340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

With ruin upon ruin.

Remember the massive hostage-taking at a Russian school last year? The Guardian has an interactive slideshow which should jog your memory of the events; go check it out, I'll wait.



Okay--not bad, huh? Pretty, in an iconic sort of way. If one were inclined toward generosity, one might say it was an "abbreviated" or "introductory" report. Like I said, it's just a refresher.

I've often railed against the overuse (and abuse) of the term 'tragedy' to describe any sad or unfortunate event the mainstream media deems worthy of coverage. I realize that it's the literary geek (and the literalist) in me speaking, but dammit--a tragedy is a story about an initially noble person or group who because of some tragic character flaw brings predictable ruin upon themselves. Part of what makes it so devastating is that everyone sees it coming but nothing is done to prevent it: the inevitability of the calamity heightens the sense of doom. Columbine was a tragedy. The devastation of the Canadian beef industry in the wake of BSE is a tragedy. The invasion of Iraq is a tragedy of truly epic proportions.

Given that the GRU's really just the KGB after a quick shot of Botox, their ham-fisted handling of the hostage-taking was woefully predictable: from the moment I saw the first scenes on CBC Newsworld, I knew that the final scene would end "with ruin upon ruin, rout on rout / Confusion worse confounded." (*)

In any event, today marks the beginning of the Nur-Pashi Kulayev's trial on murder and terrorism charges. Kuyalev's a 24-year-old Chechen and one of two surviving attackers (rumours persist that the rest of the 30-odd gang of hostage-takers were executed on the spot by the attacking Spetsnaz); he maintains that he is "innocent" because although he participated in the taking of hostages and placement of explosives, he did not actually shoot anyone (Russian news-camera crews aired footage of him being led into a police truck shouting "by Allah, I did not kill anyone" over and over again). At the risk of sounding flip, I'm pretty sure he's gonna hang anyway.

The BBC's coverage is a good starting point if you're interested in pursuing the issue.

To be honest, I'm less interested in reliving the stomach-churning tragedy than in placing the trial within the larger context of Russia's creaking, grinding lurch into the 21st century: Chechenya, Afghanistan's ghosts, Putin's aristocratic distaste for anything remotely resembling a free press, industrialists like Mikhail Khodorkovsky in chains for the crime of garnering absurd, hyperbolic wealth (wait, that one sounds good)... a lot to chew on.

More on this later in the week.

(*) John Milton, Paradise Lost. Book ii. Line 995


Post a Comment

<< Home