Martin LeFevre: An Abyss of Human Feeling

Published: Fri 24 Sep 2004 08:20 PM
Meditations (Politics) - From Martin LeFevre in California
An Abyss of Human Feeling
A piece of music can bring forth the deepest emotions within one; powerful feelings that you didn’t even know were there. I had intended to write a completely different piece, but then I listened to Beethoven’s string quartet, Opus 130.
It is a composition of extraordinary depth and pathos. As the music reached below the conscious mind, below the concerns of the day, images of a few weeks ago and half a world away flashed before my eyes, and feelings broke through that I had not wanted to feel.
The images were of children in Beslan, terrified, wounded, or dead, being led or carried out of the school building where they had been held hostage for days until the bloodbath began. There are no words that can approach the gut-wrenching awfulness of the scene.
Like millions of others, I saw the images and felt horrified at the time. And like millions of others I moved on as quickly as I could. But Beethoven brought the scenes and emotions back to the surface. Now, given the distance of a little time, I could look upon the terrified little boy with his hands clasped behind his neck.
The incongruity of his pose stood out in the macabre scene of children and adults packed onto the floor, wires and bombs strung over their heads in a grotesque parody of a military operation. The boy was forced to sit like that for hours, as if he was an adult man who posed a threat to the brute with his boot on a detonation device.
The lad was more vivid in my mind’s eye than in the surreal, choppy video recovered from the scene. The film was at once too real and too unreal, having a quality that combined a uniquely Russian decrepitude and the universality of human evil in a single slice of death.
To the boy’s right stood the hooded thug, grown in the slime of Chechnya; to his left sat a mother and daughter. The girl clung to her mother, while the mother gazed into the camera with the look of a person who knew their fate.
They were both killed in the blast triggered by the botched raid of Russian commandos as they stupidly stormed the building. Driven by thirst, the boy had managed to sneak out of the gymnasium. He had found a leaking pipe, and was drinking from it when the bombs exploded. The blast and falling roof killed nearly everyone in the gym.
Is it possible to fathom the bottomless pits of the minds and hearts of those who carried out this “operation?” No, but we have to study the abyss nonetheless, because it is what human consciousness is becoming.
It serves the aims of evil to label such people “terrorists,” since that word at once removes the rest of us, and creates more people like the child killers, beyond the face and feeling of humanity. “Terrorist” is a label, a category, an explanation that does nothing to convey, describe, or explain the nihilistic desperation of people who commit such acts.
Some of the killers at the school were Chechen women (Putin at first said there were Arabs amongst them too, appealing to Western bigotry to both spread and diffuse the blame). Some of the women probably once had children themselves. But obviously they no longer had any feeling whatsoever for children, or life itself.
The odious Putin strutted forward to exploit the unspeakable tragedy, calling for more of the same Stalinist measures that started and restarted the repressive war, that produced the appalling conditions, and that brought even women to such an abyss of human feeling.
The biggest strutter of them all, George W. Bush, stayed in the background, mouthing meaningless noises about not interfering in the internal affairs of nations, even as he goes on killing uncounted numbers of children in Iraq in the name of freedom and democracy.
Why do I write? There is no response to the void in all these people. Perhaps I’m reminding myself to feel, or trying to hold onto feeling in a world that has gone utterly mad.
Unquestionably, without feeling such things, we slowly die inside, and provide the rotten soil for the killers in the school, the Kremlin, and the White House.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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