Mr. Sylazhov returns with his latest guest article the day before the release of Metal Gear Solid V, to examine the extremely important matter of torture, in both the real world and the fictional one Kojima uses to show his views.
The methods, reasons, and history of torture are discussed, along with a personal story that drives home the reality of the barbaric practices used by military and spy agencies around the world. This article was finished quite a while ago, but I’m publishing it on the eve of The Phantom Pain to emphasize the seriousness of its controversial subject matter.
Warning: Some graphic content follows.
The Ideology of Torture
A personal, political, and philosophical study of torture in the MGS series and the real world
I would like to dedicate the following piece to the victims of
the dictatorship in my country, and to all victims of
political repression from any side of the political spectrum.
(Note: Because I am Uruguayan and the author of this website is Canadian, I will refer to citizens of the US throughout this article as “Unitedstatians,” derived from the official demonym in Spanish “estadounidense,” which we use in the Spanish language to safeguard our right to our American identity and avoid confusion over usage of the term. From Canada to Argentina, we are all Americans, and the US shall not deprive us of this right.
The views expressed in this article are exclusively my own, and do not represent the views of any specific political party, social movement or of the owner of this website.)
We’re approaching the darkest episode in the MGS world yet, with torture for political gains or otherwise staring us directly in the eye. Revenge, hatred, personal search for power and geopolitical interests can all be realized through the simple act of torture.
I am aware that these themes – included in all modern MGS games but especially fleshed out in Peace Walker, Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain – may seem somewhat distant in the realm of gaming. After all, most Western audiences are not used to living under a dictatorship, combating next to guerrillas or seeing relatives die or disappear without explanation. And it is also very probable that even those born in countries which experienced them are too young and apolitical to mind much, children of the future era of telecommunications and omnipresent media fully sunk in their own conflict-free existence provided by the capitalist comfort we have all grown accustomed to in the Western Hemisphere.
It is thus very common, especially in North America and Western Europe, to simply watch these themes from that aforementioned comfort without relating them to anything close, after all, they’re unrelatable things that happen in distant, confusing and unstable countries probably very far to the East.
But to whom are these themes familiar? Do they cause an emotional response? Is everything just a game?
In this article we’ll focus on the need for torture and why it is widely used for political purposes, and why it is an inescapable aspect of politics from any side of the spectrum. We’ll see a list of common torture techniques, historical uses of them and their Metal Gear portrayals, as well as a comparison between a Latin American US-backed right-wing dictatorship (Uruguay) and a Soviet-backed communist one (East Germany), dwelling on the fact that, while repression and torture are despicable, the nature of politics makes them unavoidable, and the different objectives pursued give them a unique context and effectively divides “left” from “right.” The main focus will be the US-backed dictatorship of Uruguay, the country I was born in, analyzed from a geopolitical but also very personal perspective, and we’ll dive right into its nature and its relation to the US. We’ll also contrast its horrors to the ones gamers might be familiar with, like those depicted in the Metal Gear saga. To emphasize this and truly sink readers into the reality of this era, I decided to include things fans could relate to the most and clearly identify, such as the exact firearms which were pointed at my relatives. I feel I have to share these experiences with the fanbase so that the horrors represented in the games can be understood by others as being not only very real, but also very common.
I chose to focus on a subject I know well and that has much to offer in terms of direct comparison with the Metal Gear saga instead of focusing on torture in general, including both capitalist and communist methods of repression. Talking for example about Camp Omega and Guantánamo would require for a separate article. Besides, as we’ll be able to see here, there are enough examples in Uruguay alone to contrast with MGS themes. Honestly, I’d rather talk about a subject I know well than discuss vaguely one from a country such as Cuba which, although being Latin American, shares a very different history and reality to that of Uruguay.