Friday, September 04, 2009

Beslan: 5th Anniversary of a Human Obscenity

I'm a few days late, but this should not be forgotten.

1 September 2004. A school in Beslan, Ossetia.

A bunch of people who, one might argue—not without some emotional justification—should never have been allowed to draw even their first breath, take over 1100 people hostage, more than 700 of them children. They wire the rooms with explosives in a way that leaves no doubt that they never had anything in mind but to eventually kill their hostages and themselves; after as much exposure as they could get for their cause. (Never mind their cause. It could have been 'saving the world', for all I care.)

When the siege is over, over 300 hostages are dead, more than half of them children.

For those inclined to be blasé about this, Google 'Beslan' and go to the images pages! I warn you, this is harrowing, gruesome material. There is no 'worst image'. The scale of this thing is mind-numbing.

What makes this 'more terrible', if you will, than other occasions where innocent people are massacred—well, it isn't 'more terrible', but it may hit you that way, just as the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan seemed to have more of an impact than others we hear about—is that this event is set in a context that we, basically meaning 'Europeans', can relate to without any significant cognitive disconnect. It brings home the same thing I said in my blog entry on Neda Agha-Soltan's murder.

It also hits us right between the eyes, because of the way in which it highlights evil. It makes it clear that evil happens when, for whatever reason, people lose their will to think clearly. The deliberate targeting of the Beslan school for a propaganda massacre by the perpetrators represents such a point of mental dysfunction, when evil is allowed to gain a hold. Indeed, it appears to me, that here is one of the ways in which 'evil' finds a definition-by-instance. Evil which happens because it found an excuse for happening. For I am utterly certain that it would never have occurred to the hostage takers that the reasons for their actions lay not in the cause in the name of which they did what they did, but in their own minds. That they chose to do evil because they wanted to, and therefore became its incarnations.

But these are words and little good they do. Beslan was one of those things that happen, but which we all should do our best not to allow to happen. And the victims of our neglect are, as is usually the case, those we call 'the innocent'.

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