[ by Charles Cameron — on the half-hidden motivation that gives glee to an act of outright butchery ]
There’s a lot that is, as the title suggests, gruesome here, both in the telling, and in the deeds and conversations that are told.
One comment stood out for me, however, as a student of religions, and one whose studies indicate that religious drivers are to be taken more seriously in wars and other forms of violence than our cynical, skeptical, secular world is prone to believe. Here it is:
At the end of the conversation, Mutreb asks whether the “animal to be sacrificed” has arrived. At 1:14 p.m., an unidentified member of the hit squad says “[he] is here.”
I don’t want to be needlessly literalistic about the point I’m making, because I don’t mean it to be taken literally, and couldn’t quite explain how to take it — except seriously. But here it is:
human > animal > sacrifice — this is a very potent & archetypal set of transforms
Seeing humans — Jews, for instance — as animals make it much easier to kill them en masse — as in the Shoah, for example. That part of the psychology of Khashoggi‘s killers is easily understood in the wake of the Nazi atrocities, the Khmer killings, the Rwandan massacre — and genocides in general.
What is perhapos harder for us to come to grips with is the power of the third element — sacrifice.
Sacrifice — the word means making sacred — invokes what Paul Tillich calls ultimate concern, which corresponds to the notion of existential threat with an added dimension..
It gives participants the sense they are not only facing a life and death situation, but one involving the better angels vs the deepest depths of despair.
People who are moved at this level tend to move decisively on those impulses.
That’s — more or less — what I meant to suggest.