by liberal japonicus
It is probably a measure of not only tragedy fatigue, but also the distance that Africa stands in my mind that the terror attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi didn't really loom very large. Most of my reading of world news is about Asia and my recent post about Kyrgyz has me trying to figure out all the names and places of Central Asia as well as dealing with the more mundane aspects of classes starting.
Milan Kundera, in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, has some insight into the pathology here when he talks about Nietzsche's idea of Eternal Return:
We need no more take note of it [a life that is bound by the notion of Eternal Return] than of a war between two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century, a war that altered nothing in the destiny of the world, even if a hundred thousand blacks perished in excruciating torment.
It's a common device in a lot of stories where the main character travels back to these pools of friends and acquiantances and finds that the relationships they thought were immune to change have been replaced with an entirely new set of relationships. I'm not sure if everyone has the same problem I have in that how my life has been lived, I have pools of friends who, normally, would stay in my mind at the point I left them. You can never go home times double digits, though I suspect that it is not as rare as I am making it out to be. The advent of Facebook brings it home, when someone happens to find you, they friend you and suddenly, you discover that life has gone on. While it is great to find that friends have gone on to bigger and better things, just as often, you find that tragedy and loss has taken place and though it is perfectly understandable why you were oblivious to it, you wonder if you should have paid more attention and as you work through messages, you wonder how all these events could have remained unseen and unknown to you, how the destiny of your world could have been untouched and unchanged.
For me, a similar sensation has taken place concerning Westgate, the upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that was the center of an attack by Al Qaeda Shabaab fighters. Part of it is the drawn out nature of the attack, with the seige taking place over 3 days and with contradictory reports. However, this New Yorker piece, describing Kofi Anoonor, the Ghanian poet, is like that Facebook post.
I've only scratched the surface of the articles (possibly because it is the nature of the internet is to create these massive worlds that we discover fully fleshed out and wonder how we could have missed them), but here is a Guardian article about the victims, and another one that talks about what this attack and the Mumbai attack mean. And this New Yorker article describes the context of the attacks.
I'm sure that we probably have people in the commentariat who can point to more details and links that can help us understand this. The floor is yours.