A Common Public Sphere.

The extraordinary nature of the disaster and the suffering caused by the Tsunami that hit East Asia are obviously calling for extraordinary measures. I’m not sure this is the first time the entire EU felt the need to jontly commemorate, but I’m not aware of any previous instance.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – The European Union [held] a three-minute silence at 12pm (11am GMT) today to commemorate the victims of the tsunami as the official death toll rises to around 150,000.

The EU [asked] “the whole of the European Union to observe three minutes of silence in order to show solidarity and mourn the victims of the disaster.”

On noon today, most of Europe indeed honoured the Tsunami victims. Planes did not take off or land, stocks were not bought or sold, food was not served or eaten as millions of Europeans stood silent, praying for or otherwise remembering those whose lives were taken or destroyed by a single giant wave on December 26.

11 thoughts on “A Common Public Sphere.

  1. At first glance I thought you were joking.

    Sorry to sound rude, but how is this extraordinary? I don’t see how standing around doing nothing for 3 minutes has ever helped anyone. Symbolic or otherwise.

  2. “I don’t see how standing around doing nothing for 3 minutes has ever helped anyone. Symbolic or otherwise.”

    Not in any immediate practical sense. But symbols have meaning and can be empowering. It is about cohesion and unity in reaching goals, among other things. It is about making the seriousness of the Tsunami tragedy tangible to people not directly involved.

    I remember a newspaper column from years ago about the famine in Ethiopia. The writer of that column stated that newspapers had been reporting about the disaster for months before television picked it up and started showing images making the tragedy almost tangible to the rest of the world. AP Press photos, highly symbolic themselves, chimed in.

    The ironic thing is, massive aid only started to pour into Ethiopia after the images/symbols were shown.

    What this means is that people in general need to be made aware, if they weren’t already, by the use of powerful imagery and, yes, symbols.

    I am cynical enough to know that not all symbols serve noble causes all the time, but they do serve a purpose. If people would send in money on principle without being prodded that would be great. Money helps directly, symbols do not. But symbols can generate involvement and thus (more) money.

    That is the practical side. The three minute pause is also a moment of humble contemplation (for those who take advantage of it).

    Again, my cynical side is adding many “buts” to my own words here. Nevertheless, I still believe symbolic gestures have an inspiring power. But (here I go) I do understand your point.

  3. The previous occasion that Europe “jointly commemorated” was after the attack on the Twin Towers. I happened to be in central (commercial as opposed to diplomatic) Brussels on that occasion where the moment was widely ignored.

  4. At first I was with Cornelious on this, but then I thought, perhaps the in Europe this actually surves as a covert call for donations with out the directness of actually coming out at asking the public to pony up…

    If that is how this works. You have your 3 minutes of silence and then, sometime during the day, someone passes around a donation box filled with 100EU checks, then I’m all for it.

    If on the other hand, this is some sort of useless emotional wank where couch potatoes convince themselves that they’re holy without actually doing anything, then I’m disgusted.

  5. Ohh, there were so many typos and mispellings in that last post that I want to pretend that English is my second language…

    Unfortunately, like Arnold Swartznegger’s character in “The Terminator” the only other language I know is 6502 (yes what scrolled by on his little screen was code for an Apple II – and you were scared of Microsoft).

  6. Personally, I just hate the forced grief that is symbolised by calls for a silence such as this. It’s a smokescreen to cover criticisms against governments (although I think we are too quick to blame ministers anyway – what, for example, could Blair personally have done?), and one that tries to impose emotional correctness on the population. That I did not observe this silence does not mean, in any way, I do not feel for those affected by the tsunami. And for there to be implications to the contrary is absurd.

  7. Europeans are extremely good at standing around doing nothing whenever there is real work to be done…

  8. you’re right, mrs tilton. any action is to be viewed as organising death squads. let’s have a 365 day moment of silence from mrs tilton, and let her think about what she hasn’t done.

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