July 7th, 2005


Thoughts on 7/7

1. Is everyone I know okay?

2. Why do the fuckers always hit public transport?

3. Only two reported killed right now, which is no more than traffic accidents might have killed (the deaths of two pedestrians under cars would have gone pretty much unreported).

4. I suppose this will just click more locks on the manacles of the "security state". The tedious bag checks, citizens treated as potential criminals, the erosion of the civil justice system, queues and paranoia, the compulsory carrying of ID cards. We're all now guilty until proven innocent, and especially those of us who look like strangers, who look like people who think differently. Higher suspicion means higher anomie and higher stress. The delights of the high density city are displaced by the stresses and (still largely imagined) dangers of the high density city. The high density city is always poised delicately between heaven and hell; this tips things over to the hell side. And yet I still believe in the utopian potential of big cities.

5. London going to work is rational, but these attacks are rational too. The attacks are not "crazy" or "meaningless" or "deranged" or "the work of lunatics". One rationality is imposed on another. Two incompatible rationalities in one place. A sign that different rationales exist. But a bad day for difference and for pluralism, when the idea of difference is tainted with the idea of murderousness. Difference is not automatically murderous, just as unity is not automatically benign.

6. Of course it's Al Qaeda. It's not the IRA, it's not some lone hater (like the tube train driver who planted the Admiral Duncan and Brick Lane nail bombs because he hated immigrants and gays). The motive was clearly to send a message to the G8 meeting. Terrorism had slipped a bit on the agenda, replaced by climate change and African debt relief. 7/7 puts terrorism back on the agenda. It will give the Western leaders a pretext for more bold, nakedly aggressive acts which escalate the Middle Eastern situation. It makes an invasion of Iran, for instance, more likely. Bin Laden would love that. His agenda is served by goading the West into acts of aggression which polarize and radicalize "the Arab street". No more middle ground, no more tolerance, no more openness.

The precarious delights of the city tip over into some kind of Hieronymous Bosch hell scene, and suspicion attaches with tedious inevitability to otherness.