Thursday, July 27, 2006

Are we safe?

Reading this AP piece prompted a thought about a peculiar phenomena in our nature. The piece describes an Israeli citizen in Kiryat Shmona, a border town on the war-torn frontier with Lebanon. Her business property has just been heavily damaged by a Katyusha rocket and is on fire but she insists on running into the property to retrieve some things at great risk to her life and limb. When she finally comes back out, she has an arm full of papers. Life must go on, you know. It's amazing sometimes, the things people do in order to preserve a semblance of order in their lives. In this case instead of preserving the most precious thing, her very life, and immediately run for shelter, she acts in this rather odd manner.
I kind of understand it, though. We all want to maintain the routine of our everyday existence. Any disruption to this status quo is a trauma to our sensibilities. During strife of any kind, war, earthquake, flood, where our life is so badly disrupted, we say and do things that we hope, in our minds, will reset or recapture the very same conditions that existed before. Change the channel because this reality is not pleasant any more.
I fear that we are all a little guilty of this type of introspective mind game. A kind of self-censoring which prevents us from fully appreciating what the future has in store for us. Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Lebanon, Al Qaeda, Hizbollah, etc. When the news media consistently reports bad news day after day which logically should lead us to some very unpleasant conclusions for the future, we simply ignore it. No disruptions are allowed in our routines. The news is unpleasant so just change the channel. Everything is OK and we are safe and secure again. Gotta get some sleep.. need to get up early and get to work.


Boo said...

I see what you're saying roman, but what's the alternative?

Do I not change the channel, stop going to work, and run around yelling "the sky is falling"?

We think, we talk, we get educated... and unless you're WAY more influential than everyone ever expected - that's it. Cause there's nothing else to do.

roman said...


Thanks for stopping by my blog.
Yes, for average everyday people like most of us, I guess there is'nt much we can do but just keep reminding friends and associates that we should be vigilant in the way we interpret the news.
I guess my beef is really with the policians who run our country. During war of any kind, the leaders of a country usually ask citizens to make certain sacrifices in order to help the war effort. An extra 2% tax to go toward the war effort to buy the latest protective gear for our troops and armor plating for their humvees. Bush is telling us to go "shopping"!?!
So even he is sending a somewhat confused message. No wonder most of my friends and relatives look at me in amazement when I mention the dangers we face in the near future.
But, you're right, we still need to "live our lives" and go on, so to speak.
I like your even handed approach to writing and will link your site.

Pete's Blog said...


You've written an interesting thinkpiece, standing back from the unremitting disaster that is the Middle East.

As boo say's "what's the alternative?"

Lebanon is in our faces on TV, no letup.

My anxiety is also self-inflicted because I'm constantly writing about it.

Only our detachment from these internationaal crisis keeps us, more or less, calm.

I think detachment is achieved by:
- distance
- repitition, hence (3 years of Iraq) does not have the impact of the rocketing of Haifa.
- unfortunately national, racial and religious sameness seems to be the biggest factors governing detachment (eg. for me Australians being killed in Lebanon or Iraq). Those factors are undesirable and inhuman feelings but unfortunately I think they are normal.

An illustration is: what is more traumatic to us 15,000 people killed in an earthquake in Pakistan (virtually no press) or the rocketing of Haifa (lots of press, Caucasians being killed)?.


Boo said...

Thanks roman, and I agree that the politicians are frustrating. It's all about power right?

And Pete's got a good point about the media - there've been things I've gone looking for because I heard about it, say, at work - and I have to search really hard to find a mention.

We really saw the world come together after the tsuami took so many lives - now its just the opposite as humanity takes lives all on its own.

San Nakji said...

I can't really say much about this Roman, I am impressed as Spooky says by your 'standing back' approach. It is difficult when you are far away from all the violence...

Renegade Eye said...

I wonder about individual vs group tragedy. If your whole village is bombed, is it better psychologically than only your hut is bombed?

Some not only change the channel, they never heard of Lebanon.

roman said...


You said: "15,000 people killed in an earthquake in Pakistan (virtually no press)"

This is an excellent example of how our feelings are manipulated by the press. Like you said, "virtually no press" and so we tend to focus our sympathies and concerns with the few hundred killed in the daily Hezbollah/Israel conflict. How powerful the media is to control our attention and resulting feelings in this way.
On a human scale of immense tragedies, the thousands of Pakistani earthquake victims dwarfs the victims of the ME conflict but yet we are blind to it and give it very little thought if any.

roman said...


