Thursday, June 9, 2016

What grabs our attention?

When I see the posts about the murders in Tel Aviv last night by Palestinian terrorists (were they Islamists? I don't know) there are at least two paths I can go down....

One is the fairly easily available path of joining in the great washing machine of reactivity which Facebook so effectively amplifies. The lifeshock of reading about the murders reawakens in me the predictable emotions of shock, fear, sadness, sorrow, anxiety, anger and helplessness - as it does in millions of others.

Yet another part of me recognises the futility of this endless cycle, and the arbitrariness of distinguishing one kind of death from another. That part notes that we focus our righteous indignation and sense of shared outrage and vulnerability on death which is delivered by enemies. We don't seem to have the same emotional reponse to death delivered by "our own". When a Palestinian terrorist rams his or her car into a group of people waiting at a bus stop, our attention is pulled towards this like some kind of super-powerful magnet.

But when an 88 year old or 10 year old child gets knocked over by an Israeli driver in a hit and run, it attracts nowhere near the same degree of emotional response.

Road accidents in Israel are arguably as pointless and insane and as arbitrary as a terrorist attack, and for the grieving families, other than their own subjective acts of meaning making, the loss is as absolute. From 2012 - 2015 some 80 000 people were lightly injured in motor vehicle accidents in Israel (MVAs). In the same period around 7 500 Israelis were killed in MVAs. (Source: This is MANY MORE injuries and fatalaties than those caused by Palestinian terrorists. Yet these arguably preventable deaths and injuries engender no sense of collective fear and hurt and outrage, or at least nothing like the fear and loathing which terror attacks engender. [Some might argue that the way Israelis drive is a product of the trauma and tension engendered by being surrounded by hostile entities and relentless terror attacks - thus linking the two - but this is as specious as those who say that Palestinian - Islamist terror is "caused" by the "occupation" ]

The malach hamavet - the angel of death - has many messengers. And nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.