Addis Ababa Bombings
May 14, 2006 6 Comments
If you have ever wanted to know what you think of terrorism, try and be in a city that has just had bombs go off in a public place. This is what happened in Addis Ababa (where I am staying for now) on Friday when at least six explosions went off and killed three Ethiopians while wounding a score.
This is the third city I have been in (the others being New York and London) where civilians have been targeted by groups pursuing some kind of political agenda. I cannot stand it. It is fashionable to point to the political oppression or marginalization endured by certain groups and to conclude as understandable or even supportable those among them who choose in turn to terrorize other civilians. But being in a targeted city, not knowing whether the minibus you are riding in will explode or whether the car parked outside the cafe in which you are having coffee has a bomb in it is unbearable. I guess that is the whole point of the exercise, to make the state appear to have no control or for the state itself to wield such violence to justify its authoritarian controls. Either way, if you are a civilian it just means that you are a sitting dark, waiting for men in the shadows to make of your body and life what they will. It sounds such a discordant note to the control I have come to consider I have over my life – that there is someone somewhere who wants to make a point to someone else through my bloody remains. I think that the people in this city are very hardy. Perhaps they are made so by their history which is bloody and peopled with leaders who considered their lives expendable.
Terrorism’s great evil is in considering a stranger’s life expendable in a cause that is at most indirectly connected to that person. Whether you are bombing a ‘target’ from thousands of feet in the air knowing that you will kill a stranger or swinging a machete at them or blowing yourself up with him, the evil is in not knowing what you have brought to an end. What gross ego to consider that single life with its incalculable threads of obligation and love and hope to be irrelevant to the ideas and feelings swimming around inside you. This is why I dislike ideologues nowadays. At the logical extreme of their words lies death for strangers and privilege for themselves. I particularly dislike the ones who would mouth ideologies, especially radical ones, without having the good grace to accept that the road to their utopia is littered with broken bodies. Better those grim types who know exactly what they are willing to do to realize their plans rather than the soft self indulgence that would celebrate death at a distance while holding onto moral uprightness. I feel for those three people and their families and can only guess at the rage and despair that their deaths have caused. All for some arsehole to feel bigger and better.