Tuesday, May 24, 2011


If you saw some footage on NDTV today of the air strikes in Libya, it was edited by me.

There were shots of the night sky somewhere in Libya lit up by what looked (and possibly sounded) like exploding suns. There were some shots of people being rushed into a hospital. There were shots of medical personnel walking about the hospital and treating patients.

What I wasn't allowed to show you was a shot of 3 dead bodies lying on stretchers in some quiet low-priority corner of the hospital. They were the dust-covered bodies of 3 Libyan men dressed in shirts and pants. Their heads lay slung over to one side, like deactivated robots. Their mouths were open, like dead fish. The faces themselves were unrecognisable because most of the facial features had been damaged. The eyes were either closed or had no eyelids at all. The bodies looked like ancient mummies. They were still, very still. Their skin had turned to various shades of yellow and grey. Dirt was in their tousled hair, like as if a sandstorm had raged through it. The dead men looked exactly like the corpses from the movie, 'The Ring'.

Long after the PG-friendly footage that I'd edited had aired without making a dent in anyone's existence, I returned to the original footage on my computer and paused at the shot of the 3 dead men, still lying motionless on those green stretchers. I wanted to see if they would breathe again, if a dangling arm would stir to my surprise. These men hardly looked like they had ever been anything but lifeless. Only a few hours ago they had had names and favourite foods and sleeping habits and desires and facial expressions and plans for the upcoming week. Now they were just APTN footage that no channel would ever air, that no audience would ever witness. Would they ever know that I was here, that I had seen them?

I believe that people really need to see what conflict looks like. They need to see beyond the hustle-and-bustle of its living version, they need to see the stupid stillness of what dies. No wonder the mere mention of war or conflict doesn't outrage us. We've dehumanised conflict. All we see on TV, all that we're shown in the media, are endless shots of living faces and night skies lit up by bombs and tankers rolling down streets that could be anywhere - just lazy passive pictures that lie about, that conceal something that's very wrong and very frightening. What's the point of showing you imagery about an issue when the real imagery is not shown to you in the first place? Have you any idea what you've been missing?


Christopher said...


I'm sure that the death you saw in the footage was horrible. I think everyone needs to understand that the bodies of fallen combatants don't just disappear like in video games.

Personally, I think the United States military has no legitimate business in Libya. But regardless of whether any armies invaded, Gaddafi is a man of bloodshed. Many of his own citizens lay dead in Libya's streets--just as dead as the men in the hospital.

It's a terrible and complex issue, but sometimes martial conflict isn't the most evil of outcomes. Oppression and poverty may take longer, but kill people just like war. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "Poverty is the worst form of violence."

Mythili sankara said...

Very Thought Provoking. Your writing does its bit to show what the videos wouldnt dare in many years to come.

Also, I appreciate not only your writing skills but the issues you choose to write about. You have one more regular follower now.