Monday, June 29, 2015


I have been reading with huge sympathy the soul-searching posts about the massacre in the Charleston Church. This weekend in Britain we are all reeling after the dreadful carnage on the Tunisian beach, the innocent holidaymakers gunned down on their beach loungers. The newspapers are full of their heart-rending stories – the pretty hairdresser who had blogged so excitedly about the holiday she was packing for, the three generations of the same family who were wiped out.

Most dreadful of all was the plight of the families at home who are waiting with waning hope for news of relatives who haven't been in contact since the shootings but haven't been identified as victims. Because, of course, you don't carry ID in your swimwear.

A bunch of flowers left at the massacre beach had a note that read in bold letters simply, 'WHY?'

I am deeply grateful that I have done a lot of travelling because the world is shutting down around us. I sailed down the Nile and saw the temples at Karnak and stood in Tutankhamen's tomb – an unforgettable experience – but I wouldn't go there now. I saw the amazing ruins at Carthage but the cruise ships won't be keen to stop in Tunisia any more. I had wanted to visit Palmyra and the other wonderful archaeological sites in Syria, but I can't imagine that being safe again in my lifetime – or even be sure that anything will be left to see after ISIS has finished with it.  Seeing Petra – Ruskin's 'rose-red city half as old as time' – is something I've always wanted to do and was even thinking about until this year, but now Jordan too is involved with the war against ISIS I don't think I'm brave enough to do it.

How much are the white supremacists like Roof in the US and Anders Breivik in Norway inspired to do these hideous things by the daily diet we are fed in the media of the horrors inflicted by Islamic terrorists? Revenge can seem a noble motive to their warped minds, even if they're really just inadequates with a desperate desire to make the world sit up and take notice of them.

Seeing themselves as headline news, if they survive long enough to see it, is probably reward enough. A British teenager, who was arrested recently after his horrified parents found evidence that he was getting together material to make a bomb, had no cultural or political grievances, just a desire to become famous. [In parenthesis, I have to point out that if he'd had ready access to a machine gun, no one would have found out in time. Even if there is a 'right to bear arms' who could possibly need a machine gun for peaceful purposes?] I wonder, too, if the dramatic beheadings of hostages that the jihadist delight in would take place quite so often if the news agencies didn't oblige them with worldwide coverage.

The frightening thing about ISIS is that a huge number of them aren't devout Muslims anyway; they drink and smoke and use their religion as an excuse to apply restrictions that amount to bullying and oppression. There is a very unholy pleasure in imposing your will on another human being.

Of course, there is the occasional female jihadist too. But we have to face up to it: vigorous, combative young males enjoy violence. Watch a group of schoolboys interacting: sooner or later someone will jostle someone, or push someone else, and it will end in a wrestling match. It's done in a spirit of friendship, but it's definitely physical.

The healthiest outlet is contact sport; less healthily, they support a football team by attacking supporters of another football team or join a gang. We civilians tend to think that while being in the Army would be all right in peacetime, it would be dreadful when there was a war on, yet that's when recruitment of volunteers surges. So is the surge of violence and horror that is gripping the world feeding a characteristic lurking in the 'lizard brain'?

But then, crime fiction has became increasingly popular in recent years. Should we be uneasy that perhaps we, too, are in some sense playing to that instinct?  



Mario Acevedo said...

Thoughtful post. It's a shame we have to write about these tragedies.

Rick Blechta said...

Thank you for the very thoughtful post, Aline.