Sunday, 10 July 2005

Heroes and villains

For the second time in a week I am writing about London. The bombs that brought havoc to the capital last Thursday have claimed, at the time of writing, 38 lives. 700 more were injured, some seriously. The lives of all those affected will never be the same again.

Whilst watching the news last night, a friend kept voicing her disbelief. How could they (the presumed terrorist perpetrators) do this? Why do they feel entitled to strike at innocent civilians? What do they hope to achieve? She couldn't understand why, in her own head, she couldn't rationalise the bombers' actions. But, as I pointed out, you cannot rationalise the irrational, explain the inexplicable or justify the unjustifiable. The presumed terrorist culprits must have such a distorted world view - only in their own deluded minds is such action justified.

In my younger days, I naïvely believed that there was some good in everyone. Sadly, the last fifteen years has scoured that optimism out of me. I'm pretty sure nobody reads this 'blog, which gives me the confidence to assert that there are people out there in the world today who are scum, plain and simple. People who blithely presume they have the right to make other's lives miserable, without recognising that they have moral and social responsibilities too. When, exactly, did human rights start to outweigh human responsibilities? This is why so many town centres are no-go areas on a drunken Friday night. This is why so many children today believe they can do exactly what they want, whilst their parents (incredibly) blame their schools for not raising them properly. This is why violence is a way of life on our streets, and people like you and me are too scared to intervene when it flares up for fear of an assailant pulling a knife (or worse). And this is why a crazed, brain-washed fundamentalist has no qualms about getting on a train and blowing up scores of innocent commuters.

But I'm sick of writing about the villains. I want, instead, to heap praise on the emergency services. Police, Fire, Ambulance... like our armed forces, they give a feeling that, despite being under-resourced, they are the best in the world. The professionalism they showed in dealing with terrible situations, in a manner that conveyed calm to the public, was immense. Hospitals staggered under the load they were suddenly asked to bear, but bear it they did. And what of the famed British stiff upper lip? Much has been made of how Hitler couldn't bring London down, despite a continuous aerial bombardment during the Second World War, and that Osama Bin Laden and his buddies wouldn't succeed either. Times move on, cultures change and people change; the time of the stiff upper lip has probably passed. However, there was a tangible atmosphere of "let's just get on with it" last week, as people walked miles home from central London, or jumped on a bus as they began to come back into service, or made plans for getting to work today. Doctors and nurses, firemen, commuters... there were lots of heroes on the streets of London last Thursday. As long as they continue to outnumber the villains, there is hope for us all.

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