What is it like to be a gunman?

The philosopher Nagel famously asked what it might be like, to be a bat.  Similarly, we might wonder at the philosophical problem faced when we try to posit ourselves in the mind of a homicidal, psychopathic, two biscuits of batshit for breakfast type of guy, who goes on a beachside rampage with an automatic rifle.


 Let’s give it a go.


That morning, Rezgui awoke, and for a moment could not believe that the day had come at last.  He was afraid, but also happy, because when he next laid down it would be in the golden light of paradise, his flesh would be framed by the naked, silken touch of young women.  He felt his own stomach and imagined it the empty belly of her whom he would fill tonight.  His fingers snatched like claws into his skin and he clenched his teeth with the thought of it.


After washing, he faced the east and prayed.  It felt beautiful, as if life existed only for that moment.  He could feel the grace of god listening carefully to his incantations, as a father would his chosen son.


When he checked his weapon he became nervous.  The training had not prepared him for the fear.  His heart pounded and his breaths were quickened pants that he struggled to control.  It felt like someone had a hand around his throat and was gently squeezing.  His palms were slickened with sweat, they slipped as he hoisted the weapon and cranked the first bullet into the chamber.


He used a parasol to secrete the weapon, and as he folded the dark metal into the fabric he realised that at any point he might stop, he might take a different course from the one set, except that of course he could not, because the commitments made on video, in grimy black-flagged rooms, the promises made to humans, most of which he had never met nor seen, weighed more heavily on him than the grace of god.  The shame of reneging on his word was a greater force than the exultant straddles of all his awaiting virgin brides in heaven.


He had no choice, therefore, but to overcome his fear and proceed to the target area, or he would have to face something worse than the betrayal of god.  He was a human monster after all, a product of a selfish iGlobe and therefore could not afford to fail the conceited idea of himself.


The hand of fear remained at his throat all the way to the target site, it did not release its grip even as the target came into view and the parasol was discarded onto the sand.  Before him a lumbering object, bright red, overweight, aged and indignant about something.  Here was the infidel, Rezgui could now clearly see the oppressor, and he felt a surge in his heart as he pulled the trigger, felt the weapon bark and shudder, watched the staggering fall of his enemy.


Aim, shoot, find new target, aim shoot.  The tourists were not difficult quarry.  He did not realise that the hand had slipped from his throat.  The noise and the smells were intense.  To misquote Barker: the ridiculousness and excitement of battle, like sex.  This and other senses had removed higher thought.  He existed like an animal and had become an unthinking dynamic of training and sense perception.  A desperate pursuit here and there for targets before inevitably, he became one himself.


How can I begin to posit myself in the mind of a killer?  I feel I know what it would have been like to gun those people down, as most men my age would, for many of us have done it in Grand Theft Auto.  But there was no tasty string of virgins available at the end of my Playstation rampages, just a squalid and frustrating affair with a prostitute in the front of a beat up Sentinel.


How surprised our gunman will be, when instead of his many virgins and the kingdom and glory of god, he finds blank oblivion staring back at him for the rest of eternity.


The upshot of this latest massacre, is that Mr Cameron declared Islamic extremism to be the ‘struggle of our generation.’  Clearly maths is not his forte.  He would have been more accurate to say that Islamic extremism is the golden edged, heaven-dropped storyline of the last twenty years, for the relentless dystopia-merchant news hacks and editors, that endlessly promulgate this supposed threat, for no other reason than it is quite interesting, it is somewhat intriguing to hear about psychopaths and what they get up to.  If you are reading this, then you have proved the point. 


However, if we let the numbers be our pilot, and leave Dexter at home, there is very little threat to anything other than our imaginations.


Oh yeah?  I hear you cry.  Tell that to the victims’ families and survivors.


I imagine a coach crash with multiple infant fatalities would similarly not garner much agreement, from the surrounding families, that roads aren’t dangerous.  You only have to glance at the numbers to see where real threats lie, not perceived political ones.  Thirty-five Britons dead?  That’s about a coach-load.  Perhaps the Tunisian special forces should be deployed to stop people getting into their cars, or better yet, to keep news editors in their beds.  They could even burst in and shoot them in the head while they’re sleeping.  I think I did that in GTA once.


Still, at least the gunman has solved Nagel’s poser.  If hell exists, he is in it, hanging there with his blood in his ears like a bat.

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