Upon mature reflection

Friday, July 8th, 2005

Having plundered other people's thoughts on the bombings and posted them here, I thought I'd see if I could develop mine beyond my initial 'Blitz Spirit, you can't beat a Londoner with bombs' reaction.

And right now I'm thinking: “Is that it?”

Since September 11th all the doom-laden experts and the politicians have been telling us 'one day they'll come for us'. And the promise has been that the streets will run with blood and the city will burn and we will all rend our clothes and tear our hair in lamentation because the fury of the terrorist will be awful to behold.

Well, arseholes to that. Right now the only possible reaction is to laugh and ask al-Quaeda; “Is that your best shot?”

Because today was pathetic. Feeble. A damp squib.

Of course, it was a tragedy for three or four dozen families. But in world terrorism terms it wasn't a bang, it was a whimper.

When September 11th happened, we were a lot of things. We were appalled. We were disgusted. We were gutted for America. And we were – reluctantly – impressed. We thought we knew terrorism, from the IRA. But in a stroke, September 11th made the Provos look like amateurs. Using passenger aircraft as weapons to wipe out world-famous landmarks was such a leap of imagination that it reset the bar for terrorism.

As soon as Tony Blair decided to drag us into the Iraq war, we knew we'd get hit eventually. We put the thought to the back of our heads and sneered at the politicians and journalists as they flapped and scaremongered, because you'd go nuts if you dwelled on it every day, but we knew one day London would be a target.

And that was scary, because with the bar so high after September 11th, what form would the attack take? How many would die? Which of London's landmarks would no longer be there when the dust settled?

But now it's happened. A co-ordinated set of attacks across the city at peak rush hour. And hey – it wasn't so bad. The bar got lowered again, the creative imagination of evil had packed up and gone home. Everyone from Irish Republicans to homophobic, racist nailbombers, to Austrian-born dictators, have hit the city with explosives, and most of 'em hit it harder than this lot of sad cases. We're kind of used to it. It doesn't impress us, scare us, or particularly bother us.

Sure, the politicians will pontificate – as soon as he thinks he can get away with it, Tony Blair will try to use the attack to advance his anti-civil liberties agenda, but he may find it backfires as it's obvious that ID cards wouldn't have stopped this. And the media will churn out their breathless prose and wave their arms excitedly, because they've known since September 11th how they were going to report this, and never mind how bad the incident actually is. And as a former politician and ex-journalist, I understand why they're doing what they're doing. And I also understand how ordinary Londoners won't be taking a lot of notice of them.

This is our city, and we won't be told how to live in it. Not by fanatical zealots who think we should be suffering for our leaders' sins, not by hawkish neo-Conservatives who think we should be thirsting for bloody revenge, not by sentiment-fuelled journalists who think we should treat this like the second death of Diana, and not by agenda-driven politicians who want us to see the world through the filter of their narrow-minded, prescriptive 'solutions'.

This is London. We do it our way.

And if you don't like it, come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.