Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Thoughts about the bombs and their aftermath

The past nine hours or so have been pretty hectic. Not for me personally, you understand, but for London in general. I'm a long way from the bombs, sat in front of a computer screen reading about them and writing my thoughts. Strange days indeed.

Based on media reports, the picture (as of the time of writing) is this:

- There were 4 explosions in London this morning during rush hour.
- 3 of those were on tube trains or in tube stations. One was on a bus.
- Between 33 and 45 people have been killed. Between 250 and 1,000 have been injured.

Having said that; right now I'm far more interested in the reactions of people than in any specifics about the bombs. Simply because we all know that the media reports in the immediate aftermath of these things are sketchy at best. It'll be at least a day before we can start to feel confident that any given piece of information won't be revised wildly almost as soon as it's broadcast.

So our immediate reaction to these things can sometimes be very telling. We are after all, in no small part, reacting to our own preconceptions. This also means, if we're feeling honest enough, that we can tell a little about ourselves by examining those reactions.

And around the web, on bulletin boards and blogs, those reactions have been there for all to see. I opened my own blog entry with a pretty crap joke. I make no apologies for that as it was an inoffensive bit of humour (although I received two private communications from people questioning my "tact" and one telling me I'm as bad as the bombers... why do people always email me directly rather than use the comments, by the way? Are the comments broken in certain browsers, I wonder); and I have witnessed savage online maulings on two separate bulletin boards for jokes which were only a little less innocent.

Some people react to these things with humour. Yes you can point out that it's misplaced (or at the very least mis-timed) but it's just the way certain people deal with shocking events. And you should note that in life-threatening situations - of which I've been in more than a couple - and immediately after suffering serious injuries I have tended to react with the same dry humour (so it's not "at someone else's expense", merely an involuntary reaction that - in my view - is my unconscious attempt to somehow neutralise violence). Polite reminders to be tactful are in order (and have been noted) but any anger is badly misdirected.

Anyways, if anything I just wish the joke had been funnier... John B over at Shot by both sides had a far better one.

Over at Conservative Commentary Peter reacts by posting a very large (and badly optimised) image of a Union Jack flag. This of course typifies another common reaction to this kind of outrage.

Personally I'm of the opinion that jingoism and knee-jerk nationalism are extremely unconstructive responses and will exacerbate things in the long run. However I don't for a moment blame or denounce anyone for having those reactions. They are just as instinctive for those people as dry humour is for me.

The hope is that after the smoke clears; when people begin to rationally take stock of these events; that we can put aside our gut reactions and work towards a world where they don't happen.

However, there are responses to tragedies like this which do deserve denuciation.
You Brits need to wise up. Of course this is the work of a few "extremist" muslims, and the majority are "peaceful" and will "condemn" the attacks, but that is all smoke and mirrors - DECEPTION.

They all send money and support, they will take over your country and make your dhimmitude formal.

Set an example and hang some Dune Coons from the tower gates!
Mike from New York
This kind of shit pisses me off. Yes, it's probably some 13-year-old boy with emotionally distant parents desperately seeking attention. But it nonetheless illustrates a certain kind of reaction to these events which is profoundly dangerous if it gets any traction.

Thankfully that's not something that seems to happen too much in Britain. I recall living in London during an IRA bombing campaign... my soft and sexy Irish accent only got me into trouble once (with a couple of pissed-up skinheads) and I never felt as though I was viewed with suspicion or hatred because of my nationality.

That said, there's already a degree of tension between the Islamic community and a certain element of White Britain and these bombs will make that worse if we're not careful (all assuming it's been carried out by Islamic terrorists of course... let's not forget that the last bombing campaign in London was carried out by a nutjob nail-bomber who hated gay men and immigrants).

Unlike we Irish who insidiously blend in with the native population, the Islamic community tends to stick out a bit more. I say "tends" as reminder that there are plenty of black and white moslems who don't look in the slightest bit "Arabic" and who blend-in just as insidiously as Irishmen like me. But because there is that ease of recognition (a combination of dress code, accent and skin colour) for perhaps a majority of moslems, suspicion of The Other can often be highlighted, manipulated and amplified as part of an unsavoury agenda.

