Orwell and Camus on a Hanging and the Guillotine
Camus and Orwell both understood that the justification for state violence depends on describing it in such a way as to not convey too specific an image of the actual event.
Words have histories, and history affects meaning. And since the history of the English language is very much bound up with the history of the English Empire, many ordinary words have histories that are subtly, or even covertly, racist, imperialist, or otherwise troublesome. I recently received a letter from a colleague, taking me to task for using the word tribalism in an article. He wrote:
The title of Oscar Wilde’s essay "The Soul of Man Under Socialism" has long perplexed readers, especially anarchists who rightly feel that the essay belongs in their canon rather than that of the Marxists, the Fabians, or the Labour Party.
I DID NOT DREAM OF BEING TORTURED.
But I did dream of being caged, of being bound and blindfolded, of being kept cold and naked in a small steel box. I dreamed of terrible footsteps, always approaching, and the chilling sound of metal clanging against metal. I dreamed of endless screams, and of shadows that stretched toward me, and of hands holding instruments that I could never quite see.
The dreams ended, always, before the pain could become real. But that is a small matter. The fear was real enough.