between the deportees and the SS strikes one as "a brief pause of humanity in the middle of an infinite horror" (Durantaye 256 2009). However, Agamben concedes that the moment of normalcy created by this soccer match was the true horror of the camp. The reason Agamben tends to believe so lies in the facts of the story; that it was only a brief respite from the work of extermination and that both the teams were to return to their evil work after the match. The horror of extermination did not end with the match but was being continued.
Concerning evil, Agamben believes that the cruelty is not over and that the barbarity has not been civilized. He is on the view that evil cannot be eradicated and that only disruptions occur, not discontinuation. He (Agamben) views the soccer game as serving as an emblem of the fallacy of a sense of distance of the evils in the society we live in.
Agamben's case of evil echoes Plato's Euthyphro who jumbles between the perfect definitions of piety. In Plato's work, Euthyphro struggles to come up with a proper definition of piety to Socrates while at the same time trying to keep in line with what brought him to the courthouse; to prosecute his father for murder. The issue arises when Socrates question him (Euthyphro) whether he is confident that prosecuting his father is right to which he replies that people don't really comprehend what divine attitude to piety and impiety mean and that he does not understand about the god's thinking on such matters. The three definitions provided by Euthyphro fail to satisfy Socrates who in turn wants to use this understanding in a case where he is accused by Meletus of not believing in Olympian gods (impiety) and corrupting the youth (Plato par 1 380 B.C.E). Like in Plato's case, Agamben somehow fails to get a full understanding of what evil is. In fact, he links the soccer match to the "gray zone" that does not understand time and occurring in every place. He goes ahead and invokes the anguish and the shame that forever accompanies this unending sight (Durantaye 257 2009). He laments the shame of the unknowing spectators who never knew the facts at the camps and those of these days who still do the same in our stadiums and on TVs thinking that life is normal. Agamben concludes this section of his book with an air of outrage and a prophecy of an impending danger. His advice is that for our society to acquire any hope, we must understand the match and stop it.
The Case for Torture by Michael Levin
In the 'Apology' Plato aims at recollecting and interpreting the trial of Socrates in 399 B.C (Plato par 1). This piece of work is a dialogue in which Socrates gives an explanation of who he is and what kind of life he led. At the beginning of the scene, Socrates addresses the Athenians and in so doing defends himself against the accusations piled against him. Socrates' goal is to convince his accusers that he is indeed innocent and does this by indirectly engaging them into reaching a judgment.
Michael Levin's work "the case for torture'' is a form of argument in which he tries to put up reasons that justify torture. He is very categorical and would as a matter of facts love to see the society change its negative views on torture so that, under given situations, torture would be permissible. In this article, Michael tries to depict the negative views of torture that are held by the society. He goes ahead to this way of thinking by the society and puts forward three cases for which he proposes torture. The cases put forward by Michael Levin range from those in the extreme situations to some very common in newsrooms today. Levin further alludes that torture should not be used as a form of punishment but should instead be applied in extreme cases where vital information necessary for saving lives is required. In addition, he differentiates between the victims and the terrorists and urges law makers to stop talking about the rights of the terrorists.
In writing this article and in taking sides, Levin clearly distances himself from the wise Socrates who accuses the Athenians from general prejudices. According to Socrates, judgment should not be based on general resentment but should be based on in dept reasoning to avoid contradiction. On reaching his conclusion, Levin is seen as basing his judgment on emotions i.e. resentment rather than on pure reason. Regarding the case in which he is charged with corrupting the youth in 'Apology', Socrates challenges the judgment reached by Meleteus (Plato 380 B.C.E par3). He provides an easy remedy and argues that he should instead be educated. Unlike Socrates, Levin is very firm on his stand on what should be done to such terrorists. He does not provide other means of extracting the much needed information he is telling us (Levin 1982 par 6).
The 'evil' in Agamben's 'remnants of Auschwitz' is as challenging as trying to reach for a definition for piety in Plato's 'Euthyphro'. Agamben sees evil as a perpetual illness and cautions the society to look for ways to stop its recurrence. Levin's article on torture presents him as a self assured person with most of his reasoning based on pathetic pleas. It is a great contradiction to Plato's 'apology' which is based pure reasoning.