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At the beginning of the revolution in January 2011 when things started turning violent, television coverage was still very general and did not dwell on, or show in close-up, morbid detail, those who were either wounded or killed. So the violence still retained part of its romanticism, the horror was kept at bay by being mainly censored out. This kept on till well into the rule by SCAF when matters started getting out of hand, and demonstrations were still going strong and the Brotherhood started resorting to violence in dealing with the general public.

The first image that shocked me greatly was that of a demonstrator who was run over by a police vehicle. The truck was standing on his crushed head. I was so upset by that image, I wrote a strongly worded comment that such imagery should not be posted on Facebook without express warnings about their graphic nature.
With the continuation of the revolution and the beginning of the Muslim Brotherhood’s resorting to violence, under the pretense of being Police or Army officers, the atrocities continued and became more frequent. The pictures of the mutilated bodies of the peaceful Christian demonstrators in Maspero, then those of the youth in Mohamed Mahmoud, then finally of all that happened in Port Said, all worked towards building a callous on the wounded soul. Gradually, and without realizing it, the pictures of dead bodies became familiar and not as horrifying as before. Especially when viewed in large groups, and no close-ups.

But when pictures of the victims of the eye sniper started surfacing, another wave of horror and disgust, as well as fear and sympathy took over. The loss of sight is a very personal and horrifying trauma to imagine, let alone to actually see as being lived through by young people on the threashold of their life.

I remember the first time in August of 2012 when I heard about a group of our soldiers in Sinai being executed by the terrorists, and the way they were executed, I was left feeling horrified and extremely depressed. I had to go for a late night swim where I tried to lighten my mood by writing about some silly adventures with the frogs in the garden. A feeble attempt at self delusion hidden behind humor. The horror I felt made me literally sick to my stomach.

But the killing did not stop, if anything it accelerated. The number of atrocities increased and the intensity of savagery deepened. The worst part was the avid thirst, combined with morbid curiosity and a perverted sense of self inflicted pain of following closely all such news, especially images.

The first time I saw a man being beheaded I was literally sick. It is the horror of putting yourself in their shoes and imagining the fear of imminent death and the physical pain of a slit throat and lack of oxygen and drowning in your blood. Sometimes a fertile imagination is a curse. But the beheadings did not stop, nor did the posting of such clips on Facebook.

The downward spiral of safety and the rise in violent crime is another aspect of the change in our personal lives and how humans can adapt to anything if they have to. With the continuation of violence by the ousted Muslim Brotherhood, the bombings, sniping, abduction and torture of civilians and especially of army and police officers, and the full coverage given these killings, again became part of life that we started to take in stride.

With the appearance of Daesh or ISIL these atrocities took on another deeper dimension of horror. I remember the first time I saw a line of kneeling men with hands bound behind their backs and those ISIL barbarians standing behind them with guns. With the first shot that killed the first kneeling man, my body jerked with shock, then froze with horror as I watched till the end of the clip when all were shot, one after the other. Worse still, the second shooting of whoever did not die instantly was the epitome of cruelty that left me reeling.

With the repetition of such acts, I stopped watching. The clips were the same, but with different victims and the callous handling of the bodies were the only difference. Then ISIL took this horror to a new height. I watched half a clip where a handful of men were beheaded, by a rather dull knife that needed a great deal of effort to actually finish the job of separating the head from the torso. When a voice of one of the murderers came on jokingly asking if there were any butchers around to help, I had to stop the clip.

I don’t know how long it will take and to what depths will man sink where cruelty and torture are concerned. But I have been exposed to many a cruel and violent act over the past three years that I find I am starting to take certain aspects of it in stride. I no longer flinch or feel sick when I see a clip of people being shot. Though I know this is real and did actually happen to human beings right in front of my eyes, yet somehow my brain has switched off and now filters it through only as cinematic images. A kind of self defence and an attempt at surviving such atrocities without being scarred for life by horror. Or have I really reached the point of being desensitized to all that horror? It no longer affects me, because ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. There goes another group killed. There go two more people being beheaded. There you see fifteen bodies tied to a fence, each with its head at its feet or on a stake in the fence right next to it.

Emotionally I think the trauma has been too much for me to accept without a coping mechanism. Intellectually I have come to the conclusion that man is the worst, cruelest and most vicious of living creatures, and now value the beauty and love of my dogs and cats far above that of humans.

30 Sept 2014