This is my city, New Delhi in India. It’s had a rough week. Well, in truth, it had a rough day, but the kind that informs a whole week. On Wednesday, at 10:14 in the morning, a bomb went off at gate number five at the high court in Delhi. That’s about a ten minute drive from where I’m sitting right now. It was the busiest day of the week for the court, as Wednesday is when most ‘public interest’ litigations take place, and the building is attended by upwards of 5000 people on average. The high intensity bomb, left in a suitcase, went off moments before the court began work, and was presumably timed that way to inflict the maximum casualties on those queuing to get in. The reception area, and several of the people in it, were literally torn to shreds. Eleven people died. Seventy-six were injured. The subsequent manhunt has been enormous, and police have been conducting mock exercises around the city, leaving unattended items to see how alert the public is to their presence (ten out of eleven were spotted and reported to nearby police). It’s fair to say that Delhi, and other major cities across India, are on high alert.
Later that day (actually, about 23:30 at night), a large earthquake shook the city. At the time, it was reported as about 6.6 on the Richter, and from where I was sitting I wasn’t about to argue. A day later, it was revised downwards to a 4.2. I logged on to Twitter after it rocked the place, and I’m reasonably sure that the high levels of panic and prayers I saw from across the city (streaming so fast it was hard to make anything out) were more to do with releasing the tension that the terrorist attack had built up than the actual quake.
The thing that troubles me most about the terror attack is how little response there was in the West. Governments stepped up to declare solidarity, of course, but for most ordinary people it seemed to pass them by. There were other things going on, of course, such as floods and fires in the USA, but I was still disappointed, especially in the week leading up to today, the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers in America. I’d hate to think that it slid off the Western radar just because India isn’t the West, though I have my suspicions. That would be rather shameful. Yet if I want to deny that, how else to explain it? The lives of ordinary people with no link to the ‘motives’ for the bombing were torn apart in a second, just like we saw in New York, Madrid, London, Lockerbie, and so many more. Real people, like those in the picture above. Why has that failed to register? Why is 9/7 (I’d prefer 7/9, but will stick with the protocol for now) not the same as 9/11 or 7/7?
Is it body count? Did insufficient people die for it to really matter? Are terrorist attacks really some sort of competition of suffering, with a minimum threshold to be achieved before they can be declared meaningful? I hope not. Apart from anything else, it misunderstands the art of terror. Body count doesn’t matter. As I can see from the city around me, terror is spread by making clear that there is an intent to slaughter, and that the practitioners don’t care if you’re the one they destroy. What has already happened matters far less than what might next. That’s how it works.
While I’ve spared more than a thought today for the victims of 9/11 (was it really ten years ago?), I hope you’ll forgive me if I pay far more heed to the victims of 9/7, the survivors of which are right now trying to work out what happened to their lives, why, and what future might exist for them. Although they’re not from a Western country, they’re trying to deal with the effects of shock and terror. I hope you’ll join me in sending them all the hope you can.
In other, far more trivial news, you can now grab Cuckoo from Amazon.com. It is, thanks to some professional design work from snowangels.org, a smart and sexy little thing, and I hope some of you might check it out.