07/19/12

Drawn and Quartered

On the road tonight. Pretty exhausted. Wanted to say something about Syria before I crashed.

I’ve been reading Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. It makes the claim that we live in an evolutionarily less violent time than any other before it. To me, this seems a point that required something significantly less than the 832 pages he wrote to establish. A second or two’s thought about Mel Gibson’s disembowelment in the closing scene of Braveheart, mimicked by puppets in effigy, has long persuaded me. But, in conversations with others, the position is not as self-evidenct as I assumed. And, I think that’s largely attributable to the dynamic and 24-hour coverage that violence receives today and the general horribleness of violent acts relative to our increasingly heightened sensibilities against it. In other words, precisely because most of us don’t encounter medieval violence as a regular incident of living our lives, it is that much more grotesque when Al-Queda beheads an engineer — even though, comparatively so, such mutilation is in fact much less frequent.

But, I think these kinds of reports out of Syria make you wonder:

The top official said Iraqi border guards had witnessed the Free Syrian Army take control of a border outpost, detain a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, and then cut off his arms and legs. Then they executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers.

And, I think FSA are the “good guys.” Syria has fallen into civil war and the Al-Assad regime, worthy of our disdain, is near to fall. Whether we really want what rises up in its place, like with the whole of the Arab Spring, is yet to be determined.

My wife and I just finished watching the first season of Walking Dead. I can’t imagine sawing through someone’s leg. I can barely watch costume blood and prosthetic sci-fi. One of the characters saws his own hand off to be freed of a handcuff. Sort of like the hiker in 127 hours. I literally don’t know what order of magnitude rage or desperation I would need to sever mine or your limb, alive.

Whatever war we still perform, whether more or less than our ancestors, still remains horribly uncivil.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s song blog here:

Civil War