Perhaps This Is What Imagination Turns to When Art and Music and Literature and Science Are Banned. All That Is Left Is Death and Blood and Murder

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), December 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

Perhaps This Is What Imagination Turns to When Art and Music and Literature and Science Are Banned. All That Is Left Is Death and Blood and Murder


Byline: John Niven

Most cliches become cliches because they contain some kernel of absolute human truth.

"It's like losing a part of yourself," people say when one of your immediate family dies. Because it does feel like that.

However, the old cliche of something being "beyond imagining" is a lie.

Nothing is beyond imagining. With this in mind, I want you to come with me on a thought experiment this week.

I want you to try to imagine shooting a roomful of children with an automatic weapon.

You are firing a Kalashnikov – a machine gun that will fire dozens of bullets in just a few seconds, quickly emptying its magazine. You must then reload. The noise of the gun is deafening. Your ears are ringing from the concussion.

Even though your ears are ringing, you will still be able to hear the screams.

Do you have small children? You know the sound a six–year–old makes when they have encountered some extremity of pain that cannot be borne? When they bang their head on something or fall down hard? The incredible pitch they are capable of reaching?

Multiply this sound by many magnitudes. Then imagine an entire classroom of children doing it at the same time.

They will also be saying things like "please" and "stop" and "no". Many of them will be screaming for their mummies. (This is all getting very onerous, I know, but on we must go.)

It is important to think in sensory terms. Have you ever been on a firing range? The smoke and the smell of gunpowder from just a few shots in a big space are very strong.

Imagine the thick clouds, the acrid stench, created by thousands of rounds being fired in a confined space. (Because you have six friends with you – they are all firing all the time too.) Your nostrils are stinging. Your eyes are streaming.

Then there's the blood. Imagine the bloodiest thing you have ever seen – the worst cut, the worst nosebleed, the worst injury – and again multiply it by a factor of many hundreds.

Have you ever stepped in something like syrup wearing rubber–soled shoes? Imagine walking through all that blood in your combat boots. The sound and the sticking sensation it would create.

And blood has its own smell too – rich, sweet and coppery.

This is all mixing with the cordite and the smoke and the screams and

Around now have you reached the same point I did? You can perhaps imagine all of this for a few seconds at a stretch before the mind starts trying to absent itself. …

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