Friday, September 02, 2005

About Beslan.

A year passes. No end to fury and grief and still more talk of blasphemy. Edited repost from last September.


What is it about Beslan? It haunts and infuriates, leaving us dazed or baffled although practically every one of the impulses, deliberations and miscalculations leading to this calamity can be accounted for. I have been trying to avoid discussing Beslan for fear of sounding like an absolute lunatic.

Is it Islam?

Of course it is. At least a particularly repugnant strand of Islam even when overly generous! “Who are we trying to kid?” I am thinking. The Beslan barbarity is a reminder of the sort of dystopia awaiting us if the Islamists succeed. The stakes are high indeed.

And then there was a child crying under my window this evening, shouting at the top of his lungs: “Divaneh, divaneh, nazan mano.” Roughly translated, “maniac, don’t hit me.” In all likelihood, echoes of his mother's pleas. A child of no more than 5 or 6 profoundly perturbed about being battered. Children finally managed to find a way onto my heart. Shortly after my sister’s first born.

Look, when I used “daze” and “baffle” at the beginning, I wasn’t playing clueless. It is easy to be sanctimonious about such a brutality. But, at the end of the day, isn’t it really all about inhibitions? And apathy, coarseness of spirit, and helplessness?

Why is it that I didn’t rush down to beat the living daylight out of the bastard who made the young boy cry in agony under my window? Why is it that everyday I pass by all the pathetic, poverty stricken street children peddling in this land of obscene expenditures only to occasionally hand them money when “touched” by something "extraordinary?” Why is it that we tolerate child abuse, child prostitution, widespread hunger, and systematic killing of children everyday?

The World Food program ran an advert on BBC the other day. Hunger kills 776 children every hour on the hour, every day. Do the math. Seven Hundred Seventy Six.

Sometimes, silly stupid questions become an obsession with me. Look at the conflict that the majority of us tend to focus on compulsively because it might be “closer” to home-- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why is it that children in buses and pizza parlors are blown to bits, incinerated and dismembered while it is not “O.K” to serve their soulless bodies in a deep dish pizza? We eat almost every thing else that moves, don’t we?

Why is it that some get vasculitis when a cartoon of Sharon drinking the blood of children shows up in print somewhere, but the same people can stomach hearing or watching children’s blood being spilled practically everyday on the streets of the occupied territories? And they almost always insist on a “firmer” policy, don’t they? It is in the news everywhere, isn’t it?

I have been avoiding Chechnya for years. I don’t understand it. I was terribly disgruntled with various “National Liberation” movements to begin with. But they are not going to go away simply because I don’t wish to deal with the questions. We have the basic facts in front of us and can all do the math. Prior to Beslan, the “score” stood at 80,000 Chechens to 4000 Russians. Can you count that? 80,000 out of a population of a little over a million, I think.

How many of those 80,000-- are you willing to wager--were children? Had you heard of the “black widows” some 10 years ago, before Crozny, when the same Jihadists were running around being the same murderous miscreants they have always been?

But then I think about “us” again. Of all the many years that we—the Persians—have abused our own various national minorities and in particular the Kurds—and I use abuse here to encompass all of our various shameful deeds such as withholding oil money for regional development, preventing them from studying their own beautiful, ancient language in schools and universities, and putting their children to work in backbreaking construction jobs, or the ongoing de facto economic blockades, as well bombing their houses and cities , tormenting their families, and torturing their activists, never once, to my knowledge, have they ventured to seek us in “our” cities or schools in order to kill and to avenge their mistreatment.

Why not? What is it that holds them back? They are both Muslims and an abused national minority, aren’t they? What causes the inhibitions? How long will it last?

I know the Chechens have been brutalized, but what kind of a society will they create even if “liberated” from the brutal yoke of the Russians? What did the poor Ossetians ever do to deserve this? What control do these wretched Ossetians ever have over the decisions of this supposedly “reformed” KGB strongman Putin? Or those of an ex-Communist Party apparatchik, Yeltsin? Did they help Stalin forcibly exile to Serbia all those Chechens years ago? Did they exert any kind of an influence on the Tsars before that?

Why is it that it is O.K. to take children hostages, to torment them, to force nudity upon them, to imprison them in a hot gym, to starve and dehydrate them, to shoot them in the back, give them urine-soaked cloths to suck on, to scar them permanently for life, and yet it wasn’t “acceptable” to feed them some barbequed teacher?

What held them back?

Regardless of the “tribal” idiosyncrasies involved, the various Jihadists have a very particular notion of the dystopia they try to impose on the majority as well as specific means in mind to get us there.. Every one of their (mis)deeds is a harbinger of what they wish to bring us. And they must be resisted, and methodically defeated, their ideas discredited and their methods repudiated.

Here in Iran, for instance, the first sign of their activism was spraying acid on the faces of women deemed improperly dressed in conformity with their understanding of the Islamic etiquette. They are doing their best to drive women out of public spheres in Iraq, and we know how they forced women to retreat inside imprisoning them in various Afghan homes, and denying them education.

And well Saudi Arabia has always been Saudi Arabia. So now they ride the wave of the agonizing misery of some Chechen women to open a new front in their tribal war of ruin.

The fight involving women and children is a central battle front. Women are the primary educators of children. Aside from suffocating their teachers and caretakers or killing and imprisoning them, what else do they promise children?

Whether it is by killing them in a school in Beslan, or brainwashing them and destroying their humanity in various religious madresas in Pakistan or in other intellectually stifling places like Saudi Arabia and Iran or by distracting them from learning in France, or by killing the joys of learning through fear in the likes of my little friend in Tehran thousand of kilometer away from Beslan, they have very specific objectives in mind.

What do they really want?

A new vicious tribalism, widespread fear, pacifism and inaction, I think. And in this goal they are united with those authoritarians who acknowledge “weakness” only to distract from the issues of right and wrong.

The authoritarians whose own weak case is being bolstered further by their natural allies who never tire of talking “Carthagian” tactics, “Jacksonian Economy of Force” and nuclear weapons as means of forcing “cultural adjustment” on Arab and Muslim lands!

Both groups feed on each other’s energy while complementing the other’s activity. They must know that not all of us have the desire or the stomach for collective retribution and widespread murder and mayhem. They want the majority of us out of the way so they can do what they want. And they must be resisted, and forced to retreat.

A lot easier said than done, though.

At the end of the day, I think, YES, in a sense, it has everything to do with Islam. I was wracking my brain trying to think “devouring of children” theme in mythology.

I stopped reading Russia related material years ago. So much to read and so little time. I couldn’t think of anything on that front. But we have all the usual Greek stuff about Kronus, and various child-eating dragons in the Japanese and Chinese literature as well as the Indian Demon which I think Krishna slays.

But what about us?

Isn’t it true that we live in region where one of the very central formative “myths” is the ten plagues? Isn’t it true that our shared heritage postulates an omnipotent deity who repeatedly “heardens the Phraoh’s heart,” (Exudus 9:12; 10:20; 14:10) only to do this:

At midnight the LORD smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle. 12:29

Perhaps, so long as we continue to celebrate our heritage mindlessly—our sanctimonious prattle notwithstanding--- we don’t really get to have much of an inhibition when it comes to killing children.

Then the first thing we should think about doing is to let go of whosoever insists on not being under our yoke before we end up losing a lot more than our first born.

That and bolstering our inhibitions when it comes to assorted barbarities.

Something a lot akin, I suppose, to tapping whatever it is that accounts for our dislike for munching on a barbequed human hand or a thigh.

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