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The Apotheosis of Assassins

There’s no greater act of liberation than dying a death so grand to free one’s native land. So the song lilts. Kind of. But once you grab your AK – or maybe a Mac-10, depending on the colours of your hatred – and headed out towards the ‘target’ (we’re too polite and well disciplined to call them prey, let alone human!), then, well then you transition from wee whatever to a nameless hero – faceless, apart when you can’t help yourself smirking or kicking the target’s wife when your blood becomes fire and you’re drunk from the rapid return of the bolt and rapid smash of the rounds into flesh and bone. Only gods stalk their prey the way you do. Only gods can grind their plots into fine arrays of wires, metal and an ambrosia of explosives. They command the air about their prey, they can make it ripple through flesh in a blast pressure wave, or cause it’s sudden expansion to rip and rend limbs and faces. These gods create a lake of blood in which to drown their enemy’s will. Only blood can set you free – the blood of those who do not support the struggle of the gods, for if they do not support them then the gods have judged them enemies complicit in their silence and deserving of death.

‘Freedom’ – or whatever unreachable utopia represents it – becomes an imagined Heaven in the minds of the gods and those who worship them. ‘Freedom’ cannot stand against the rewards of blood-letting: riches, power, and adoration.

Freedom becomes carnage. As much carnage as possible. Let the red wreckage society kneel before the gods in abject devotion and thankfulness.

The ‘armed struggle’, draped in whatever colours or name, is in itself a declaration. The gods are declaring that they exist; they have purpose, strength, vigour and, having set themselves forever as lowly prisoners of their prey. The gods create a sense of belonging for themselves and their worshippers. They nourish their ’cause’ with the blood of their prey. The ’cause’ is no more than a raison d’etre. They have ennobled murder by idealizing it in the context of ‘the cause’ – freedom becomes less important than killing. These ’causes’ eventually dissolve into some form of autonomy, but the ‘idealized cause’ can never be realised and so the call for blood-letting and carnage will continue.

And when we return to those gods mentioned at the beginning we find that they have died noble deaths with their AK or Mac-10 still in their hands (even those who die by their own devices may know godlikeness). Such martyrs will become supreme gods for ‘the cause’. They are forever beyond the judgement of their prey, those vermin whose blood serves to fatten ‘the cause’. Such martyrs have become greater than flesh, they have become immortal and their deeds turn to a sweet nectar upon the lips of their worshippers. The faces of the martyrs must be carried with honour and with pride about the land. Their blood-letting must be lifted in song as hymns heard in Heaven. Martyrs invigorate ‘the cause’ through noble self-sacrifice against an insurmountable foe. Martyrs flay their own skin and hang it upon ‘the cause’ to give it being.

And so there is a need for these martyrs, these blood-martyrs, to be ever paraded and adored. They shout a greater victimhood than their scurrying prey. They possess a greater righteousness than their prey. They have laid down their very lives for ‘the cause’ and by doing so have become divine, and shall ever know glory for they do not stand in the prisons of their prey. Blood-martyrs are forever beyond reproach for they stand in Heaven while their prey staggers from grave to grave knowing only its own sinfulness and ruin. Blood-martyrs cannot be forgotten because they justify ‘the cause’, they validate the murders of the past, those of the present, and those yet to come. Blood-martyrs offer total absolution for those who seek to follow them.

Raise their banners high. Raise your voices in adoration. Rejoice in the sounding of their names. Be proud of the blood spilled and destruction caused by them and in their name. They are deemed worthy and mighty. Their light shows the way to ‘freedom’. They turn blood to gold, to power, to adoration. For these things they are worshipped. For these things are ‘the cause’.

Published by Writer of fiction about Irish terrorism and the lives it damages.

This trilogy of novels will be set during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ I always wanted to read. Having changed an aspect of ancient history (Constantine chose Mithras over Christ in 312 CE) this ‘butterfly effect’ freed me of the fetters of recent history and able to craft a counter-factual novel. A tale of working-class lives caught up in the deadly maelstrom of sectarian violence. While the focus is on characterisation, ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ explores internecine violence, as well as the beliefs and fears which drive ordinary people to murder. Young lives seduced into joining paramilitary organisations and committing terrible acts of violence. Elements such as protection rackets, and the shadow of political and religious leverage also loom within the story. While the primary religion, and some names, is different, the hatred and violence remains very real and familiar. To date, most novels on the ‘Troubles’ have been post-conflict. My novel is set during the mid 1970s and fixes its gaze firmly upon the cramped terraces from where paramilitarism entraps young people, and, subtly, oppresses communities. I recently retired after over thirty years service in the RUC and PSNI. I was exposed to a number of terrorist incidents in which colleagues and members of the public, sadly, lost their lives. My novel began as a part of therapy to manage my diagnosis of Complex PTSD. While ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ focuses on one side of the community, a second novel will explore the opposing community. A final novel will be written from a policing perspective. I have also written a number of poems centering on the pain and grief which continues to ripple from the ‘Troubles’. During my service I have striven to understand the ideologies of both Irish and Northern Irish paramilitaries: how they justify murder and extortion. To do this I have spoken to many paramilitaries - on both sides of the conflict. I hope my novel sheds a little light upon the dark heart of religious violence; not only in terms of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, but also on a global context.

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