Terrorism kills. Innocent lives are sacrificed. People are maimed. Horrors are unleashed. Fear of terrorism grips us all. Countries where terrorism is rife, or where there is the risk of it happening, are avoided.
Terrorism is not a modern phenomenon. It has been present in some guise or other, under some name or other, since the dawn of man.
Even in the Bible, Abel was finished off by his very brother. Back when highway robbers ruled the roost anyone travelling in a horse-drawn carriage could be stopped, stripped and pillaged of all their belongings. Pirates took gold, cargo and any number of doubloons from their rightful owners on ships plying the seas. There was a time when hijackers attacked aeroplanes; even cruise ships were not always allowed to sail on uninterruptedly.
Terrorists have some strange cause to follow; others do it for only God-knows-what. The end result—fear, death or maiming—is always, sadly, the same.
Even land grabs and despoliation of places like India, America, Africa, Australia and Ireland by beautifully white, very Christian, civilised people are part of our history; they still remain hardly laudable.
So am I implying that because it has always happened we should just accept violence? Or that we should not condemn the perpetrators of any violence? Or that the authorities should not try to stop it? Or that our hearts shouldn’t cringe, our eyes water and we shouldn’t feel solidarity with all victims, dead, maimed or scarred psychologically?
Undoubtedly we should feel compassion and do all we can to stop violence.
We know it will keep happening yet we should still fight it and be on our supreme guard against it, anywhere, anytime.
All seemingly incurable diseases and illnesses are nevertheless treated by researchers and medics—to stop them, to find ways of rendering them benign and, failing that, to delay their lethal effect or to reduce the suffering. Every medic knows that ultimately we will still have ills that destroy our bodies, that reduce us all to a crumbling edifice. It is never going to be a total victory.
Nothing should make us think of terrorism as acceptable or pedestrian and we should never be racially or geographically choosy in its regard. Often, if a handful die in the West we are all horrified beyond imagination. But when hundreds, if not thousands, are killed in non-western parts of the world we carry on as if a few frogs, or millipedes, have been trampled in some faraway jungle. In fact sometimes we cry our hearts out more for animals dying than when men and women—obviously not western—are massacred.
Most of us think it is ultimately justified to kill innocent people if the bombing is to get rid of tyrants or anything remotely connected to our new nemesis, ISIS.
The day we accept that terrorism on our western shores is just another peril we have to look out for we will breathe easier, and travel with less fear of threats seen or unseen.
When people die in a plane crash, whether the crash happened because of a malfunction, pilot’s suicide or a terrorist’s idiocy, nothing changes the resultant carnage or the suffering of the people left behind. Let the authorities find out who the perpetrators are, try their best to stop such horrors before they happen, but to travellers the fear should stop at the suffering and not who caused it.
Does it make any difference to my pain if the bullet shot or car driven was by a certifiably insane man, a totally sane man or a religious extremist? Or if he was white, yellow, grey or green?
If we do this, if we accept that, like engine failure, madness and other tragedies are horrid quirks in our lives, then we might move more serenely. Only then can we continue to live life to the full and not lie low, fearing the next horrible terrorist attack.
If we carry on serenely we will, all of us, be telling the world that, no matter how many threats there are in our life, we will go on treating life as it really is—full of beauty and good things but unfortunately harbouring illnesses, accidents, deaths and, yes, some terrorists too.