This needs to be minimised at all costs. Those who already speak of the Islamic community with suspicion or distaste need to rein in their vitriol right now. And those who view international terrorism as merely an extension of US foreign policy need to do the same.

George Galloway's response has, naturally, been to jump the gun...
We argued, as did the security services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the Government ignoring such warnings.
Now, I'm not a fan of Galloway at the best of times (though I loved his testimony in the US) but this is a new low for the man. It smacks of a nasty kind of opportunism. In the days and weeks to come there will be many words written (some of which will be by me) trying to place these bombs into a wider geopolitical context. But it's just plain crap to start pointing fingers and claiming "I told you so!" before the dust of the explosions has even settled.

Meanwhile someone called Cliff May wonders: Won't it be interesting to see whether those gathered in Scotland to protest the G8 will -- or will not -- protest the terrorist bombings?

How exactly do you protest the terrorist bombings? I happen to know for a fact that a meeting was held at the Stirling RCC (one of the G8 protest camps) earlier today in order to thrash out a statement regarding the bombs. This was done as a response to initial radio reports reaching the camp which speculated about whether the London bombs were the work of Islamic terrorists or part of the G8 protests (seriously! that was the speculation at one point!)

However there's a lot of problems with a statement coming out of the RCC, and many of the activists have a serious problem with any press release claiming to represent the G8 protest. The almost 3,000 people gathered at Stirling are not part of a single organisation with a policy and a common philosophy. In fact, the only thing that unites the G8 protesters is the fact that they want to protest against the G8.

So (a) What would any statement from any of those protesters actually mean, beyond what one from any other random member of the public would mean? Does Cliff May find it interesting, for example, as to whether or not those gathered to watch England play Australia at cricket will protest the bombings? and (b) how could any statement issued possibly be representative of all of the individuals at Stirling? (with the police making it next to impossible for protesters to actually travel and meet-up, organising a thorough collective response beyond the confines of the RCC is physically impossible).

It makes as much sense as wondering what the collective response of dog-owners would be, and whether they plan to protest the terrorist bombings. The G8 protesters share a single unifying factor, but are otherwise a wildly diverse group of people. There are committed pacifists (a group of whom seek to disrupt the G8 summit by chanting "Omm" at certain times, for instance) and there are extremely angry nihilists (who, if asked, would probably insist that the bombs should not be condemned as they are the understandable response to US/UK policy). And in between there's the 98% who are horrified by what's happened and have spent the day trying to get in touch with loved-ones in London and feeling just as appalled and dislocated and freaked-out as everyone else.

Painting the G8 protesters as some kind of homogenous organisation with a structure, policies and mission-statements is simply a falsification of reality. It's a group of disparate people with disparate aims and a single uniting factor.

So go away hassle the dog-owners Mr. May.

In summary, and at the risk of repeating myself, this vile act must not be allowed to inspire other vile acts (I read two separate calls to burn down the Finsbury Park Mosque online today). Those of us who genuinely seek a peaceful world, free from political and religious violence, on whatever side of the fence we usually stand, must let it be known that we are united in our defiance of the people who use bombs to further their aims.

5 Comments:

Blogger Stoatie said...

If it's any consolation, I thought it was a pretty good joke.

8/7/05 11:28  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

Cheers stoatie! Though it appears you and me are in the minority on this one.

Still, it's a good minority to be part of I think.

8/7/05 12:51  
Blogger Miguel said...

I'm happy to be part of the same minority - my wife and I swapped some toe-curlingly tasteless jokes on Thursday, none of which I'm minded to reproduce here or in any other public forum as context (she'd finally got hold of me after several minutes' frantic phoning) and common reference points were all-important.

But I genuinely think that pitch-black humour is not only an entirely natural reaction to an extremely stressful situation, but arguably more sensible than many - certainly more sensible than frothing at the mouth with highly generalised hatred.

9/7/05 11:22  
Blogger L said...

I apparently share the characteristic of reacting with humor (usually twisted). Not sure why, but perhaps because my father was a third-generation funeral director....

9/7/05 23:12  
Anonymous Mochin said...

Some other twat found it funny:

http://remedial.blogdrive.com/

16/7/05 00:51  

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