We do not quake, we do not rage

Terrorism is supposed to be the method of the oppressed to get their message to the world, but it seems that even that has got lost in some darkened twist on post-modernism. The removal of the meaning from the act seems to have created a global aesthetic where violence is a self-fulfilling action, justifying itself by the damage it causes and not by the fulfillment of ideological goals.

We’ve lived through decades of attacks from the IRA. I found the footage on television today eerily familiar to those times. Admittedly there’s not been an attack on mainland Britain for a while now, but those memories are still clear. When I was growing up it seemed like every day there was a new bomb somewhere. I think as a nation we have become accustomed to terrorism in a way that the US perhaps has not.

I thought Blair gave a good speech, but I’m actually most impressed with an interview given by a barrister who was on one of the tube trains when it exploded. He was clearly in shock, but gave a good description of events. When asked the blatant ‘let’s get a sound bite’ question of how he felt about the people who did the attacks his word was ‘pity’. I thought it was really admirable that a man who has just walked past the bodies of his countrymen could muster the strength to give such a wise answer. I think his word is going to be my lasting memory of this event.

We are not a nation for raging anger in response to threats, there will be those that do, but as a majority we hold controlled, civilised life as the most important approach to the world. We solidify, we protect the things that we believe in more earnestly, and one of the things that the British really believe in is not making a spectacle of things. We get on with it and try not to make a fuss. We might be angry inside, but we have lived and died in such times before, and will most likely continue to do so for the rest of our lives. No ‘war on terror’ will change that. It’s a sad fact of life that today some friends and families won’t see the people they care about ever again, and all over some dispute that they most likely don’t care about and almost certainly have never had any meaningful involvement with. We will, as always, try to create equality in the world to attempt to protect ourselves from the extremists’ accusations, but there will always be people who do not like who we are, and who we have been, as a nation.

We accept that we have enemies, our nation always has done and almost certainly will do for the rest of our lifetimes, but we also defend the things that make us who we are as a group, and one of those things is composure, clear-headedness, and the organised and responsible reaction to acts performed against us. Terrorism like this will not make us less British; it only demonstrates how singular as a nation we are in times of crisis. We are singular and we are diverse. This attack strikes at black, white, young, old, those who live here, and those who are visiting, Christian, Muslim, Jew, and all others alike. We are the British, and we do not change to the whim of aggressors.

6 thoughts on “We do not quake, we do not rage”

  1. I am dissapointed in you. I have always been a fan of your animations and your wit. But I must think that either at this moment your wits have abandoned you, or you are “Singularly” ethnocentric. I found your post heartless and cold. Who in these times has the right to even judge that their.. country or culture handled the issue better than another. To do so belittles the lives of those who have lost family,but also belittles the survivors. I hardly think that those who survived it at the moment stopped to think. “hmm this is bad, i nearly died, but pip pip cheerio, Im going to put on a braver face then those bloody Americans.”
    Yes, the attacks on 9-11 were very jarring for us as Americans, and rightfully so. This is hardly the first terroristic attack we have had to deal with as you so.. scornfully insinuate. We have had our share of problems. Violence in schools, the Oklahoma city bombing, and our own civil war.

    The nature of humanity is to adapt, to evolve and yes to change. If you were not changed by recent events.. I question whether a heart beats in your chest or perhaps you are proudly made of stone. As Americans the events of 9-11 helped us become more united and to start paying attention to what was important. I’d rather think many of us are greatful for that change.
    On the other hand, I would like to say, I was impressed with how organized the rescue efforts had gone. More to the point I was impressed with the fact that your government thought to have drills to practice and prepare for the event that such a day might come. My response as angry as it is, is not aimed at British. Because if anything I feel empathy. I am sorry that their aiding us might have contributed to the reasons for this attack.
    My irritation is directed towards you and your short-sightedness. Perhaps you did not mean to soud as insulting as you did, though there is a phrase that might apply. “i didnt mean to, but i didnt mean not to.”
    Have you stopped to think that the reasons Americans were caught off guard in our attack was becasue he completely blind-sided ourselves and assumed we were impenatrable. Our change, our more cautious outlook was for the better.
    Regardless I am certain you will delte this post, and feel free. After all this is your blog not mine and who am I to judge your response to the explosions. But I hope you read it.

    Thank you

  2. How very egotistical of you. Don’t assume that your accusations are so cutting that I would be big-headed enough to simply delete them.

    How massively arrogant of you to assume that I’m writing about your country when I talk about my own. Just as you think my post is all about the British trying to claim superiority over Americans, your post precisely illustrates why some Americans infuriate the rest of the world. Why do I say this? For the simple reason that only in absolute passing did my post have anything to do with America. It had everything to do with Britain, but yet you assume that I’m writing about Americans.
    Get over yourself.

    It’s that kind of attitude that irritates the rest of the world. Thank goodness I have daily contact with Americans who don’t assume that everything is about them and their country otherwise you would be painting your nation in a very dim light.

    I could write “i didnt mean to, but i didnt mean not to” as you put it, but that would be wrong. I simply ‘didn’t’. Oh, and leaving out correct grammar and punctuation from the words that you are putting into my mouth doesn’t do you any favours to make you seem less arrogant either.

    Why do you assume I was writing about America? I was writing about my pride in the way that Britain has responded to the recent London bombings. The question you should be asking now is not ‘what was he saying about Americans’ but ‘why do I assume he is writing about America?’

    So let’s talk about my single passing mention of America in the whole piece:

    Do you find anything inaccurate in my post when I say ‘I think as a nation we have become accustomed to terrorism in a way that the US perhaps has not’? Apparently you do. Your examples are:

    Violence in schools – this is not terrorism

    The Oklahoma city bombing – that’s one

    The civil war – exactly how recently was that? Do you feel accustomed to civil war because of this? This was war, not terrorism, something that I would like you to explain to your president if you ever get the chance. Surely the name ‘civil war’ was a tell that that wasn’t terrorism?

    You have managed to bring up one example of terrorism against American people within your lifetime pre-Sept 11th (you missed out the attack on the US embassy in Africa, which was also by Al-Qaeda, and I would allow the unabomber although personally I count him as a serial killer due to his precise selection of victims).

    The American people have by your testimony, previous to Sept 11th 2001, only had one notable terrorist attack on their soil in recent memory. So how is my statement ‘I think as a nation we have become accustomed to terrorism in a way that the US perhaps has not’ in any way inaccurate? If you read scorn into that then you are grossly mistaken.

    If anything I envy you not having lived your childhood with a constant threat of bombings. I would love to have had the innocence of the American isolation from terrorism. I remember as a child my mother trying to decide whether or not to go to London to buy Christmas presents because yet again there had been another bomb threat by the IRA. My father used to check the car for bombs in the morning before giving me a lift to school. Did you ever do that? Did any of your friends ever do that? I very much doubt it, but that was the background reality for 20 years of my life. Almost every day the news would report more deaths in Northern Ireland or (mainly) London from another bomb. You can count one bomb. Hell, the IRA even detonated a bomb at a parliment meeting in Brighton! No-one’s even got near congress in the US. I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at when you write ‘hardly the first terroristic [nice Bush-ism there] attack we have had to deal with’, because your list certainly doesn’t support your claim of experience in your living memory.

    I said the British are used to this kind of attack. We are. You seem to be claiming that Americans are used to it, which there is no evidence to support. Furthermore, how on earth is anoyone supposed to become accustomed to attacks like those done on Sept 11th? They are utterly without precedent. No country has ever experienced anything like them before or since.

    My only point in mentioning the US the once was to point out that the British are accustomed to terrorism on their homeground, as you have demonstrated, Americans were not prior to Sept 11th. There was no scorn, simply observation of fact. If I had lived a life so shielded from terrorism and suddenly 3000+ people were killed then I expect I would be bloody furious too, but that’s not the situation in Britain.

    I don’t think in any but the most superficial way that the two events can be compared. The attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were on a scale of a magnitude far greater than what has happened in London. This was a post of defiance to the bombers and pride in my own country. I’m not baying for their blood, I’m just saying that we will not be broken, we will not be changed, just as Americans said after they were attacked… But America did change, as you say. I don’t think we will, because, like I have said many times already, we are accustomed to this kind of attack.

    The world expects the British to play down our strengths, possibly this comes from an apologetic attitude left over from the times of the British Empire, but my post was entirely about how good we are at dealing with attacks on our own people. You are the one being offensively obsessed with a nation here by presuming that me writing about my pride in the British response is in any way anything to do with my thoughts on America.

