Saturday, July 09, 2005

Life and Death

How can I post about my own happy problems when everyone else is writing about what happened in London? Then again, how can I write about what happened in London? With all the talking heads on the news going 24/7, telling us to be afraid, very afraid... I want no part of that.

Here are a couple of posts by people who are not trying to scare you: Theresa Nielsen Hayden (who is from New York, and knows whereof she speaks) and Andy Nelson (who links to another site, in a much more positive spirit).

As for my happy problems: we have arranged everything there is to arrange. I've hugged a lot of family members, and Ken's learned a lot of names. All that remains is to get everyone (all six guests, and our two attendents) to to the site, and say the magic words.


Simon W said...

I shouldn't worry about offending anybody over here... I'm quite proud of the fact that there isn't any headless chicken reaction... a certain sigh of "not again" (London is used to being blown up bit by bit, although there has been a lull for the last decade or so), but that's about it as far as I've noticed. The country is largely getting on with life.

Maybe this has something to do with the British attitude to things, or maybe it's just because London got off quite lightly; as others have pointed out, this did cause less disruption than the average train drivers' strike, and mercifully the number dead is still around 50, last time I heard. Callous though it sounds, this is less than the body count from any accidental plane crash or suchlike, and when compared to things like road accidents (or, obviously, the WTC attack) this is pretty insignificant.

I should add the caveat that I don't actually live in London at present and haven't been there in the last couple of days, so I'm going mostly on news services.

So far as I've noticed nobody over here has told anybody to be "very, very afraid" (well, no more than they have been telling us for the last few years). Once the immediacy has died down enough that people won't be accused of "making policical capital of out a national tradegy", or some such, it will probably lead to more calls for national id cards without any clear explanation as to exactly how these will help avoid suicide attacks (of which this may or not have been one). But so far, in the British media, nobody is over-reacting. Which is nice.

Anyway, people in the UK seem to be getting on with their lives, so I suggest that you continue to write about yours, for the benefit of those of us who can't actually be there to say CONGRATULATIONS. So I'm saying now in advance, on the basis that I'll forget...

Anonymous said...

Yeah. London's not collectively scared. Neither was New York, though in both cases, individuals caught in the actual events were specifically, temporarily, and understandably scared.

We deal with the real thing. This is the big city.

What's happening now is that the Evil Powers That Be are telling people who don't live in London (as they told people who don't live in New York) that what just happened was SCARY! TERRIFYING!! And IT COULD HAPPEN TO THEM!!!

And their audience is buying it, because deep down those guys are collectively a bunch of wusses. That's why they live out in the burbs: they're terrified by "dangers" that little Latina grandmothers and pasty-faced underweight clerk-typists face every day.

But the wusses vote. That's why so many post-9/11 "security measures" have consisted of putting on a show for the stampeding rabbits, rather than strengthening actual security measures.

Congratulations, London. Your griefs are being used to manipulate the stupider American voters. Sucks, right? They did the same damned thing to us.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Eric said...

I think Teresa pretty much hits the nail on the head. There is a sense in which any big city is scary, be it London, New York or Chicago. For those of us who pass through that fear and come to love a big city we have a very large and scary friend that looks at a few bombs with utter contempt.

It looks like nobody close to me was involved directly, though several had lucky escapes, but due to the locations I almost certainly know some people who were at least close to the explosions. On the other hand people die every day in this city through illness, drug use and accidents and I've lost people to all three. Since I've been living here we've had three serious fires on the street in which two people have died. In the overall scheme of London life nothing has really changed.

That isn't to minimise the suffering of those who have lost somebody to these events. It's just that in a city this sie there is always suffering and always joy. I think we city dwellers tend to become used to the idea that which we feel at any given time is pretty much the luck of the draw and that both are fleeting.

I would guess I speak for most Londoners in saying we are grateful for the concern that everyone is showing, but please could everyone get on with their lives. We can cope. Which, perhaps, should be this city's motto.

One thing I have noticed in the last few days. People are making eye contact as they walk past each other. At least in this particular melting pot. It seems to be a time to recognise each other in all our glorious diversity as Londoners

Andrew Gray said...

I'm still trying to get over the fact I accidentally persuaded my mother to go work in London that day. (She went through Aldgate about, oh, fifteen minutes prior. Ooops.)

But, hmm. Fifty dead. It oculd have been worse - thirty died in the KX fire alone, in '87. As for fear, well, the BNP wants us to know that we should vote for them, because al Quaeda would like us better if we voted for racist politicians... or something. And American thinktanks are insistent that Britain had been too squeamish about respecting Muslims' rights and that British Muslims pose "one of the greatest terrorist threats to the United States". (And the Sun is its usual self Our safety must not play second fiddle to their supposed "rights".)

It's a far, far cry from being September 11, or even another Madrid. But there's a lot of people who would dearly like us to think it was.

On a brighter note, best of luck next week; hope everything goes as planned.

Mary said...

I'm sorry I couldn't respond earlier. Andrew and Eric and Simon -- I'm so glad to hear no one you know was among the injured or dead. I need to check in with AFP...

I have not been following the coverage carefully. I've mostly caught snatches on the TVs suspended overhead in airports, or left on in various (crowded!) hotel rooms. Worse, I've been avoiding watching even then. I don't know why exactly. I feel guilty about it, as if I'm neglecting a duty.

But the way it's being covered, especially at first when there were no other stories, makes me feel sick. I get the feeling that the Fox News people are just loving this. I dunno if it's just because I'm partisan and biased, but to me, they seem almost triumphant, like this is a victory for them. They seem to think it proves they were right all along.

I know it's like blaming the weatherman for the weather, but in my head these triumphant news men are mixed up now with the people who really do celebrate these deaths. I know I shouldn't want to shoot the messengers, but do they have to seem to enjoy telling us this kind of news?