Civilization, like beauty, is skin-deep

Dear Baruch,

It is stories like these that lead me to despair at the future of humanity. A 17-year old Kurdish girl falls in love with a Sunni boy from a nearby village. She is ambushed, and then stoned to death… as the police stand by, and as the crowd takes videos with mobile phones. Download the videos here.

I thought for a long time about whether I should watch these. In the end, I am glad I saw them, because I think we all too often keep such stories abstract, perhaps to shield ourselves from highly unpleasant truths. The visceral quality of the videos is a reminder to all of us that for large parts of the world, we have not progressed one jot since Spinoza’s time (q.v. the deWitts’s gruesome ending).

What would Spinoza have done? My gut reaction upon seeing the videos is to “exterminate the brutes”, but alas my rational self recognizes that the more likely scenario, were I to have placed myself between the mob and the girl, is that the brutes would have exterminated me. The horror, the horror.

The only consolation? That it appears, at the moment, that “honour” killings are deemed barbaric by the West. It’s a good reason to agitate for western notions of militant tolerance, don’t you think, lest we lose this enlightened perspective? The Dutch, this time round, seem to be at the forefront of this process. Time to move to Amsterdam?

[Update: An Amnesty International statement on the killing of Du’a Khalil Aswad. Worth mentioning that Du’a’s murder is not an isolated event. What sets it apart is that it was filmed.]

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1 thought on “Civilization, like beauty, is skin-deep”

  1. Civilisation is skin deep, as you note in the title. There is a lizard part of us, the one that tells you to exterminate the brutes, the one behind both the stoning of the girl itself, and the execution-murder of her co-religionists by Sunnis. I realise as I age how much closer it is to the surface than I thought it was when I was young.

    The lizard parts feeds on itself in the absence of the restraint of enforceable law. That’s the only response I can think of to this, how tragic for these people not to have this spinozist state superstructure, the ability to free oneself as an individual from the crap of the past, of one’s sterile, or in this case, barbaric traditions. How to bring this law into the world of these people? The further tragedy is that if it ever happens it will be the work of a generation, and recent western policy is setting that date back a lot.

    I haven’t seen the video yet, I am still thinking about it, and at this point I don’t think I am going to watch it.

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