    I think the crux of your point is that you seem to think that I’m saying that I think Britain would have coped better than the US did with Sept 11th. That’s a difficult question, and certainly not one that I was raising in my piece, and certainly not one that was deliberately left unsaid. That is something that you, as the reader, have out into it. If similar attacks to the Sept 11th ones had happened in UK then I don’t doubt that there would have been similar anger, but I do think that there would have been one difference: we wouldn’t have been surprised that it had happened. Like I say, we are very accustomed to terrorism, and it will not cause some major paradigm shift in our world to take on board the fact that someone wants to kill us.

    Yes, very nice dear, you want us dead? Well bugger off, I’m having a cup of tea.

    You yourself admit that America had assumed that it was impenetrable. The UK has the history within the memory of even the younger people to show that we do not have that luxury. You say that America has changed. After the attacks it said it wouldn’t. Frankly, after this attack we definitely won’t. We’ve been here before.

    To put the question another way: would America be so scared today if instead of planes you had had an attack like the one we have just had? I think it would be foolish to claim that an attack of the type on London would have a far greater impact on the population of America on Sept 11th than the UK. No-one expects planes flying into buildings, but the British do expect bombs in the capital. Americans didn’t. They do now… But again, this post wasn’t about you. I’m only discussing America now because you raised it.

    There are many in Britain at the moment who are really pissed off with people around the world, and especially Americans, who are comparing this to Sept 11th. It’s nothing like it on a scale of destruction, life loss, and most importantly on the level of psychological impact. If you want to take that as an insult to Americans you are welcome to, but it really isn’t. I’m talking about the British, not Americans. Stop thinking that everything is about you.

    Maybe next time I hear an American tell me how great everything is in the US I should say that they are being ‘ethnocentric’ (although ‘American’, like ‘British’, isn’t an ethnicity) and take great offence. Your fellow Americans do this all the time, maybe I’ve always been too generous to them, perhaps they were insulting me all along and I shouldn’t have been so nice to them, or is the shoe uncomfortable when it’s on the other foot?

    To summarise:

    Me showing pride in my country has bugger all to do with America or any other place on this planet, so stop assuming everything is about you. Doing that only pisses people off (like you have done to me) and plays up to the gross stereotyping of Americans. Well done, you have reinforced a sterotype of your country, now go away, I want to wear a bowler hat, drink tea, and bemoan the loss of the colonies. 😉

  3. Certainly the reaction to the London bombings has been more extreme here in the US than in the UK. For America, 9/11 was a defining moment, a life-changing event. For Britain, these are, for the most part, “just more bombings”. America’s reaction is, to most Brits, a little puzzling. Brits don’t have the same isolated, calm, quiet history that Americans have. Someone has always been at war with Britain in some sense. The last time America was invaded, it was by the Brits in 1812.

    Having grown up in Northern Ireland amid the bombs and then lived in the South of England amid the bombs, it’s been a real eye-opener living over here for the last six years and seeing how 9/11 completely traumatized America. And, yes, the Bush administration are using terror as a weapon to keep the people down – the Patriot Act, the obscene amount of money spent on the War of Much Deception, the “heightened security” that keeps the toilets closed on the subway system so we all have a daily reminder of just how “dangerous” terrorists are and how we should keep looking over our shoulder all the time.

    Americans think Brits that shrug terrorism off are just being callous. Brits think that Americans who run around in terror, who stop flying and stop taking the subway, are just being wusses.

    Both sides need to realize that our current reactions are born of centuries of very different history. I understand why America reacted like it did to 9/11 and, to a lesser extent, to this recent atrocity. I also understand why Britain reacted like it did.

    Moonpriestess, you need to develop some of that understanding too. History defines our two similar but very different cultures.

  4. If I have grossly misread your blog as you have pointed out than I must swallow my own considerable pride and apologize. Often i have seen you critisize Bush, and, as I am rather patriotic, I take that perhaps more persoanlly than I should.
    You did fail to notice however that I also commented on my great respect that your government had made preperations.
    Please do not take my comments as a reflection of my country but on my own, damn but i hate to say it, shortsidedness.
    I’d like to think that on the whole I am fair minded, adn i actually have a great respect for other cultures, though it would not seem that way from my post.
    When I speak of violence in schools i speak of domestic terrorism, like that of the columbine shootings. But you are right of course, i dont know what it is like to grow up with bombs just blocks away. Ironically I tend to get angry at others who take for granted our safeties and freedoms we have here.
    And as I did point out, I had no problems with Britan. Regardless as I have only succedded to make an ass of myself, I will applogize for jumping at shadows.

