Hurt: By Kristian Williams, 63 pgs. By Kurt

Apr 27, 2012

I have a writing instructor who often utilizes a comment on his written responses to our submissions: “heard it already.” He writes it when we are redundant with our descriptions and dialogue. As I started getting into Hurt, I found his comment coming to mind: heard it already. That’s not to say that author Kristian Williams was repeating himself as much as it is that the topic of torture by the American government has been covered ad nausea.

The book is divided into five parts, “Personal Reflections,” “Media Silence and Public Opinion,” “Torture, Democracy, and Inequality,” “Prison Abolition,” and “Conclusions and Synopses.” The book is comprised entirely of reprints of interviews with and articles by Williams and although short, it is dense with information. Williams does some original takes on the topic of torture, including looking at the issue in America as it has been used by police (a subject of a previous book written by Williams). He also reviews the role of U.S. prisons. The primary portion of the book, however, is two reviews of the same book (originally published in two different publications), Torture and Democracy by Darius Rejali. These are heady reviews. The longer one written was written for what I take to be an academic publication, International Socialist Review. They’re more academic in nature and while they critique the book, they also allow Williams to discuss his take on torture.

It was good to see Williams not reverting to the familiar arguments on everything; tying in torture with police and the U.S. prison system really is quite interesting. However, the apex of Williams’s argument is that getting rid of the apparatuses that allow abuse and torture and working towards an anarchist system is what would solve this despicable practice. As I read Hurt, though, I just kept thinking about how I’ve read this kind of thing dozens of times before: America is evil, anarchy can solve these problems. I wondered who would be reading this beyond people who already agreed with the premise and conclusions. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a very worthwhile topic to discuss, but this discussion needs to move from beyond anarchist circles and into some kind of action. How is that done? Beats me. I just review stuff. (Microcosm, 636 SE 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97214)

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