Friday, 18 July 2014

On disaster

Terrible news this morning about the Malaysia Airlines plane, shot down over the Ukraine with the death of all 298 passengers and crew. It appears to be the work of Russian-backed, pro-Russia rebels and the world, as they say, is watching. There is much wild speculation and the conspiracy theorists are (as they also say) 'working overtime'. I have to say I'm sceptical about the Tweets emanating from the commander responsible for the rebels allegedly responsible for the act. I mean: teenagers aside, does anybody really twitter or tweet under such circumstances?

Well, yes, apparently. Within minutes the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, tweeted to inform the world that he was 'shocked and saddened' by the event, although it's pretty certain that some intern did it for him. I really don't want to think that that our PM - or any MP - has the leisure time for such a very trivial pursuit.

I expect in any case these days all politicians have a default setting on their smartphones that can immediately generate what has, alas, become a well-intended cliche applicable at times of disaster: "Our first thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families', a phrase that has assumed a ritual quality, something to be said before anything else can be said, or done. It (not unattractively) suggests that our response will be measured, reflective and  thoughtful - not impulsive, not vengeful.

It's not only the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War that makes one uneasy. Any political or military act is a potential Sarajevo moment - a malign catalyst. 

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