Staring terror in the eye: the case for continued normality

By Joshua Bailey

Irrespective of the politics of the recent attacks in Paris and elsewhere, one cannot deny that they touched everyone in some way. Some felt it more than others but everyone felt at least a pang of sorrow and fear when they learnt of what had happened. The effects of these events on our politics will be analysed in great depth and will surely have far-reaching implications, but I will leave that discussion to those more erudite than me. For now, I’d like to stress the human aspect to these events. Specifically, how I believe our day-to-day response should be formulated.

Following tragedies like this, the immediate impulse is to strike out or to succumb to feelings of fear and intimidation. When faced with this option of emotional inertia, I would suggest that the greatest show of resistance is a show of tenacity and a stiff upper lip, to carry on with our daily lives, travel plans and study arrangements, without fear, and with respect to those who no longer can.

We know that we’re capable of this response because we have done it before. The day after the harrowing events of 7/7, Londoners continued with their lives, catching the tube, going to work and flying abroad. Granted, they did this with a tangible sense of apprehension — an emotion which is entirely understandable — but nevertheless, they carried on. The stoicism that underpins these actions is the emotion we should all reach for in the present.

However, this said, there is absolutely a case for taking all necessary precautions when travelling abroad. I’m not saying don’t travel, quite the contrary in fact, but it’s definitely worth making sure you do all your usual preparations for holidaying and more. Make sure you follow the Foreign & Commonwealth Office guidelines on where is safe to travel and where isn’t (a full list of countries and travel advice can be found at  https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice). You can also have a look at the terror threat level according to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office through this link -http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/11707583/Mapped-Terror-threat-around-the-world.html – use this to inform yourself, and don’t just totally avoid destinations in dark red (as you would be avoiding the UK), just make sure you’re even more on your guard.

Also make sure that you have the means to contact your friends and family to let them know you are safe in a time of danger. The Facebook mark yourself safe function is a great additional tool (https://www.facebook.com/help/516656825135759), but the best thing to do in a crisis is always to contact the FCO via your embassy or consular office in that country, who can get in touch with your family and help you get home, so make sure you take a few copies of their contact details with you! You can also follow @FCOTravel on Facebook and/or Twitter, where you can receive immediate notification of any changes to travel advice.  Following the FCO travel advice and precautions won’t make you immune from threats or danger, but should help mitigate risks, so it’s definitely worth doing.

In effect, I guess my advice is no matter where you are, make sure you take all reasonable precautions to keep yourself safe but don’t let these events stop you living your life and going to all the places that you want to go. The potential power of terrorism is its disruptive fear-inducement, normalcy is the only counter.

Photograph: Wikipedia

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