Terror

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.

Abandon: to yield (oneself) without restraint or moderation.

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 existAnswers.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.

Special Thanks

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.

 

Lethal force: a game park ranger’s guide

You can arrest someone on a schedule 1 offence for having sex with your rhino, but if they kill it, they won’t be committing a schedule 1 offense.

He’s making a joke about loopholes in the law to break the ice, but this is a serious talk. I’m sitting in the back of a wooden hut, in the middle of a game reserve in Zululand, South Africa, listening to a lethal force expert give a lecture to a bunch of armed private security contractors.

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It’s hot and the room smells of animal skins and rooibos tea. I’m privy to this as I am currently training to become a game park ranger, though not an armed one. Yesterday was rhino tracking, today is gun law. Our lecturer is a man who was a private security contractor for 32 years. He’s old, tough and has the eyes of a man whose probably seen more dead people than most people have birthdays. He is white with a deep tan and a thick Afrikaans accent.

“I know exactly how you guys feel.” he says when the young hot headed rangers roll their eyes. “I was in the APU business for 32 years, I’ve been in firefights, and I’ve been in the bush. It’s not like I’m reading this from the books, I’ll try and give you relevant information that applies to your specific situation.”

“First thing your lawyer will say if you shoot someone is “Don’t make any statement.” But you can’t do that. You have to have a working relationship with the local police. If you refuse to make a statement, they will look at the smoking gun and send you straight in front of a judge.”

The law doesn’t seem to be on their side. Apparently, a private security contractor is just a normal person in the eyes of the law and has absolutely no license to shoot anyone. If you shoot someone without good reason you’ll just get sent straight to jail.

“Necessity allows you to shoot a dog attacking a child in a built up area, or shooting a black rhino attacking a visitor on a wilderness trail, though in the latter, it would be career suicide.”

The problem seems to be that although people are caught a lot, in the private sector, people are not usually charged. What this tends to lead to is private security rough housing or shooting at poachers to deter them, rather than making useless and expensive arrests. I mean can you really blame them?

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A full grown male Nyala can fetch $10,000 at auction, but are mostly killed for meat by poachers

“The old section 49 of the law said that you could shoot someone for a schedule 1 offence if you could not reasonably arrest them any other way. Also, you must have the intention of arresting the person in order to justify that they were fleeing from arrest. Never use the term “Ambush”” The lecturer says, “that implies that you were trying to kill them, not arrest them. Say “Lying in wait to arrest.””

As a summary to this part of the lecture, he gets a bit sombre.

“Taking a human life is going to be the biggest decision you ever make, so if someone is joking about it, then don’t believe they ever did it. These things will break up your marriage, will give you ulcers, you will be looking over your shoulder your whole life, waiting to get convicted.” Let alone the guilt of the actual act.

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The skull of a hippo. More fatalities are caused by hippos than any other mammal in Africa.

We had an incident here just last night with poachers digging under the fence. They let there dogs through to hunt and bring back prey to the fence, then they drag it under and sell it as meat. This method has been developed to escape the law, putting the poacher out of jurisdiction of the ranger and out of actual bodily liability.

I’ve sat through some pretty boring lectures in my time, but this definitely wasn’t one of them. They say travel is the best education. Well I’ve sure learned a lot since I’ve been roaming. If you’re interested in more unique insights follow the blog below. Who knows, you may want to pursue a career as a park ranger too. Just think twice before pulling the trigger.

 

 

Struggle

 

I wanted to write something about a topic that’s been bugging me for while. A lot of people don’t seem to understand the reasons why I would put myself in danger unnecessarily, risking my life hanging off of crevices with nothing but an ice axe between me and a hundred foot drop, or wandering off into the desert with nothing but a pair of pyjamas and a water bottle (sometimes significantly less). Every time I say that I’m going to do something like this, people sit me down and talk to me like I’m stupid, or a child with an impossible fancy. They say “That’s dangerous…you shouldn’t go on your own…you’re crazy. etc. etc. etc.”

So let me explain.

First of all: I’m aware of the danger

I’m not stupid. I know that Ice climbing, or desert surfing is dangerous and to be honest I probably wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t. Why you ask? Is it because I’m an adrenaline junkie, a thrill seeker, irresponsible? No. Despite the obvious endorphin rush, I do it for a deeper reason. I believe in the importance particular emotions plays in our lives.

Most of us (not everyone) go through our lives in a kind of neutral emotional state. We feel strongly about certain things, but don’t usually engage in activities that bring about strong emotional responses. Yes sometimes we get angry, or sad, or happy, but there is a lot missing from our lives. How about fear? Real fear, not the kind we feel when we’re late for work, or accidentally step on someones toe on the train, I’m talking about that feral feeling when you are actually afraid for your life, the moment between heartbeats when your foot slips from a foothold on the side of a cliff. Ask yourself: when was the last time you were really, truly, afraid?

It’s a terribly powerful emotion, one that we may go through our entire lives without fully appreciating.

So why is this important? The feeling of fear unlocks the ‘fight or flight’ response in your brain. When this happens your body produces adrenaline and unlocks the true potential of the human body, a force far beyond that which you can normally control. This is why mothers can pull cars off of their trapped children, or why a climber will be able to hold onto a rock with one finger to save themselves from falling. You truly become in touch with your own body and just how powerful it really is.

