Friday, July 14, 2006

Weekly Belateds -- Mumbai and the Carnival 

My biggest belated of the week is not yet having expressed my sympathy and support to the people of Mumbai, and to all Indians generally, in the wake of the train bombing attacks several days ago.

The rapid pace with which other events elbowed their way into the never-ending competition for headline attention, and my lack of familiarity with the particulars of the situation in Mumbai are insufficient excuses for not having said something sooner. Especially since those particulars -- the specific grievances of the attackers, speculation as to why they did it and what the price will be to get them to stop -- are dwarfed by the global importance of what this latest attack should be telling all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike.

While what happened in Mumbai this week -- as well as here in Israel, and in so many other spots in the world over the last few years too -- can be viewed in isolation, treated as local incidents of strife over particular pieces of land or unique grievances, it's becoming clear we would be short-sighted to leave it at that. When Iranian and Syrian fingerprints can be found on the violence-by-proxy in Gaza and Lebanon, when global Islamist organizations like Al-Qaeda export the means and the money and the motive to attack Western and non-Islamic interests worldwide, it just doesn't make sense anymore to pretend that one can just bribe the local bully and make it all go away. It's not enough just to duck a punch in a playground fight if one fails to recognize one is surrounded by others who want you taken down as well, and your friends with you.

There are times one needs to recognize one is not just in a little skirmish, but is instead at risk of being picked off by an organized group as it fights for control over the playground. At those times, it's not enough to duck a punch or give a bully your lunch. One needs to enlist allies and back each other up, even if it means being late for chess club.

In grown up terms, this is sometimes reluctantly called war. Am I bloodthirsty warmonger for saying something like this? Well, if you hold Neville Chamberlain as the great misunderstood, tragic hero of World War II, who tried his best to prevent the violence, then I guess you might indeed call me bloodthirsty for suggesting there is a war going on here.

If you were given a time machine and could go back to the 1930s, before World War II, would you help rouse the world from its slumber before a global conflagration and millions of deaths were needed to fight back Nazism, or would you strike a blow for piece by volunteering to work on the re-elect Chamberlain campaign? Bear in mind, for those who would probe for hidden Islamophobia here, that an earlier active world response to the growing threat of Nazism would not have meant one supported "killing all the Germans" -- in fact, a "kill all the Germans" strategy only became necessary once the violence was allowed to fester into a full world war. So the answer seems obvious to me, but when I listen to a lot of what passes for wisdom in this modern world just a scant six or seven decades later, I'm not sure everyone would agree with me, and I find that scary.

Oy! Shabbat, a day of joy and rest, is coming and this is turning into such a party-pooper of a post. I'd better do something to send everyone off on a happier note.

So, one last "belated" I should also have said earlier: just in case there's even one reader left out there who hasn't yet checked out this week's Jewish Blog Carnival, Haveil Havalim, over at Me-Ander, now would be a good time.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: