the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

3 Nov 2010

In as seen by a liberal vegetarian english major in medschool with a subscription to the NYT on November 3, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Up in the air

“Coordinated Bombings, Aimed at Shiites and Sunnis alike, Strike Baghdad”

The Story: A mosque, a public square, a busy restaurant—sites chosen for their high human traffic—were bombed on Tuesday, leaving many Iraqis questioning their security and frustrated with the ineptitude of their government.

The Quote: “‘It was just storm and fire,’ said Ahmed Said, 22, who said he was stirring his tea and ordering flavored tobacco at a cafe when he was hurled into the air.”

The Implications: Coming shortly after a deadly hostage standoff at a Christian church in Iraq earlier this week, these bombings, while most likely not perpetrated by the same groups, are of the same punch-in-the-gut sickening quality. The important numbers—63 people killed, 285 wounded—invoke in Iraqis both outrage and desensitization. The image of a young man being catapulted through the air from his cafe seat perfectly captures the helplessness most of the nation feels: it’s a cruel fall in reverse—a resignation to one’s fate comes first, with the feeling of a lack of control emerging only after the carnage is complete and survivors ask themselves, “Why not me?” “Tension,” one Baghdad resident told the reporter, “is in the air.” Uncertainty is accepted as an essential element of Iraqi life—like soil, like water, if these elements were themselves stable in Baghdad. (They’re not.)

“Police in Russia Raid Bank of Billionaire”

The Story: An opposition newspaper owner was surprised in his office by an elite Moscow police unit seeking documents related to an ongoing criminal case.

The Quote: A bystander to the raid: “The first primal feeling is simply fear. All of a sudden 20 armed, aggressive men are rushing into your premises and they treat you like a criminal—not a potential one, but a real one. There is a clear certainty that in any case they’ll find something. In any case, you will be a criminal.”

The Implications: Certainty is a sort-of self-willed and false belief that chance and randomness can be stripped away from reality. It can be just as soul-destroying as uncertainty. And censorship seems to be a chronic symptom of this self-delusion. This entire story reads like Kafka’s “The Trial”—a morality tale, like this article, that proves that there is a certain chaos in a society that strives to control everything. It’s an internal chaos, but it’s just as self-defeating.

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