Monday, September 06, 2004

Beslan and terrorism’s aesthetic limits

Were the perpetrators sub-human or all too human? Answer: why deal in generalisations when there are specifics aplenty?

Apart from an accident of birth (Australia, instead of Saudi Arabia), I would undoubtedly be an Islamofascist terrorist, by virtue of being able to tick all of the following boxes: male, GenX, highly-educated, unemployed, prone to nihilism/self-loathing, and a sexual wallflower.

Which combination, needless to say, does not make empathy my strong point – even towards those in whom I can see a fair bit of myself. I could be accused of taking the hypocritical high-ground here – engaging in brinkmanship to out-autistify emotionally-challenged GenX Saudis – but at least I feel that my position is sustainable.

While the Saudi position, post-Beslan, is plainly not. The aesthetics – which is to say, motivations – of high-production value terrorism run closely parallel to those of pornography. At the extremes of both – acts targeting children – lies a convergence of the act of production with that of consumption. This convergence, paradoxically at first, results in an aesthetic (or “moral”, if you prefer) diminution – the experience becomes self-defeatingly vicarious. Put more simply, over-consumption of porn – at which’s outer limits, sex and death are interchangeable, as are production and consumption – must lead to a turning point being reached. The elastic in the underpants of satiety therefore ceases to perform any kind of role whatsoever, even without usually actually snapping.

Suffice to say, I think that Beslan marks such a turning point. For an orgy of mass death, it comes across (if I may here insert myself into the perpetrators' POV) as coldly vicarious – even with the added quasi-sexual degradation of children denied water drinking their own urine. If you want to bring that old spark back then, Islamofascists, the only way forward is a return to the personal. Kill yourselves, kill each other – even kill me, if you must – just do it with feeling.

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