Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Facing How 'Death Cults' are Created - and Why

I like David Brooks. Who wouldn't? If Brooks' talking-heads persona is any indication, he is engaging, articulate, very intelligent and not the least bit stuffy. If only we could transplant his personality into Kerry's brain - the Democrats would win a landslide victory in November.

David Brooks is wrong, though. In today's International Herald Tribune, a handwringing piece, the cult of death, beyond reason or negotiation, reiterates the old canards of Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism. We're dealing with people beyond reason, he says, beyond negotiation. The Ossetia school massacre is only the latest confirmation. Those who deny this "have become experts at averting their eyes."
... the death cult is not really about the cause it purports to serve. It's about the sheer pleasure of killing and dying.
The "sheer pleasure of ... dying"? Whoa. Let me get back to that one in a second.
It's about massacring people while in a state of spiritual loftiness. It's about experiencing the total freedom of barbarism - freedom even from human nature, which says, love children, and love life. It's about the joy of sadism and suicide.
In a curious non sequitur, however, having attributed a kind of 'liberation' from human nature among these murderous suicide bombers, Brooks' invokes human nature immediately afterward as the explanation, but without ... well, explanation:
Yet when you look at the Western reaction to the Beslan massacres, you see people quick to divert their attention away from the core horror of this act, as if to say: We don't want to stare into this abyss. We don't want to acknowledge those parts of human nature that were on display in Beslan. Something here, if thought about too deeply, undermines the categories we use to live our lives, undermines our faith in the essential goodness of human beings.
Let me try to explain what Brooks couldn't about this "sheer pleasure of dying." The "sheer pleasure of killing" is perhaps more understandable, and hints at some context for tragedy. After all, the gratifications of revenge have been demonstrated using brain imaging. Revenge is sweet, scientists say. Well, duh: we knew that already. Revenge is the attempt to take the law into your own hands, and exact justice as you personally see it. Revenge motivates many murders. And revenge is common where the law is weak, or seen as irretrievably corrupt.

But ... the "sheer pleasure of dying"?

For this you may need to read the following: 'Black Widows' behind Beslan tragedy. The article leads off describing the Black Widows as an "unknown" group. Further into the article, however, you see that it's been known about for a while.

The name Black Widows surfaced in July 2003 when a Chechen woman, Zarema, was arrested in Moscow with a bomb in her bag. An explosives expert was brought in to defuse the bomb, but it went off and killed him. A Moscow court found Zarema guilty of terrorism and attempted murder and sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

The woman told investigators that she belonged to the Black Widows of Chechnya, a group whose aim is to wreak vengeance on Russians for killing their husbands and children.

Another source said the name of the woman leading the Beslan operation was Khaula Nazirov, a 45-year-old widow from Grozny, the Chechen capital. Her 18-year-old son, 16-year-old daughter, and some other relatives were also part of the operation. They attacked the school because Nazirov's husband was tortured to death in a Russian military camp five years ago, while some of her children's cousins were killed when Russian troops bombed a school in Chechnya some years ago.

David Brooks can't seem to make up his mind whether suicide-bomber massacres are human nature, or liberation from human nature, though he's absolutely sure it's utter unreason either way. Let's be clear: it's all human nature. Even women will kill the children of what they perceive as an enemy people, taking their own miserable lives in the process, if they've endured similar suffering themselves. Why wouldn't they? And as deracinated as this experience might have made them, that doesn't mean the political elements pulling the strings aren't behaving rationally. While we in the West might only see insanity, the Islamic world's first question might be, What have these women suffered, what crimes have been committed against them, to commit such crimes themselves, to inflict such suffering themselves? And islamofascists know it.

Events like Beslan ring like a gong - but in different tones in different parts of the world. For us, it resonates with utter unreason, the atonality of madness. For others, however, to hear of giving up the ghost in an expanding wave of detonated plastic explosive is news that would toll like a bell at a funeral, echoing through mountain valleys and shantytown alleyways: the harmonious and simultaneous gong-stroke of achieving both revenge and blessed relief from horror, suffering, grief. If such an act delays Chechen independence, it still galvanizes Jihad. Chechen is just a battle. It can be lost, and yet be a moral victory. Global Jihad is a world war in the making. Terror can work. It often has.

And don't islamofascists know it. I only wish David Brooks did.


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