Tuesday, July 19, 2005

After the silence

Some places have periods of silence all the time. I imagine that, say, Dulwich Village is pretty quiet in the middle of the night. Walworth Road is never quiet, so the two minutes of silence last Thursday for the victims of the London bombings felt quite eery - construction, shop and council workers standing on the streets, and the traffic gradually coming to a halt.

The day before, the London bombers' comrades in Iraq blew up 20+ children in a working class quarter of Baghdad. Hardly anybody mentions them, and nobody mentions the blood on the hands of some of those leading the silence. Never mind Iraq, who now remembers the civilians blown to bits by NATO in 1999 on a train at Grdenicka in the former yugoslavia?

As a humanist and internationalist, I don't value London lives any higher than anybody else's, but I recognize that there is a (self-centred) emotional charge to death on your doorstep. A city is daily traversed by millions of individual paths intersecting with each other. It is the fact that we can plot our own paths crossing those of the dead that reminds us of our vulnerability and enables us to idenitify intimately with the victims.

After reading acres of coverage of the London bombings, the detail that finally brought a tear to my eye was buried in a report of the life of Shahara Islam, killed on the no.30 bus. It wasn't the face of the pretty young muslim woman staring from every front page that got to me so much as the fact that she regularly stopped off at Patisserie Bliss at the Angel Islington on the way into work, just as I did every day for the three years I worked there.

Back to work after 120 seconds- bury them and be silent. The much vaunted stiff upper lip, business as usual attitude is wearing thin. It's one thing to say we're not going to let a few bombs stop us getting on with our lives, its another to order people to carry on as if nothing has happened. As Jon Eden at Uncarved experienced, most people weren't given the choice of not immediately returning to work.

After two minutes of silence, two minutes of critical argument with our friends, colleagues and neighbours would be a start. Why is the world in this state and what are the alternatives? Do we just have to accept living in a permanent state of global low intensity war? Discuss.

As Iain Sinclair wrote last week 'Random acts of terror are finite, the money wheel never stops turning'. Business as usual means more of the same. No thanks.


No comments: