Monday, September 15, 2008

Imagining violence

When I was in Lahore earlier this year, I heard a suicide bomb being detonated. I was not afraid. Last night there were approximately five terrorist bombings in Delhi. I did not hear them, but it left me far more disturbed. I think the reason why is because can vividly recollect where three and possibly four of the bombs were detonated. I have spent enough time in those areas to reconstruct the places that were attacked in my mind in good detail—the sights, sounds, and feel. I can easily imagine being a victim in the Delhi blasts, and I can imagine what the actual victims look like. In contrast, I had no idea about the site that was hit in Lahore. I cannot reconstruct the scene in my mind.

This reminds me of when I was a student in Carolyn Nordstrom's "Women and war" class at UC Berkeley in 1994. Carolyn taught that many civilian victims of modern war were tortured in environments familiar to them, using familiar objects. For instance someone might be tortured in their own home, using an ordinary household iron. The advantage for the perpetrator of the violence is that in comparison to violating someone in an unfamiliar environment, it will be better remembered. The power that violence has over people becomes magnified.

The people who chose the locations of last night's bombing probably had that in mind as they made their nefarious plans.

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