A Seductive Brutality

A psychologist might argue differently, but it is difficult for a lapsed historian like myself not to see a seductive brutality at work in the attempts of Isis and other extremist groups to eliminate everyone who thinks or believes differently from themselves. A BBC World Service news item last night recounting how people had been lined up on a river bank then shot in the head and pushed into the river was horrible enough. Learning that it had been videoed and the video published on the web was more horrible still. Isn’t it enough that we should behave outrageously without then publicizing the outrage?

Perhaps that is a key to what is happening. Those who are weak or feel inferior acquire a false sense of power from association with extremist groups. The more brutal the behaviour of such groups, the more the sense of power increases; and it doesn’t really matter who or what the target is. Killing a child or an unarmed woman still provides the thrill of omnipotence; and if the killing can be dressed up in the language of religious zeal or political necessity, the hand that pulls the trigger can not only sleep easy o’ nights but glory in the act of murder.

You notice I speak of extremist groups, but the sad fact is that nation states can be seduced by the same kind of brutality and can perpetrate the same kind of horrors. At the moment the eyes of the West are on Gaza and Israel, Syria and Iraq, while the sufferings of African and Asia have slipped from our gaze. The attempted extermination of Christians has raised barely a murmur save among fellow Christians. Could it be that we too are seduced by the very brutality we see in others, not wanting to admit the full horror and shame of what is going on? We no longer speak of genocide but ‘ethnic cleansing’. We no longer condemn violence outright but merely seek to limit it what is ‘proportional’. Moral weakness is the deadliest kind, and it shows itself in the language we use. Have we in the West, somewhere along the line, lost our soul?

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6 thoughts on “A Seductive Brutality”

  1. Misc. point. At least some of the Palestinians being butchered by the Israeli’s are Christian. In Ukraine, nominally Christian Russians are murdering Ukrainian Christians. The issue is not whether the world cares about Christians, but that many people are mentally worn out by the volume of blood shed.

  2. The scenes you describe are not ones that I was aware off, but I whole heartedly condemn violence, from whatever quarter it comes.

    Violence is a symptom of evil at work in our world, evil that our secular world view denies exists, but the evidence is everywhere for us to see, whether violence in the middle east or Africa, or the casual violence that goes on on a Saturday night in many town centres in our supposedly safe town centres.

    We ignore violence at peril to our immortal souls, we condone it as a ‘fact of life’ to the deminishment of our humanity.

    Surely the role of Christians and people of all faiths and none is to join together and to condemn the evil that violence is and identify exactly what drives it – the Devil, the evil one of scripture. The evil one that Jesus battled against during his trial in the Desert, the one who rejoices in every act of violence and despairs at the act and prayers of every peacemaker.

    We all need to be violent for peace. Not the violence of evil, but that peaceful violence of prayer and action that involves in the words of someone earlier in the 20th Century “Jaw, Jaw is better than War, War”.

    I pray that the evil will be overcome by the overwhelming peace of Jesus Christ in our world.

  3. I think you’re very definitely on to something in the first two paras. It’s not confined to membership of groups either – if you read up on the personal histories of Osama bin Laden, his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atta (the leader of the 9/11 hijackers) you’ll find a variety of personal traumas they were all seeking to exorcise one way or the other. People with such backgrounds are also known to be fruitful recruiting fodder for extremist groups at a lower level.

    About your final para.I’m less sure. I suspect our co-religionists in Africa, Asia and the Middle East fall under the radar in the same way that, for example, their fate under Nazism (or that of gypsies or gay people) still does. Rather than being unused, the term “genocide” is too easily bandied about in my experience, and surely proportionality is a central pillar of Christian just war principles?

  4. I agree with you that “moral weakness is the deadliest kind and it shows itself in the language we use”. We have actually been experiencing ‘linguistic connivance’ for some years – manipulating the truth by misusing language (removing an expression that lays blame and substituting one that doesn’t) – e.g. ‘street robbery with violence’ became ‘mugging’. You can easily go on: ‘lay workers off’ is now ‘let workers go’; ‘bad/foul language’ passes itself off as ‘strong/colourful language’; ‘accidental bloodshed’ is regularly rendered with ‘colateral (damage)’ ‘wrong’ is only ‘inappropriate’. You can widen this area as well: ‘concerned people’ are frequently referred to as ‘sentimental people’; people who do not agree with something are said to ‘struggle’ with it … and so on! This has all been creeping up on us for a long time and the reason it is taking over is because not enough people have noticed and fought it! It has been classed as just the natural development of language when it is actually driven by the decline of personal responsibility and personal morality. It’s not too late to start fighting it – but will people have enough personal responsibility to bother?!

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