You said: "It's all about power right?"

Absolutely. It's gotten so bad that I cannot use the words integrity and politician in the same sentence without conveying the idea that one has nothing to do with the other.

roman said...

san nakji,

Spooky Pete is right, the further away the conflict, the less we tend to attach any kind of importance to the event. We need to have some kind of personal connection to a far away place to have it affect us in a more than casual way.

roman said...


Good question: "If your whole village is bombed, is it better psychologically than only your hut is bombed?"

I guess it would be some small level of comfort to know that one is not the only victim of a confligration. Shared misfortune is always easier to absorb psychologically. Although, logically, the practical impact on the victim is the same either way.

Dr Kuha said...

Aside from the hours I could waste villifying the media, I do find that behavior on the part of the woman to be very strange. I'm much more interested in that aspect of your post and your conclusions about it.

While you were thinking in much broader scope, what, in very specific terms must have been going on inside her head? Obviously nothing particularly coherent, but that's just the point.

Steppng back again, we see a very clear example of how bizarre and strange and dangerous the world can be, and how terribly a single life can be upset by the callous decisions of other people.

In a few days, those papers that she retrieved will cease to be important to her and will be cast aside as the real struggle for survival begins.

roman said...

dr kuha,

Unexpected events that cause people to be displaced from their normal routines bring out some interesting phenomena. I think people temporarily loose the ability to be rational. Take for example a person who slips and falls. An injury most likely occured but many victims will quickly regain their composure and if others are present, act as if nothing happened. How odd is that?
I once slipped on ice while clearing snow from the windshield of my car. I immediately sprang back up and acted as if it never happened. Later, after the adrenelin rush had dissipated, I started to actually feel the pain and started to appreciate the severity of the fall. Is our dignity more important than our actual physical well-being? What's that all about?

Pete's Blog said...


I've taken the liberty of "tagging" you on your favourite books.

You'll see how I was tagged by betmo at

I lifted betmo's 10 point list and put in my own book selections then posted them on my own blog.

A community togetherness opportunity.

Hope thats OK?


Nabeel said...

we take everything for granted .. the only people who are not safe (we go to war concerned about our safety) are the others (other than UK and US) ..

war is not a joking matter .. people here are too uneducated to understand war and the whole prupose (ture purpose - corrupt) behind it

I mean .. if you see someone fall on the street people feel bad .. over there .. your best friend falls on the street with blood gushing out from the head due to a bullet wound .. compare that mate !

roman said...


Perfectly OK. I will need a little time to think about the most "influential" books I've read.

roman said...


Good to hear from you. Hope all is well.

It is true, like you say, that we here in the states cannot even come close to understanding the horrors of war. It must be terrifying to have soldiers firing at combatants on the same street where one actually lives. To have family members exposed daily to mortal danger from bombs and "collateral damage".
This is why we need to defeat any forces that look to break down civilized law and order based societies like ours. The forces are not just terrorists but our own government leaders who use the pretense of security to strip away laws which protect our civil rights under the guise of protecting us.

Vman said...

I just wish we could be isolationists who don't come within a hundred of feet of an islamic country and not piss off muslims who want us dead for religious reasons. Of course, this isn't possible because the neo cons will not allow us to become energy independant and we have way too many paranoid war hawks. People don't like to be meddled with even if it's for their own good. We leave the middle east alone except for occasional arms shipments to israel, then Osama's not going to have stuff to fire up the suicide bombers. We need to leave these people alone.

roman said...


I know exactly how you feel. If only there was some alternative energy source to oil, we(the west) would be able to stay out of the Middle East altogether. If only cold fusion or something like it, actually worked it would make oil obsolete. We would be able to leave these countries alone and if they want to live like it was the 7'th century all over again, more power to them.
I wonder, though, if they would leave us alone?
Even if we withdrew, lock, stock and barrel, would that really satisfy the likes if Bin Laden and those Iranian imams and ayatohlas? Since they say that we (the west) are the Great Satan, would they not pursue the same course of terror tactics to undermine and eventually destroy our democratic institutions?

mhelal2 said...

