The Right Coast

July 10, 2005
This Is London
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Filling in for Edward R. Murrow, or just bad timing: I arrived in London the morning of the bombings. The Underground had already stopped, the news was spreading through London Airport that there had been bombs, and it took many hours to make my circuitous way into central London, partly on foot. A few bombs, killing fewer than 200 people, can paralyse a city of 8 million, and essentially did so last Thursday. On the other hand there was no panic: on the contrary, everyone took things in stride and tried to be as helpful as possible to one another. By Friday morning, something close to normality had returned. Transport was functioning except in the specific locales that had been attacked. The physical infrastructure of civilisation is very vulnerable to attack. But civilisation itself is a question of people's attitudes. Not so easy to bring it down, so long as the people you attack don't choose to knuckle under.

For the longer run, of course, the crucial question is whether Britain will respond to the attacks as Australia did last year, defying the terrorists and reelecting John Howard; or as Spain did, turning the government over to the anti-American, appeasement-minded Left. The death-wish Left is strong in England; but then it seemed to be strong in Australia as well. So stay tuned, as Edward R. Murrow might have said (on an off day, at least).

Meantime, on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, Hyde Park was crowded with families enjoying the sunshine and the summer weekend. At least 60 percent of the parkgoers I saw were clearly Moslems: many women in full chadors, many more in Islamic headscarves. Edward R. Murrow might or might not have been able to ascertain their views, or for that matter the views they inspire in their non-Moslem fellow-park-goers. No need to worry, meantime, that history has come to an end -- in Britain, Europe, or elsewhere -- and that we will all be bored by an endlessly harmonious future.