How the banality of terror closed my heart to the Berlin Christmas market attack

I have a confession. When I heard the first news of the lorry ploughing into the Berlin Christmas market on Monday night, I had almost no reaction. I barely looked up from dinner. Oh dear, I thought, another one of those terrorists driving an out of control lorry into a jolly festive scene.
Was it in London? No. Proceed as normal then.
At the time it was nine dead and around 50 injured, again this barely registered. Well, at least it’s not as bad as Nice, a little jaded voice in my head said.
Was it time to declare on Twitter that “Ich bin Berlin”?
And as the horrible news has filled the media over the past few days I have found I lack interest. The commentary, the outrage, the Merkel-bashing, the Merkel-loving, the endless blogs about tolerance and stories about the dangers of shopping for gingerbread.
We were not warned that going in search of a glass bauble could end in violent death, one radio programme screeched.
Yes, I fear that this sort of outrageous serial murder has become so banal that I have almost started to ignore it. My emotions are completely blunted by the ubiquity of violence – and the western outrage that follows.
Clearly, distance makes a huge difference. We tend to feel a disaster more strongly if  it is close by, obviously. But I wonder now how close something would now have to be to elicit a strong emotional reaction.
A terrorist incident in central London would prick up my ears – I would worry about friends, family and colleagues possibly caught up in it. What about in the centre of my local town? Or in the local park? Or at the end of my street?
I am starting to feel about a terror attack in Germany as I usually do about a car bomb in Iraq. Oh. That is very bad. Now what shall we have for tea?
Terror has become the new normal and I don’t like it.
Perhaps the only thing that suggests I have not lost all feeling is my reaction to the reporting from Aleppo. Seeing grieving children howling, little ones covered in rubble and dust looking as lost and confused as it is possible to be, leaves me feeling utterly helpless.
Perhaps I have not lost my heart after all.


  1. Excellent post. This spoke to me in such a way. Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong me because I no longer flinch at the constant terror attacks. Such a sad world we live in, especially when something so horrendous leaves us feeling no state of shock.


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