Robert (Bro. Pepper-spray of Reasoned Discussion) (montecristo) wrote,
Robert (Bro. Pepper-spray of Reasoned Discussion)

Some thoughts about the Neda video

There is a video out of Iran that has been circulating on the internet the past few days. It's subject is the murder, by sniping, of a young woman protester in Iran. It's graphic and horrific and heart-wrenching to watch.

There are people all over the place praising her "courage" and her heroism. Balderdash. I don't know Neda and it is a certainty that almost none of the people posthumously praising her knew her. We just don't know what kind of person she was. She may have been one of the meanest, most cynical, nasty misanthropists alive for all that almost anyone commenting on her knows. We know very little of her "bravery"; she may have been physically timid. We don't know what her personal assessment of the risks of being on the streets protesting were. If she had witnessed a shooting similar to the one of which she was a victim, for all we know, had she been in the alternate role, a witness who escaped unscathed, she may have run home to don a burqua and nevermore ventured out of her house without it and the company of two or more male relatives, or she might have become more determined and steadfast in her beliefs and course of action, for all that most anyone knows. We do know however, that she was a human being, with dreams, beliefs, loves, hopes...she could have been someone with whom we could have gone to college or with whom we shared the occasional cup of coffee and conversation at a cafe, or maybe she was none of these things... but she did have at least one relative who cherished her. There is a man identified as her father featured in the video and from watching it one can infer almost certainly that this person cherishes her, whatever kind of virtuous or reproachable person she may have been. We also know that a vicious and cowardly little monster publicly, brutally, and cold-bloodedly ambushed and murdered her with no provocation and turned a living, breathing, unique human individual into a pile of bleeding meat for no better reason than that he perceived her as being part of a group that he considered unacceptably different from his own.

I grew up in the suburbs, hard on the city limits. The near rural countryside was my playground as a boy. I've seen things die, many times. I've caused the deaths of living things, many of them much higher organisms than the proverbial fly. I've hunted and fished, fired guns and shot arrows. I've cleaned fish, seen animals gutted, skinned, and cooked. I eat meat and I know, better than many do, from where it comes and how it is produced. I understand and respect the natural human desire to hunt and to indulge our predatory proclivities and urges, even for sport. Man is naturally an omnivore, one who sometimes hunts and kills for animal protein — our vision is binocular and our eyes face forward. I've never killed a human being but I've seen people die. I've seen violence. I've seen people die violently, although in the latter instance, not up close and personally, a fact I consider to be my good fortune. I believe firmly in the use of force against other people, lethal force, if necessary, in the defense of property and life, belonging to oneself or others. I am not a pacifist, except perhaps, in the political sense, being highly skeptical of the use and necessity for collective violence. I'm not a Bhuddist, who holds all life, even that of insects, sacrosanct, or a squeamish milquetoast who cannot stand the sight of blood, or even to entertain the thought that evil exists and that sometimes people are hateful, malign, and violent. Nevertheless, I find that video sickening, upsetting, and disturbing.

We have a morbid streak. We have a perverse curiosity about death. It's something that will eventually happen to all of us, barring near miraculous medical advances, the feasibility of cryogenics, and extreme good fortune. The curiosity is understandable. I've never been a fan of such vulgar morbidity as movies like "Faces of Death" but I do understand why some would be interested and curious. I'm interested in the things that happen in the world. I've been following the turmoil and unrest in Iran. I knew of the Neda video and what it depicted. I watched the video two or three times through yesterday evening before leaving work. My LJ friend, fearsclave, had posted it on his page and he had some very thoughtful things to say about it, as is typical for him. It didn't teach me anything particularly new, in and of itself, but it did disturb me, and make me think, and frankly, upset me. Shannon has been staying with me since last Wednesday and she and I were supposed to go grocery shopping last night, but after I got home I was feeling a bit jang-ly and morose and I didn't feel like leaving the house again, so we ordered pizza and just kind of hung out together.

