Friday, July 14, 2006

About the Mumbai Bombings

Ennis wrote a very interesting post the other day, wondering at the relative quietude in Western blogs about the Mumbai Train Massacre.

Ishbadiddle did write a moving post about it, tying it into his experience of 9/11, and into his fears for the future his children will inherit.

Ennis' question has a three primary answers, each of which I think contribute to the relative silence of that group of habitually-unsilent people known as political bloggers. Because I've been in corporate America too long, I'll make a list:

Massive ignorance about all things sub-Continental.

There is a huge ex-patriot Indian population in the West, but I don't think that most of us not from the region have a clue about how things work in India or Pakistan. (This is in stark contrast to the West's experience of the various East Asian cultures. Yes, I know that the West's "understanding" of these cultures is largely illusory, but it's an illusion that allows us to feel emotionally connected with the region. I think this lack of connection is also what allows the West to blithely ignore the regularly scheduled atrocities happening in Africa.) A huge component of blogging is the pleasure for the writer of demonstrating supreme cleverness, and anything about India is just too complex to allow most writers to fake it comfortably. So Indian issues (no matter how important they may be, and Ennis does a good job describing why they're important) get very short shrift.

Been there, done that, smelled the burning wreckage.

So, after 9/11, we've seen Bali, Madrid, Beslan, and London. (Ish and I and lots o' others did, in fact, get to live with the stench from the ruins of the WTC for weeks afterwards. For everyone else, the headline is more metaphorical.) Saddly, the threshold for outrage may just be higher now than it used to be. This has disturbing implications that I'll come back to.

Is this good or bad for Bush?

A lot of the most popular weblogs obsess on United States politics. A lot of those can't seem to look at anything beyond whether it hurts or helps Bush in the polls. (I just loved all the screams that Bush should DO SOMETHING following the Christmas Tsunami. Never mind the U.S. Navy was steaming to the region within hours to provide logistical support to the countries hit. I guess Bush should have put on his cape, flown into orbit, circled the earth at supraluminal speeds to turn back time, then used his laser vision to seal the fault that ruptured causing the original earthquake. Geez.) Anyway, through the lens of domestic U.S. politics, the Mumbai Bombings are pretty much invisible. If anything, the bombings suggest that a "policing" policy toward global terrorism isn't likely to be effective, which presumably supports Administration doctrine. Hence some of the commenters' observations that Conservative blogs tended to write more about the bombings than Progressives did.

Of course, this illustrates the stupidity of Personality Politics. If India and Pakistan get into a real war, chances are it will be the second nuclear one, and we're all going to be dealing with the literal fallout from it. But unfortunately, the chatterers are too wrapped up in keeping score of the political game to see the dangers lurking out there way beyond the beltway.

Implications? We don't need no stinking implications!

Well, yes we do. I don't know what the most effective way to counter Terrorism might be, but I do know the best way to anti-counter it.

Complacency will in the end kill us, if anything does.

A wise man once wrote that no man is an island, and three centuries later he would be shocked at how much more true that has become. Bombs in Mumbai are an attack on Indianapolis, on Amsterdam, on Bangkok, on Dubai, and on everyone in every city and town and country who believes that a human being is more than an animal that can be slaughtered for some utopian greater good.

So be outraged. Be vigilant. Choose a course of action, a way of living, that stands in opposition to the culture of terror that has taken root in the world. Do not accept it, do not deny that it exists, do not surrender to it. (I believe ignoring it is not a valid option; terror demands attention, and while ignoring it might be textbook negative reinforcement, it is also incentive to more spectacular terror. Sadly and inevitably, spectacular is something that is getting easier and easier with time.)

And ensure your kids read John Donne when they're old enough; the man had it down.