Can any body answer this question for me? where was Israel from 100 years, I think if Israel left Middle East, that would the best for every body. I think USA should give Israel one state in USA and let Israel leave Middle East and then we will see if USA will like Israel or not.

roman said...


Thank you for visiting by blog. Your input is valuable and welcome.

You said: "I think USA should give Israel one state in USA and let Israel leave Middle East and then we will see if USA will like Israel or not."

The USA accepts people of all races, faiths and religions. This is true of most true democracies. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Budhists, Christians and non-believers live side by side here. Their children sit side by side in classrooms and are free to practice their religion after school. Their parents shop and work side by side with others in harmony. This is why people from everywhere emigrate to the west. We are sensitive to cultural and religious differences and willing to make allowances for this.
Sure, we can say to the Israelis, please take the state of New Jersey because this will stop the trouble. We would be happy to accept them as our own family like we do anybody. These people are as fervently religious as Muslims are for their religion. Who are we to judge which is more worthy? I agree that this would be very pragmatic in view of the constant state of siege and war that this area has been under since Israel's creation in 1947.
But is this just? Most likely, they would never accept. Why? Because this arrangement would be a defeat for the very norms of modern civilized man. It would mean that one religious movement is dictating who is worthy and who is not to live in harmony with their neighbors. This is a concept from the ancient and Middle Ages and should be religated to the history books. Anyone who believes in justice and peace would recognize this as a grave injustice and a form of persecution. This would be a surrender to the worst kind of deviant social behavior. It is called in the least a form of religious discrimination and in the worst, a slow form of genocide.

mhelal2 said...

Thank you for answering me, you said and I'm going to quote you " Because this arrangement would be a defeat for the very norms of modern civilized man". Ok where the civilized man when Israel occupied Palestine, or the civilized man works with double standard, or may be the civilized man changes his standard from time to time.

Other thing I was assuming that USA should give Israel one state or so, I meant USA will know why Arabs complaining about Israel.

I lived in Egypt for 25 years, and I have one uncle killed in the war fighting to free the Egyptian land, now I'm here in USA. Honestly the American people is not much different than the people in Middle East, they are good people and I have a lot of American friends here and I really appreciate the way they are, the whole problem is the American policy and how the media here blinds people. Let me give you an example, Fox news , they are not much different than Alqaida, both of them have their agenda and one opinion, and they right no matter what, I really feel disgusted , even more scared, they have no problem about civilians dying and they still justifying it.

Our problem in Middle East that we watching every day in the news children dying with cold blooded and no body condemned any action and further worse USA has the fast justification for it, women raped and killed in Iraq and USA says mistakes happened in war.

The cause of fear in this world is caused from the current American government( not the American people), the only thing I could blame the American people that, they have to be more educated and care for what is going on in the outside world, not about watching suspect in car chase on TV. If you watch the BBC, you will know the difference about the how the BBC cove the world news and how the American media cover the world news.

I’m sorry for writing that long, I hope you understand my frustration, being Muslim whether you are good or bad, I’m under a lot of pressure. I have to be good and nice to every body to erase the image that Usama Bin Laden draw about the Muslims for the world. I’m human being I should do mistakes, but here in USA being Muslim you have to be more than perfect, other wise people will point at you, that’s because he is Muslim.

Sorry again and I hope you come over my grammar mistakes and typos, I tried it so hard to make sense.

Thank you for welcoming me to your blog .

roman said...


Thank you for your comments. I have many Muslim friends and neighbors. They are good and decent people.
I know that we all have viewpoints that are shaped through our friends and associates. The challange is to always examine our feelings and test them. The test is simple. Treat others as you would want them to treat you.
It is true what you say. Anyone who constantly watches Fox news only gets half the news. We need to be careful and get both sides of every news report. Only then can we form a fair opinion.
I do sense your frustration from your writings. Bin Laden set in motion series of events which unfortunately casts suspicion on all Muslims. Non-Muslims must be careful not to confuse the good and decent Muslims from the very few terrorists who pretend to be Muslims.

mhelal2 said...

Thank you for, I'm really happy to know there is people exist thinking the same way you do, I hope one day we make difference in the world, makes it better for our childern in future. I really enjoy your blog.

Thank you