  5. Thanks Moonpriestess, I really do think that you misread my post entirely, I’m glad that you’ve understood my original meaning more clearly now. I’d like to discuss a few things that your reply raises, not in the spirit of confrontation, but out on interest and to seek a greater understanding of our views. We are coming from totally different cultural perspectives when it comes to terrorism, it is only our common language that can trick people into thinking that we share more than sometimes we really do.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, I’m certainly not the only person to criticise Bush, and I think that even for misunderstandings like this series of messages he is partially to blame. He has maintained in your country a level of fear that is utterly out of proportion to the real threat that we all face. Terrorism is a daily threat, but it has always been there. I’ve paid a lot of attention to Bush’s choices, and if I criticise him you are welcome to question me on it, but bear in mind that I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t feel that it was justified and justiable.

    I think again here we have a different perspective on things. In the UK, even if we voted for the current leader, we do not consider it unpatriotic to criticise them. To us this is part of the _essential_ balance of power. Leaders need the check of the people to keep them acting in our interests. Bush’s power effects the decisions of my prime minister, and so I feel it in my rights to complain about him when he is acting in ways that will negatively effect my life and my country.

    Don’t worry, I always try to resist generalising countries from their individual representatives. I think Bush is the worst politician that I’ve ever seen in power, but that doesn’t mean I think that Americans are idiots too. If I insult Bush then it is about him, not the people!

    One example of precisely how Bush is keeping people afraid is seen in your use of the term ‘domestic terrorism’ to describe mass murderers: it wasn’t called that before before Sept 11th and Bush got his claws into the idea. Columbine was a mass murder, it was not terrorism. I thought I’d check, so I looked up ‘terrorism’ in the dictionary: ‘the use of violence in the pursuit of political aims’. Columbine wasn’t about politics. This is what Bush has done to the way America views threats; he has attempted to turn all violence into a homogenised threat and in doing so has depoliticised it. By associating things like Columbine with the attacks of Sept 11th he removes the real reasons that America was attacked, preserving the problems that caused the attacks in the first place.

    Columbine was mindless killing, Sept 11th was killing by the misguided who are angry about American cultural imperialism and they felt so strongly that America was not listening to any complaints that violence was the only way to convey their message. (This is not to suggest that I blame America for Sept 11th in any way, the cultural imperialism only happened because Americans are really very good at producing entertainment, consumable items, and creating effective global distribution business models, so naturally these things will go global.)

    My point is that Bush has taken the word ‘terrorism’ and removed it from a political context and turned it into an all-purpose word for violence. The neo-Luddite philosophy of the Unabomber is far closer to a true terrorist motivation than any number of angst ridden Hitler-worshipping kids with guns will ever be. I still think that it takes more than one person to create terrorism, otherwise it’s ‘just’ a serial killer with pretensions of grandeur.

    This is a cultural difference. To us, terrorism has been a fact of life for a long time, and I think the way that Bush has created a frenzy about it in the US is despicable. People have the right to live their lives with a feeling of security, and in the UK we are good at doing that, even with the threat around. As Sean’s comment says, to UK people the US reaction seems dispropotionate to the event because of our history.

    As a final note, yes the skill of the rescue workers and security forces is very admirable, but I doubt it would have been so organised if it weren’t for the wake-up call of Sept 11th. This bombing could always have been something far nastier, and for that we are thankful. In the UK we know this kind of attack and know how to get on with our lives, because that is the only real way to defeat terrorism. We think that if their aim is to force us to alter our lives to their message through threats, then continuing life as before is the way to show that terrorism doesn’t work. Our Royal family, for all their problems, stayed in London during the blitz of WWII bombing to demonsrate that we must not change our lives because of threats, and that mentality still exists in the people today.

    If you’d like to discuss this more then it would probably be best to move it across into the ‘Issues’ section of my forums where there is a good mix of Americans, British, and a few other nationalities, all with differing views. ‘Hope to see you there!

  6. wow. i read this post when you wrote it, but i only just took the time to read the comments. let me commend you on your calm dealing with comments that obviously offended you.

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