A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Beheaded

Originally published: 14 May 2004

I've never shied away from things that offend my sensibilities or which are likely to change my preconceptions about something.

I never regret anything bad that has happened to me because I see all life experiences I've had as contributing to who I am, and knowledge - even if it is of something too dreadful to cope with - can only be a good thing.

I wanted to watch The Passion Of The Christ because I wanted to see the mechanics of how you crucify someone, and precisely how the whole process would have taken place - from judgement to flogging to the crown of thorns to the carrying of the cross to the banging in of nails to the sword in the side, until death.

It's one thing reading about such a barbarous act and it's quite another seeing it. Horrendous as the violence in the movie was, however, I coped with it just fine. At one point I found myself dreaming of spaghetti bolognaise.

The reason I could cope with the Passion was because no matter how graphic the violence was, it simply wasn't real. It looked 100 percent genuine and all credit to the makeup department. At least it had a makeup department.

The video of the murder and decapitation of American businessman Nick Berg, however, did not come with a technical crew, nor a host of talented makeup and props staff.

The screams in it came from a place no actor could ever reach, no matter how well he understands his character, and the message was far more powerful than any Hollywood movie could ever hope to convey.

I downloaded and watched the video because I need to know what we're about as a species. It's one of the reasons I watched the Passion as well. Cruelty in humans is not something I understand and I'm not talking about making fun of the nerd in school, or pulling wings off flies.

I'm talking about the sort of cruelty which is found in those who can willingly humiliate, butcher or in any way harm others for their own purpose. The sort of cruelty which permits a Roman guard to repeatedly flog a man until the skin tears from his bones. The sort of cruelty shown by those American military folk who set their dogs on a naked, helpless man.

The sort of cruelty which sees someone lose their humanity the moment they cut an innocent man's head off with a knife, despite his desperate screams of horror and fear, then hold it aloft to the world in the name of God.

That sort of cruelty.

It wasn't so much the actual act of beheading that sickened me - the video was quite poor quality and there was a lot of movement as Berg struggled to get free.

The appalling thing was the screams of terror which took so, so long to finally go quiet as they sawed and hacked through skin, muscle and cartilage, taking over half a minute to kill him.

I've never heard the scream of a dying man, and although I could never describe it I can tell you that the worst of it was the desperation in that scream, in the knowledge of what was happening and the inescapability of his fate.

But even worse than the victim's screams were the screams of his captors. Once they'd finished reading their fanatical statement, which alluded to the humiliations suffered by Muslims in Ghareb, the slitting of necks of infidel to cause their slow death, and a warning to George Bush of more to come - they started screaming "Allahu Akbar", or "God is great", as they cut Berg's head off.

The kept screaming the same thing over and over in high-pitched, guttural voices, above the sound of the dying man's screams, and in those brief moments - and forever more to come now - they lost any vestiges of humanity they may at one stage of their lives have had.

I could never call them animals, because that would be an insult to animals, and a totally unjustified and unfair one. Animals kill out of necessity, not because they believe their cause is more important than anyone else's.

But when you lose your soul you lose your humanity, and that's what happened to those five sub-human murderers, and indeed their pal with the camera.

The irony is that those fanatics are convinced that they are doing God's will, but no God I ever heard of permits the killing of another human. It goes against the whole concept of God.


I've browsed a number of Internet forums to gauge reactions of people to the video. Most are sickened and horrified and filled with understanding that those five killers are not representative of the Islamic faith, or of Muslims in general, but of course you also have both sides of the coin:

This is one American who does not apologize for how you assholes were treated in prison. This is fuckin war!!! The only apology I present as an American, was those idiots who mistreated YOUR people were too stupid to realize the trouble they had gotten themselves into for taking pictures of the abuse. I guess when you live in sand, there is nothing better to do, is there? The US will kick your mother fuckin ass!

Or how about:

Abu Mus'ab Alzrqawy carries out his work in a wonderful way. Allah is the greatest, Nik Berg, the American citizen, who cut his head in Iraq, is a Jew. These will please your eyes with these pictures of the neck of the apostate being cut. A glory that shook the tyrant's thrones by what our hands did!!

No matter what you do someone, somewhere, will disagree with you.

"I am here."
"No you're not".

"David Beckham is the greatest footballer."
"Luis Figo is the greatest footballer."

"Jesus died for our sins."
"There is no God."

"You bombed us."
"Because you bombed us."
"Because you bombed us."
"Because you bombed us."
"Because you bombed us."

It's a sad indictment on the human race that it is populated with beings who cannot formulate the incredibly simple logic that an argument of two fundamentally opposing and unshakeable viewpoints is impossible to win.

Yet people constantly try to win their arguments and when they can't - or when nobody is taking notice of them - they find other ways to get their message across.

Where there is stupidity there is danger. And it's a dangerous world.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

Look at me now - all the way from Uitenhage to the bright lights of the big internet.

Find out more using the handy links provided.



Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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