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Saturday, 13 March 2004


"Life stopped in the winter drizzle of Madrid yesterday. Offices, shops and cafes emptied, as funeral candles were lit in moving scenes of solidarity. Black bows of mourning appeared on shop windows, the cabs of commuter trains, and on lapels. People looking at the wreckage in Atocha burst into tears. As dusk fell, every street around the railway station was crammed with people standing in the rain. The silence was overpowering. [...] the Israeli mass circulation Yediot Ahronoth could not restrain itself: "Welcome to the real world", it declared unsubtly." ~ Editorial

"The outpouring of sympathy didn't wait for names: it was for somebody's son, somebody's daughter, somebody's wife or mother, husband or father. The very anonymity underlined the simplicity of this kind of human solidarity; it was enough that lives were lost. Whose lives they were will come later. It seemed so quintessentially Spanish; the country of the paseo, the promenade, has an instinctively social culture, and its faith in public solidarity has proved vibrant at the very point of most threat. Fear of more attacks could have forced the Spanish off the streets, could have scared them into their homes. Instead, with a remarkable defiance of the terrorists who deliberately targeted the crowded commuter trains, the crowds refused to be cowed.

"Cities have become our battlegrounds; where once they were places of safety to which countryfolk retreated in times of war, they are now where the war is conducted. After 3/11 every citizen of a western European city, of Paris, Rome, Berlin or London, nervously enters the packed tube, the busy commuter train or the high-rise office block. Fear could empty the city and cauterise the mass transit systems that are its lifeblood. One is haunted by an image of shut-down tube stations, of empty streets where weeds break up the Tarmac and everyone retreats home to their laptops, and we look back on the conviviality of the era before mass terrorism with nostalgic disbelief.

"What's at stake is a long history of the city, that exchange point for trade and ideas that has been the crux of all civilisations. The city orders how large numbers of human beings live in close proximity. In so doing, it civilises and turns strangers into citizens who belong to a civil society in which they treat each other with (more or less) civility. All these words have the same Latin root, civitas.

"What the demonstrations in Spain remind us is that civility - the measure of goodwill from one stranger to another - is ultimately what makes a city's spirit. It is the accumulation of tiny, daily interactions with bus conductors, fellow commuters, newspaper sellers and coffee-shop waitresses - the humour, the greetings, the gestures of help." ~ Comment

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Vanessa/Female/31-35. Lives in United Kingdom/London/East London/Bow, speaks English and German. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection. And likes Literature / Movies/Food / Eating / Drinking.
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This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:04 PM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 1 April 2004 7:37 AM GMT
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