Thursday 8 January 2015

What to do in case of terrorist attack

It's a national day of mourning for France in the wake of the Charlie-Hebdo terrorist attack which killed twelve people, including several of France's most prominent cartoonists. Even though I'm elsewhere, I'm marking it by not doing any proper work. Ahem. I guess they declared a day of national mourning partly because they knew nobody was going to be doing any damn work anyway. Except the police of course, so I'm sparing a thought for them.

So, sometimes we become the targets of terrorism, not in the sense that we're present during an attack, but in the sense that the intended terror seems likely to spread to us. I've actually lived in zones of high terrorist alert for quite a few years of my adult life. I can't remember living in London when there hasn't been a possibility of attacks. Then there was that 9/11 business which affected our US family and friends very badly. One of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was let my very young baby get on a plane to New York with her father (and without me) just a few months after that. I knew it was more of a psychological hardship than an actual risk and I had no intention of giving terror a hold, so I stuck to points 1 & 2 of the list below. These days, I feel relatively experienced in the ways of terrorism and I've grown my strategy by another 3 points.
  1.  Hold to your current path. It's easy to start thinking in terms of letting terrorist attacks alter our behaviour which is what they want. I find I'm so expecting other people to alter their behaviour that I'm wondering if I might find it easier to get a train ticket through Paris in the coming weeks. Perhaps even a cheaper hotel room? And while I'm there, will I pick up a copy of the next Charlie, even though their work isn't really my thing? Or perhaps I shouldn't go at all... No. All that is what terrorists want, but the changes in the point below are what they want most of all.
  2. Choose your associates carefully. At times like this our positions become fluid and there's a risk of the high ground slipping away from under our feet. This is a time when I only want to associate with people who will hold me to the highest ground possible. To completely misquote the guys at Charlie, I'd rather be dead than a scumbag.
  3. Get outdoors. The real world is almost always a safer and better place than the world in the media. I'm off to the mall to see if my younger Muslim neighbours have succeeded in the task of finding lipsticks to match their hijabs today. And to have a coffee. Even though I don't think much of lipstick or hijabs for myself, though I do think rather too much of coffee.
  4. Think. Write. But not in the heat of the moment. I want to be able to live with my words weeks and years down the road. Maybe that seems less important to some people, but I've set myself the task of writing about Islam, amongst other cultures, in fiction. Justly and with empathy. I have Muslim characters to think of. Not so many in the current book, but they're in the pipeline already. Which makes point 2 all the more important for me.
  5. Laugh. Clearly that's what this particular brand of terrorist hates most of all, and it's a pleasure to annoy them. Here is one of my favorites.

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