In the light of the third terrorist attack in the UK this year, I find myself wondering, like many of you, what the future holds. Having posted previously about Struggle, I wanted to share my thoughts on the impact of “Terror” and the strong emotional responses it inspires in the human experience.
The Human Experience
I hate to condescend you with a dictionary definition, but this one is quite apt:
Terror: intense, sharp, overmastering fear:
to be frantic with terror. (dictionary.com)
If “Fear” unlocks the fight-or-flight response, then “Terror” is the flight component. Whereas fear can inspire courage and strength as I suggested in Struggle, Terror cannot be mastered by definition, it is an “overmastering fear.”
Terror inspires “Abandon” the temporary shutting down of logical thought, giving in to the primal need to save ones life by fleeing from danger.
When I read the news and watch reports of these incidents, I see images of people running, screaming, panicking. These are all normal responses to those immediately involved in “Terror.” This is the target for terrorism, to evoke these kinds of feelings from as many individuals as possible, in an attempt to destabilise a community, or cultural identity, by the direct act and threat of attack.
But as you read on, you hear about people immediately adjacent to, but not in the heart of the incident, who do not run away, but towards the scene, in order to offer help to those affected. This is the “Fight” response, one of the normal responses to fear without the impact of terror. This is what terrorism cannot effect.
Those not in the epicentre of these incidents have a choice of how to act. Yes, some people will be caught in the crowd and run away with others, without even knowing what is going on – this is a proven psychological concept in most mammals – but others will always rally to aid.
The Wider Impact
So the short term effects of terrorism are fear and terror felt by a small group of individuals, but what about the wider community?
“Besides the injuries and deaths immediately brought about by terrorist attacks, survivors often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and major depression. The economy suffers an immediate impact due to building and infrastructure damage, but it also suffers long-term effects from trauma to financial markets, a rise in spending on security and defence, and the impact on supply chains of enhanced security at land, sea and air border crossings.” (terrorism.about.com)
So the long term effects of terrorism are actually negative effects for those committing the acts, as communities and countries respond with defiance against them, but what about for us, the targeted society?
“Equipping the military and police for retaliation and defence includes the passing of legislation that targets terrorists, deportation of unregistered aliens, granting of additional powers to police and military, fewer restrictions on the detention and interrogation of suspects, and possible direct military or police action to eliminate perceived threats. It also may include the creation of new agencies or enhancement of existing agencies to screen mail and other forms of communication and to guard essential national and local infrastructures.” (terrorism.about.com)
You could look into this many ways and analyse it with many different political or personal biases, but the facts still remain: terrorism does have a lasting impact on society.
So what’s in it for them?
A Northern Ireland spokesperson once said:
“A terrorist is a criminal who seeks publicity. This sets him far apart from what British officials in Northern Ireland have taken to calling the ODC, or Ordinary Decent Criminal, who understandably shuns the limelight. They require publicity. It is their lifeblood. If the media were not there to report terrorist acts and to explain their political and social significance (the motives inspiring them and so fourth) terrorism as such would cease to exist” Answers.com
So terrorists want to attract attention to their group in order for us to see their message. Is this really any different from the need of most young people to use social media to garner attention to themselves and their views (myself included)? Not really, but I’m sure you can see there is a vast difference between intentions and actions in these two cases.
It’s this need that terrorist organisations use to emotionally control and indoctrinate people to commit acts on their behalf. They prey on their need to be part of something larger than themselves to validate their existence.
So can we just stop reporting it? Will not listening to them make them go away? No. Sadly it doesn’t work like that. The only thing we can do is support our neighbours and lookout for one another. As long as there are people willing to come to the aid of their fellow human being, then we will never be defeated by terrorism.
I want to end by commending the rapid and efficient response of our police and armed forces here in London with regards to the attacks on London Bridge and Burough Market last night. Police were on the scene withing 2 minutes and armed forces had neutralised the terrorists within 8 minutes of the first 999 call. This just goes to show that not only are we not daunted by the wave of attacks, but that we are becoming stronger and more prepared.
Also special thanks to everyone involved in the training and deployment of armed response units since the Mumbai attacks. A great and sustained effort has been put on by these individuals and institutions in the background, resulting in last nights legendary counter terrorism efforts. We thank you all.
I’d also like to apologise for my use of poor references. I’m sure I could have done some more comprehensive digging, but I wanted to get this out today as it is particularly relevant now. I hope you forgive me.
I don’t always write about morbid topics, but do challenge some human issues occasionally. Follow below if you like to hear more travel stories and issues discussed. One Love all.