A Child is Being Beaten is a parable offered by Freud to illuminate the curious drives that cause people to at once reject and desire particular forms of suffering. In its essence, argues Freud, it is a pleasurable fantasy that begins in childhood and returns in adulthood through the elusive depths of the Unconscious, and figures as a displaced desire, a shameful desire, for which one also seeks punishment.
A father beating his son is the obvious staging for this conjectural story, where the father's urge to beat his son is fueled by a mixture of authority (the child must obey rules) and sadism, the repressed sexual enjoyment of watching the child suffer.
Violence (the beating) is thus configured in a matrix, hinging on both authority and pleasure derived from such authority. If we accept the Freudian theory, then it would appear that assertions of authority through the use of violence are inextricably linked with a repressed desire (which is sadistic and therefore sexual) to inflict pain upon the child, which furthermore can be extended to be the child within oneself, within the perpetrator himself.
Freud's story, A Child is Being Beaten, returned to me when I saw a BBC news clip covering homosexuality in Iraq.
BBC reports: For the full BBC story, click here
Grainy footage taken on a mobile phone and widely distributed around Baghdad shows a terrified young Iraqi boy cowering and whimpering as men with a stick force him to strip, revealing women's underwear beneath his dishdasha (Arab robe).
"Why are you dressed as a girl?" roars one of the men, brandishing his stick as the youth removes his brassiere. The sobbing boy, who appears to be about 12, tries to explain that his family made him do it to earn money, as they have no other source of income.
The sort of intolerance and violence depicted in the video is bound to ensure that Arabs in general, and Iraqis in particular will remain the laughing stock of the secular West, gladly fulfilling the stereotype of our people as aggressive and uncivilized, beating and shaming even our own sons.
The men and women who are responsible for the continuation of this horrid persecution bring disgrace to the Arab world and the Muslim community. Narrow-minded clerics who encourage violence against homosexuals, while citing the Quran, forget the very essence of Islamic reverence and respect, namely that "God is Greater". Greater than our impulsive drives to beat a child. To claim that one acts in God's name by beating a child is to reduce God, who is greater, to the filth of the earth, to the hatred which dwells in ignorance and fear.
May we pray that the tears of this child, his trembling voice, his bruised chest and spilled blood, will never be seen on grainy footage again.