A sombre night in Boston

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Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) tweeted the above picture today from the International Space Station. As he wrote – “A somber Spring night in Boston.”

Boston Marathon bombings

I think it demonstrates the sort of high-tech world we now live in – high connectivity, immediate information transfer and amazing technology. We have astronauts in near earth orbit tweeting condolences and images in  response to the bombings at the Boston Marathon. But the bombs themselves probably also relied on the technology of cell phones for their detonation, even though they may have been relatively primitive devices themselves. On the other hand, authorities quickly closed down cell phone communication – maybe preventing further detonations. And they are investigating records of cell tower transmissions – hopefully this will give them leads enabling rapid arrest of the perpetrators.

Technology – it’s a mixed bag. It can be used for evil as well as good.

Empathise with victims of terror everywhere

The other thought this atrocity evokes in me is that our technology and culture seems to restrict our empathy to the “first world.” The world we see everyday on our TVs. Inevitably we wear cultural blinkers.

What happened in Boston today happens regularly in a number of “third world” countries, and we hardly hear about those events. Meetings, markets, churches, mosques and other places humans gather together are regularly bombed in a number of “third world” countries. Just in the last few days dozens of people were murdered in Iraq in this way. Wedding parties are bombed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sometimes these people are “collateral damage” –  victims of invading or intervening countries committing acts of war. More often they are people purposely targeted in terrorist acts committed for religious, ethnic or ideological reasons.

Whatever – innocent people around the world are regularly killed in such hateful attacks – and we hardly notice. So, while I react with an understandable grief and anger at the shocking waste of life and widespread injuries in Boston today, these feelings are tinged with guilt.

I felt the same way when I reacted to the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001. Even today, when I hear or read the term “9/11″ I inevitably think of another “9/11″ – the bloody coup which overthrew democracy in Chile on September 11, 1973. A coup which lead to the torture and murder of thousands of Chileans.

No, I am not critiquing people for this inevitable cultural blindness. I just wish the great technology we now have would do more to make us realise we are all in this together. That it would more quickly break down the cultural barriers which cause this blindness.

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7 responses to “A sombre night in Boston

  1. Hear hear!!

  2. Here’s some graphic pictures from the bombing


    [Andy - I have removed your images - in the interests of readers. I couldn't open them last night but was extremely shocked when I clicked on them this morning.

    As you know I am against censorship and have only removed these images to protect readers. Such images are of value only to surgeons. Ken]

  3. Andy. What need do you think is served by putting links up to view graphic material of other peoples suffering? It is entirely gratuitous to present such images.

  4. Terrorism is graphic. What do you want, a sanitized, politically correct view?

    Oh I am so sorry, let’s airbrush out the bodies and the dismembered limbs, quaff our lattes and rustle our Guardians. prattle on about how smug, superior and intelligent we are.

    Remember the Bostonians who raised money for the IRA? Blowing people up is part of their culture

  5. Following the “logic” of your argument Andy, If this were a discussion on child abuse, scattering links to child pornography images would be fine by you. If not, is that only because you think that certain kinds of exploitation are ok? Gratuitous use of the images of other peoples suffering is exploitation. I don’t agree with news media doing it and the same applies to you.

  6. Andy, one would need to be particularly hardened to suffer those images. I was extremely and instantly shocked and immediately closed it down – I don’t need such violence porn to be informed about this act of terror or to understand the suffering. These images would only have been of use to a surgeon, or perhaps someone training for a war situation.

    Yes, on TV these images are being airbrushed for obvious reasons. It’s got nothing to to do with lattes, the Guardian, intelligence or smugness. If anything is relevant it is perhaps the mentality of the people passing those images around without proper warning.

    Perhaps you see it as a way of getting back at the people of Boston – how crude and childish.

  7. Interestingly. I remember that the governments involved in the Iraq invasion were not even keen on showing the coffins of dead soldiers. That’s heading more towards censorship in my opinion,

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