If anyone is of a mind to see of what it is that real violence consists, I would suggest giving that video a screening. I wouldn't do so if I were the kind of person who is "triggered" by violence or death. It's only forty seconds long, but it is powerful and wrenching. It's far from pretty, and it is much more graphically and viscerally violent than most of the violence that Hollywood special effects artists are willing or able to recreate. Real violence and death usually are. Real violence vs. Hollywood violence, for the most part are as analogously different as real love-making and sex is different from pornography. The former is as disturbing as the latter is two-dimensional and contrived. For starters, there's no soundtrack of "exciting" or heroic music playing in the background as there frequently is when someone is shot on celluloid. It opens with the woman sitting on the ground, having just been shot in the chest. There are three people around her helping her to lie down so that she doesn't just fall over and crack her head. One of the men, identified as a doctor in the commentary that I read, starts performing first aid. I'm sure he realizes that it's almost certainly hopeless. Nevertheless, doctors are trained to look for and capitalize on almost any small opportunity to save an injured person, no matter how small the probability of success exists. The woman's arms and eyes are still moving at this point. She's probably in too much shock too feel much pain and may not even be capable of focusing on what is happening. It is likely that the last thing she experienced consciously was an impact followed by a few seconds of surprise, even though she appears to be looking around. Shortly after she's horizontal, more blood appears, running from the corner of her mouth. People are yelling and off-camera another woman starts screaming. The wounded woman's father has been speaking to her and trying to say reassuring things and his voice takes suddenly takes on a higher, louder, more frantic, pleading, hysterical tone. Hollywood bleeding is usually an orgy of spurting, spraying and people coughing up gouts of it. Truth is more disturbing than fiction and more tragically poignant. The woman's lungs have been literally ripped up, most likely by a tumbling rifle bullet, and the accompanying hydrostatic shock wave that trails created when it passes through things the consistency of living tissue. Her chest cavity and trachea have filled with blood, and it wells up and runs, not spurts or sprays, first from her mouth and down the side of her face, and then from her nose, like a cup of milk, spilled across a table. It pools in her left eye socket. Its progress is shockingly sudden, but also leisurely and yet inexorable — there's no way to stop it and yet you know that it must stop, if the woman is to live. The iris and pupil of the other eye turn to the side, as if she were looking at something out of the corner of her eye but there is no sign of recognition or consciousness on her face — she's just gone. Perversely, the scene is the opposite experience of being present at a birth. At a birth, there comes a remarkable moment when suddenly there is one more conscious, breathing, human being present in the room with you; in the video, suddenly, there is one less person. There are a group of people performing first aid on a young woman, lying in the street, and then the scene changes suddenly to a group of people clustered around a body in the street. The realization in the latter instance, the sudden disappearance of a living consciousness is just as chilling and wrenching as the realization in the former instance, that of the advent of a new living consciousness, is joyous. I think, one of the most wrenching things about watching the video is both the speed with which the death plays out, and at the same time, how long it takes mortality to claim her. We are familiar with scenes, from news footage or other places, where someone who experiences a grave injury survives long enough to be taken to the hospital and who may thereafter expire of complications. We may also be familiar with scenes where the victim of a mortal injury is struck dead almost instantly. The most horrible thing about the video is to watch the light of consciousness go out in this poor woman and know everyone is powerless to stop it. More sobering is the consideration that someone was soulless enough to have no qualms about coldly inflicting such a grotesque violation on someone he didn't even know.

Although some who might never have experienced it may find it instructive and fascinating, if one has seen death it is very unlikely that this video has much to teach. There is nothing in dying that is exciting or exhilarating, unless one is disturbed. Death and evil are, in the end, banal. What is exhilarating in violent art or games is escaping death, or, being the hunter and having the vicarious thrill of high-stakes competition against something, some creature or someone else. It is risk, chase, evasion, competition — exciting things, when they are safely make-believe. I've not lost my taste for violence-simulating games like WarCraft or Quake but make-believe is a far, far, different thing than the reality of murder or combat, for most people. Do people even understand what it is for which they ask when they blithely speak in favor of war? How many could watch that video and still think the way they do about ending the lives of others?
Tags: human nature, lamentations and tribulations, rants

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