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From London to Gleneagles

8 July 2005

Isabel Hilton

Attention is divided in London today. At Gleneagles the G8 is coming to a conclusion of its discussions. In London millions of workers have made separate decisions about trying to come in or staying at home. Emergency workers, forensic experts and medical staff are working round the clock. In the hospitals the gravely wounded are fighting for their lives. On the buses and in the street people continue to exchange experiences on mobile phones. 

In the chorus of reaction there has been a strong and consistent message: that open societies are vulnerable, but  they must stay open, nevertheless. There is another message from yesterday. Millions of people marched against the war in Iraq, as Mary Kaldor points out. In the last two weeks, hundreds of thousands have demonstrated  against their political leaders over climate change and poverty in Africa, people who came out to argue their case, to try to change political priorities. They did so firmly, democratically and peacefully. Whatever the disagreements within our imperfect democracies, neither leaders nor citizens are divided in their rejection of the nihilism expressed by yesterday’s bombs.

However many victims terrorism claims, more die of hunger and disease. The devastating effects of climate change put the lives of millions at risk. The victims of such forces  -  more created and willed than "natural" - are of all faiths and none. World hunger and disease, poverty and debt, Africa and climate change are issues of serious politics and they claim our serious engagement. In their vast mobilisations, the G8 protestors, the Make Poverty History campaigners, and the Live8 audiences understood this; the London bombers saw what Mary Kaldor calls this "extraordinary period" in history merely as a means of maximising publicity.

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