Wednesday, September 21, 2005

About suffering they were never wrong

It emerged yesterday that the London bombers had a practice run (“dummy run” on the BBC ticker at the bottom of my screen seems like the wrong phrase, too soft and unthreatening) sometime in June before that final, awful journey on July 7.

What were they thinking? Were they scared? Smug? Alienated? They took the route they were planning to take with the real bombs and looked into the faces of the people around them, packed on to the train, knowing what they were going to visit upon them, assessing the impact, the damage, visualising the whirlwind of chaos and destruction they intended to create, and felt nothing. No compassion, no empathy, nothing. Just sheer nihilistic loathing and perverted determination.

Not long after the attacks it was suggested that the bombers were gulled into doing it on the expectation that they would come out alive. How much easier it would have been for us to cope with if they had been.

Imagine what it must have been like to be setting out on a journey which you, unlike all your future victims, knew you would never come back from: travelling with a despicable secret sitting in your throat.

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W.H. Auden

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