Friday, July 08, 2005

Sometimes the World Sucks

Already I can hear my mother cringing (she hates the word sucks in the context of something being less than good.) But on to my main point. I've taken history, so it is clear to me that there have always been great dangers in living. Back in the day your uncle would kill you in your sleep if that meant that he could marry your mother and inherit all your land. Let's face it - until refrigerators (and still in many parts of the world) - just eating carries risk.
Where am I going with this? Well, my point is there are many who after an event such as the terrible bombings on the public transport in London, who like to suggest that the World has gotten worse. I don't agree. It doesn't mean that what happened in London yesterday morning isn't terrible - because it is. And it doesn't mean that certainly forty years ago people worried a bit less about being bombed on their way to work, because I imagine that they did. (Of course they were also doing bomb drills at school about then - so that may be a bit too optimistic of me).
But we are always telling people that life isn't fair. That tragedy strikes the nicest of people - illness, natural disaster and of course terrorism). I was attending university in Scotland at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing and I remember an article in one of the British papers bemoaning the loss of innocence for Americans. Because while Americans get the world news, so they know that terrorism was I hesitate to say a way of life for those in Israel and Palestine, and at the time in London and Northern Ireland. It was commonplace in 1993 in a European airport or train station to see posters and hear frequent announcements to report all unattended baggage. Many airports and train stations had removed the storage lockers. And the first World Trade Center bombing was the beginning of the end in that respect. Americans are now fully feeling the effects of that and the subsequent 2001 attacks.
It was interesting to hear British officials say - almost matter-of-factly- that this had been expected. That the reality is that mass transit systems by their very nature are open to all people and cannot be fully monitored from top to bottom the entire time. To hear the almost proverbial statement that terrorists only have to be lucky once. It remains to be seen what the reaction of the British people will be in the longer term and even in the near short term. But this acceptance seems in some way more helpful than the blame game that occurred here post - September 11th, that culminated in the 9/11 commission.
I'm certainly not saying that the commission wasn't useful - they gathered a lot of information that is hopefully being put into place to make our intelligence and emergency response systems more efficient. I'm not even suggesting that there wasn't room for improvement.
It's also wonderful to remember in the midst of this tragedy - as with the tsunami in Asia, the Madrid train bombings last year, and even September 11th and all the states affected by that - that to balance all the people who think killing commuters is a good way to send a message there were wonderful people. People who opened up there homes and businesses that were near blast sites in London to provide a space for triage. People who offered assistance to other passengers. People who acted as a phone point so relatives and friends who couldn't get through locally could confirm that everyone was alright. I never thought I would quote Queen Elizabeth (II and I) but she said it well, "Atrocities such as these simply reinforce our sense of community, our humanity, our trust in the rule of law. That is the clear message from us all."
So sometimes the World sucks. And sometimes the World is wonderful. And sometimes - cliched though it may be - it's both at the same time.