Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Who can understand?

The pursued takes pride in murder as righteousness.
The pursuer takes pride in not discharging his firearm in 28 years.

Some excerpts from the trial of Mohammed Bouyeri, arrested for the killing and near decapitation of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh:

Calmly, remorselessly, he insisted on the righteousness of his act, repeatedly stating he would do the very same thing again if he got the chance. Bouyeri said that in his worldview, there is a "law that instructs me to chop off the head of anyone who insults Allah and the Prophet."

Bouyeri's speech left the courtroom audience stunned. When he told the police officers who pursued him after the killing that his aim indeed was to kill and be killed, some of them found it difficult to hide their tears. In a culture where a policeman, as one testifying officer put it, can be proud he has not used his firearm for 28 years, such dedication to violence is unheard of.

As Bouyeri told the judges: "You can send in all your psychologists, psychiatrists and experts. You will never understand this, you cannot understand it."


I wonder about self-righteous men like Bouyeri who in acts of devotion to Allah visit violent death on others who do not share their views.

I think about the incarnation: that God in an act of love for humanity would put on flesh to die violently on a cross, so that no one else need taste the sting of death.

It is not merely the conflict of worldviews that disturbs me. I wonder if there is even the slightest possibility of dialogue.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Banal Face of Evil

Why do monsters look so ordinary? So the Economist asked about General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb who ordered the killing of 80,000 Bosnian men and boys.

I suppose we have seen too many file pictures in the media of criminals with obvious looks of malevolence we forget how ordinary many more appear. Is it possible that the more horrific the crime, the more ordinary the look? Take Dennis Rader for instance. Who could have suspected that the cub-scout leader and Lutheran church council president was also the infamous serial killer, the BTK (Blind, Torture, Kill) Strangler?

It was Hannah Arendt who first used the phrase 'the banality of evil' when she wrote on the 1961 trial of Otto Adolf Eichmann (Eichmann in Jerusalem), Hitler’s logistical engineer and chief executioner of the Final Solution . On seeing Eichmann behind the bulletproof glass booth calmly giving testimony, she said, "the man in the glass booth, was — nicht einmal unheimlich — not even sinister." She added, "The deeds were monstrous, but the doer ... was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous." You may remember that Eichmann’s defense was that he was merely "following orders."

Tom’s TrueTalk Blog has a post on Leeds-born Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, one of four suicide bombers behind London’s 7/7 carnage. Tom concluded: "It’s important that we recognize that acts like this are often carried out by fellow human beings who resemble each of us in more ways that we may be comfortable with."

"Comfortable with"? Our constant rationalizing away of sin and evil (genetic? social?) are attempts to mask the fact that we alone are responsible for the choices we make, and that ordinary people (like ourselves) do terrible things all the time, whether we like to admit it or not. That’s what the Bible means when it says that the heart is deceitful above all things.

Our sins may not be similar or comparable; stealing someone’s iPod may not be the same as taking someone’s life. But on any given day, in different measures, we are all equally culpable of moral compromise large and small.

A peculiar quality of the Christian mind is that, knowing the weakness of human nature, it expects conflict in the moral sphere. It assumes that the powers of evil will exploit every possible occasion for drawing men into the mental confusion of blurred concepts and twisted values. There is about the Christian mind a peculiar hardness – a refusal to be surprised at evil and depravity; an inability to be overcome by shock; an expectation that evil will be at large where God is not.

Harry Blamires
The Christian Mind

Monday, July 11, 2005

Senseless killing

7 July 2005
4 synchronised bombings
More than 50 dead
Over 700 injured

“Each of the countries around that table have some experience of the effects of terrorism and share our complete resolution to defeat this terrorism. It's particularly barbaric that this has happened on the day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long-term problems of climate changes in the environment.” Tony Blair

The tragedy of the London bombings was compounded by news of another senseless killing that took place a day earlier. A retired creative director Wong Mun Kin, who was once among the country’s most lauded creatives was killed along with his wife in a botched up robbery attempt in their home in Taiping.

Wong won numerous advertising industry prizes in the country and abroad, and as a former industry leader said of Wong, he was a “natural-born creative.” I worked with Wong for half a year at FLZ Ayer and saw something of his eccentricities and genius up close. To think that the slain couple moved from KL city to the small town of Taiping (‘Heavenly Peace’ in Chinese) six months earlier because they were told by a brother-in-law that it was 'safe.'