When I was a kid, there was this constant expectation that someone would stick a bomb somewhere in London. It was mostly the IRA and occasionally some solo idiot that hated a minority. All the bins were taken out of the underground, and off the streets in the City. If you left your bag unattended it would get reported extremely quickly. My friend Dan almost had his Sega Master System detonated by police at Heathrow and he’d only put it down for a couple of minutes. It was just part of the furniture of living in this city. Watch out for bags. People are trying to kill you.
This morning some moron tried to kill a load of people in the rush hour. On the district line. With a bucket full of crap in a Lidl bag. Shit enough that you have to get the bloody district line into work. Nobody wants to put up with some disaffected twat trying to blow them up before they’ve even got to Earl’s Court. Particularly if you haven’t had your coffee yet.
Problem is that everyone’s conditioned to assume the worst, so there was a stampede as the terrified herd crushed itself into a narrow exit, backed up on themselves and clambered over each other. I strongly suspect that more people were injured in the stampede than in the blast itself.
“Terrorism,” people are saying. If anyone is promoting terror it’s the likes of Dacre and Murdoch, obliquely causing the stampede by dripping a constant culture of fear into the public imagination. Inevitably whichever 27 year old virgin it was that tried it out this morning had been on some chatroom on the darkweb, allowing Daesh to take the credit, the news-terrorists to spread the fear and the legislators to call for more thoroughly monitoring all the people that don’t know how to cover their tracks online and thus don’t need monitoring.
Calling something like that terrorism though… it’s a bit like saying it’s war if you get punched by a German. It’s a shit thing to have happened, and it could’ve gone very differently. But the more fear it generates, the more it encourages other isolated idiots to grasp at the idea that by associating themselves with the object of terror, they can have an impact on a world that isn’t working for them. Engendering fear makes people feel powerful. I’m disappointed that so much of what I’m reading is to do with fear, the terror alert reaching critical, people taking knives onto the tube as if we’re under attack. Our Prime Minister has reacted. The President of the USA has reacted. It was just a shit bomb in a bucket and the guy that made it is public enemy number one for the day. I bet he feels great.
Once when I was about 19 I encountered a scared kid as I walked through a late night common. He had a knife and very actively wanted me to tell him I respected him. I told him I didn’t respect him “respect takes time” but I feared him because he had a weapon and I didn’t, so even if I was bigger than him, he might be able to hurt me. He was just posturing, of course. And he was satisfied when I told him I feared him. Which relieved me as despite being stubborn I didn’t want to have to try to disarm him. He didn’t seem to care that I told him I didn’t respect him. Fear and respect were synonymous to him, and either one was good. He wanted to feel like he could make an impact. That’s all. We’ve all had that need.
That encounter stuck with me though, and I’m thinking of it in the light of today. Whoever made the bomb – and I know I’m speculating the gender pronoun – he made a whole train full of people trample over each other in panic. The papers are associating him with the latest boogie man. People are messaging me to check I’m ok, and people are worrying about going on the tube. This little prat has created a little bubble of fear. It’ll make him feel powerful. Hopefully the papers won’t give him powerful names like “monster” to further add to the problem. But this constant fear of the monsters that wait in the trees just beyond our circle of firelight… It makes the shadows scarier, and it keeps us in the village.
I walked home. Whenever these cracks occur I like to walk the streets a while. I came upon this sculpture. It’s called “love”. That’s the MI6 in the background.