Another car bomb
in Cape Town
's city centre yesterday, in a busy street just at the beginning of rush hour
: seven people injured
, fortunately not seriously; no deaths
, this time. That makes the seventh bomb this year in a seemingly random
campaign that's targetted shopping centres
s, gay bars
, the airport
, police stations
: over the past two years, a total of three people dead and 122 injured.
Nobody really knows who's doing it, or why: there are no discernible patterns, no accompanying propaganda campaigns, no clear claims of responsibility. For a while the favourite rumour pinned it on a local vigilante group called Pagad, then it was a protection racket or the Third Force, now it seems to be Pagad again. The police are tight-lipped; the footage from the security cameras is being scanned, we wait. At some point an unspoken collective decision appears to have been made that we will not be terrorised: life goes on.
I heard about yesterday's bomb soon after it happened from a man I was about to interview, who'd just had a call from a friend who works in an office building overlooking the smoking remains of the stolen white Golf. We looked at each other, were silent for a moment, and then carried on with the interview. What else was there to do? At home later, we watched the coverage on the eight o'clock news, were silent for a moment, and then resumed our conversation about the feasibility of climbing the Hout Bay Corner route on Sunday. What else was there to do?
Is this courage or denial?
This morning, on local radio stations, the story has already slipped to second place behind the latest doings of the Abu Sayyaf rebels on Jolo Island (they've kidnapped an American now, so that story will run and run).
Sometimes I wonder how it is possible for us all to regard this with such equanimity: surely it should be unthinkable, surely there should be more outrage, more panic? But this is part of our lives now. I think the word is "normalisation": the adaptability of humans amazes me, the way we can learn to tolerate the intolerable simply because, short of emigration, there's really no other choice. With apartheid at least there was an identifiable enemy to fight, a sense that your own actions could make a difference, however small. But this is so faceless, so slippery, just a handful of assholes trying to hold the rest of us to ransom.
This country's been an insane place for a long time: in a way this is just another symptom. I think of entropy, disintegration, decay: things fall apart. I don't think we can fight that with guns or pickets or law enforcement. All we can do is try to build things up faster than other people can tear them down. Act local, I keep thinking to myself: knit a community group here, weave a network there, try to forge new links across the divides. Don't give up; hope. Some days it just takes a little more energy to be an optimist.