There's a 2 minute silence at noon today to remember the victims of last week's bombings in London. The news is full of how this will be observed across the world: in Paris, in Bali, at the Open Golf Championship in St Andrews....
Now, I don't mean to be disrespectful to anybody, but it's all so arbitrary, isn't it?
Who decides how long the silence should be? It always used to be a minute: 60 seconds of quiet reflection. Now it seems to be variable, and we went up as far as 3 minutes of silence for the victims of the Asian Tsunami. Does the length of the silence we accord it provide a scale for how awful we judge the tragedy? The Tsunami was a 3 minuter. London is a 2 minuter.
At Glastonbury and during Live8, the big screens drove home the message that every 3 seconds a child dies of poverty. They made the point that if people were dying in those kind of numbers in Britain, then the world would sit up and take notice, and something would be done about it. Somehow because the people affected were dying in Africa and in other corners of the Third World, the rest of the world is able to shrug its collective shoulders and carry on.
Let me stress before I say this, lest I am misunderstood, that I have been appalled by the bombings in London, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families.... I am not trying to deflect attention from this atrocity or to lessen its impact....but is it not true that there are suicide bombings in other parts of the world every day? Explosions take place in places like Iraq and Israel every single day of the year, and they are such common occurences that they have become little more than footnotes on the evening news. It happens to London and the whole world sits up and takes notice.
If we held 2 minutes of silence for the victims of each of these attacks, for every human disaster, then the world would be a hell of a lot quieter.
I will fall silent at noon, and I will contemplate the victims of the London bombings and their families, but I will also be thinking about the victims of all the world's other tragedies too.