I don’t like August


I don’t like August. Dunno why, but I’ve never liked it. Perhaps in the past it was the sense that the school holidays are slipping inexorably away; certainly the weather’s never as good as you hope. Everyone’s away so there isn’t even the onslaught of work to buffer the greyish, what’s-the-point gloom. And the news isn’t helping. Jihadist beheads reporter; Hamas executes ‘informers’; Nigerian girls remain missing. Gawd.

Still, I read this piece by Michael White in the Guardian, about how pitifully silly and banal these boys are as they travel to the Middle East to fulfill whatever bubble-headed fantasy of manhood they’ve been fed. He makes the point that some of their YouTube missives are like the overexcited, puppyish letters of the young men going to fight in the trenches: ill-fitting solemnity about fighting for a noble cause knitted in with heartbreakingly boyish frets over footwear and food.

White’s piece struck what passes for a cheering note because he sketches IS in terms I can understand. The group, he suggests, is not some world-swallowing cloud of unfathomable evil; it’s cynical older men pushing scared boys with guns, most of whom are probably already heartily sickened by what they’ve seen and just want to come home. It’s not much to hold on to, but compared to the doomy sense of lights going out across the Middle East, it feels like hope.


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