The scariest thing about the Berlin attack? We’ve become numb to it
This is what a world divided looks like
On the evening 19 December 2016, an articulated lorry was driven into a crowded Christmas market in the streets of Berlin, killing at least 12 people, and injuring at least 48.
Germany is in mourning, but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be as shocked as it should be.
On 14 July 2016, a 19 tonne cargo truck was driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and injuring 434. In November last year we had the Paris attacks – a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, France and the city’s northern suburb, Saint-Denis. In January of the same year, we heard ‘Je suis Paris’ for the first time, after the 7 January 2015 shooting in which twelve people were killed at the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Profile pictures were changed to French flags with “I stand with Paris,” scribbled over them. Thoughtful statuses were made, condolences offered, and there was a sense of stillness, as shock halted our chaotic world for a moment.
But this time there will be no German flag stretched across the faces of our friends on social media. We should not expect vigils in towns, or papers to be writing thousand word think-pieces on the collective state of mourning in our world. Europe is under attack, but this time we’ve skipped the shock. It’s essentially become normality.
A world numb to barbarity, is a world numb to to the atrocities which follow. We assume we can turn a blind eye to large swaths of the world’s population who feel hurt, alone and disenfranchised, and yet count on these people to reach out to us when we need it. We only pay attention when tragedy strikes, but with tragedies mounting, and getting closer and closer together, even that can’t shake us anymore.
In September 2016, a convoy of aid lorries was hit by an attack, meaning the UN announced it would be stopping all aid in Syria. On the morning Monday 19 December 2016, Donald Trump was formally elected by the Electoral College, and is scheduled to take office as the 45th President on 20 January, 2017. And on the evening Monday 19 December, Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, was shot and killed while attending an art exhibit opening at the Cankaya Art Center in Ankara. The list of incidents which should shock us, but no longer do, grows and grows.
A German anti-refugee MEP has blamed Angela Merkel for the Berlin attack, while Merkel has described the attack as a gruesome deed that would be “particularly repugnant if it was confirmed to have been carried out by someone who came to the country as a refugee.” And US president-elect, Donald Trump, has described the incident as a terror attack and blamed “Islamist terrorists.”
Five hours after the Nice attack, French president Francois Hollande extended the national state of emergency, introduced after the Paris massacre, and announced an intensification of military action against ISIS, which claimed responsibility.
Tuesday morning following the Berlin attack, Nice mayor Philippe Pradal tweeted: “Same form of attack. Same blind violence. Same hatred of happy people.” The two incidents represent a striking similarity.
In the Eyes of the rest of the world, the Berlin attack, tragic and horrifying, is more of the ‘same’. But instead of pouring over the paper to mourn and assess what can be done, we set it aside, knowing another, equally horrifying, headline will follow tomorrow.