After this happens your body produces dopamine, ceretonin and oxitocin, the pleasure, joy and closeness chemicals. All these things are the chemical translations of a feeling of profound fulfilment. Have you ever done something that you never thought you could and were so surprised that a feeling welled up inside you and you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry? That’s the feeling I’m talking about.

The moral of that scientific sermon is that once we have overcome the fear and survived, we are filled with a deep sense of joy, fulfilment and confidence in ourselves. People are always telling us to ‘be confident’ but this is like telling a a plant to grown, it’s useless. The only thing that builds confidence is success, so if you want to become more confident, challenge yourself, scare yourself, and when you survive, you’ll be one step closer.

Secondly: I want to go alone

There’s a particular kind of experience that can only be truly discovered in the absence of anyone else.

One particular view of happiness can be defined in term of a triangle, the three points of which are: health, wealth and relationships. Now before we jump on the “money doesn’t make you happy” argument, there are two parts to each of these points, an inner and an outer.

For example: outer wealth could be defined as possessions, money, assets, etc. but inner wealth is your wealth of experiences, your skills and knowledge, and your memories. A person could be considered in poverty, but have a wealth of knowledge and memories that make them far happier.

One thing can affect another, for example: if you are struggling with your relationships, this can affect your mental health; or if you’re struggling with your wealth, i.e. your broke, this can affect your relationships and self-confidence. Let’s face it, we all feel a little low when we’re broke.

In a similar way, the inner aspects of health and relationships are your inner health and your inner relationships. In other words, how you feel about yourself. Some people who struggle with depression don’t find it helpful when others try to comfort them or offer advice, because the real issue is their self-confidence and self-actualisation. For example: if you tell someone who thinks they are ugly, that they are beautiful, they simply won’t believe you because it does not agree with their own self-image. The only way for that person to really believe that they are beautiful is to try and change their own self-image, and that is far more difficult.

Let’s use the case of self-confidence then. Like I said before, you can’t tell someone to be confident, but if they go through hardship, experience struggle, then they will come out at the other end with a stronger self image, a fuller confidence, and that props the triangle up from within. At the end of the day, no one can rescue you from what’s inside, and if you can always rely on yourself for strength, then you will feel more confident and able to deal with hardship.

So what’s the point of all this then? Going through personal struggle makes you a stronger. Have you ever had a moment when you achieved something you thought you couldn’t, like walking a long distance, or completing a task that seemed impossible. Didn’t it make you feel proud?

The best way to work on your relationship with yourself, is to spend time with yourself. Do you really know you? Have you ever had a long conversation with yourself without distractions? Give it a try, go for a long walk. You might just enjoy your own company.

There’s also the factor of feeling at one with the world, but I’ll save that for another time.

Finally: I may seem crazy to you, but who’s the judge?

Everyone lives in their own world. What you may consider to be fun may not be the same as someone else. What you may consider to be crazy may seem mundane to someone else. You may think I’m crazy for climbing mountains, but personally, I consider spending my entire life sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen to be the very definition of insanity. That’s why I left the big city and the corporate world and live in the mountains.

We were born on this earth naked, and the world is a hard place when you think about it. Have you ever taken your shoes and socks off and walked down the street? Painful isn’t it? But what about people who don’t have shoes? They grow thick skin.

In the wise words of the philosopher Ian Watts:

“Light is only bright because we have eyes, rocks are only hard because we have soft skin.”

We fear what we do not understand and we cannot understand what we have not yet experienced. A lot of people go through life not believing that they can do things and so they project this feeling onto other people. The truth is, you’d be surprised what the human body can do, and if you ever set about testing your own limits, you may find that you’re stronger than you think.

Sometimes I even think what I do is crazy, but when I see people wasting away behind desk it makes me feel sorry for them. I would rather die in a rock slide than be waiting forty years for retirement.

Some wise words

In a survey of thousands of American’s taken over the course of several decades, it was found that 70% of people, although they did not consider their lives to be bad, said that they had no sense of purpose at all. Most people when asked how they felt about life merely replied “Meh…” Purpose was not necessarily linked to happiness, but those who said that they identified with something greater than themselves, had a dramatically lower rate of depression.

In answer to this I can offer a quote from the Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, from his great work: Man’s search for meaning.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’…But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

The pursuit of pleasure does not necessarily bring about happiness, and the pursuit of happiness does not necessarily bring about purpose, or a meaningful life. A person might make great sacrifices in life for the good of others and experience no pleasure at all in life, but still feel a profound sense of fulfilment. If you live a life of relative happiness and ease, but have no connection to a greater purpose, then why not try doing something extraordinary to bring yourself closer to it.

For me, mountaineering is why I live. It gives me a sense of connection with something greater than myself, and gives me a sense of purpose in life. Through struggle I connect with my inner strength and through spending time with myself and with the natural world, I feel more connected with myself as a person, and with the world too.

Don’t be afraid of hardship, don’t be afraid of tears, you might enjoy them more than you thought.

What’s your opinion? Am I crazy? kick off a discussion in the comments box, I’d love to hear your thoughts, I live with mine all day. Don’t forget to like and follow the blog if you enjoy my ramblings. I’m fairly well stocked with topics and I’ll try and put them up here as often as I can. Thanks for reading.