Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How do you distinguish terrorism from mayhem? The cynic's answer is: when it affects you. This affected me. I might be thousands of miles awy, but I might as well have been on Frederick Street. This isn't the same as the coup - in the coup, some people got caught in the crossfire, but for most people they could get out of the way. It isn't gang warfare with innocents caught in the crossfire. It isn't even the same as throwing a grenade into a police car. This is different - the targets were just people - the watch lady outside Maraj. It wasn't strangers - thiw was real. It doesn't matter who the people were - I didn't recognise the names, but it could just as well have been names I recognised. It wasn't foreigners. It was Trinis.

There's no one to focus your anger on. There is no al Qaeda, no Jamaat to hate... Without a single focus you feel like you could strike out an anyone. Not strike in a physical sense, of course, but strike nonetheless. It's hard to have such nebulous anger - how do you focus your anger if you don't even know whether this was an assault on society or a prank.

In the grand scale of things this was trivial. No deaths yet, two seriously injured who still have the challenge of surviving the medical system. Fourteen injured, so most reports are saying. But it's such a small place. It's equivalent to 5-600 seriously injured people if it were the US. It's a small place, it's not the type of place that things like this should happen. If someone had blown up a pipeline crossing the VM I would have been less surprised - hitting Trinidad to hurt the US has strategic value. Hitting innocent people in Trinidad, hitting random Trinidadians - well, it's terrorism, I suppose. It just didn't make sense to me before. Now it does. We need familiar concepts upon which to build knowledge. Frederick and Queen Street, Maraj Jewellers, the lady selling watches (or at least the display of watches) - these things are real, far more real than the stuff that surrounds me here, exiled in a foreign country...

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