Are We Ready?

A correspondent of a Russian TV news broadcast sounded reproachful when he said that previous terrorist attacks in France haven’t taught the Parisians any lessons and that the French were not ready for the attacks of November 13. But is it at all possible to be ready for such acts? And why should people never be ready for terrorism?

Paris, 13 novembre 2015
Image source: @LesCartons

We always watch horrific videos and pictures from scenes of any terrorist act in dismay, especially if such acts happen in our own country, with our people or in some “Christian place”. I know that the last bit sounds ghastly, but I am sure that if we are completely honest with ourselves we can say that explosions in some Asian or African location do not evoke such sympathy or TV attention. Anyway, we are always at least somewhat compassionate and terrified wherever and whenever anything happens. We are people after all.

People are not naturally programmed to mourn and suffer for long. It is human to move on and enjoy life. We would certainly remember some things and feel connected to others, but days of mourning pass to make way for ordinary days. We might reflect on what happened and even reassure ourselves that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, that we are more vigilant and that measures are taken to protect good citizens from bad ones.

In fact, measures can be taken in some areas and lightning won’t strike in exactly the same place. But it will strike anyway. There will always be people who are artificially programmed to kill, kill demonstratively, kill under the pretext of some religious or radical belief. The modern world with all of its counter-terrorist forces, years of experience and training, security checks and internet transparency has not gone far from the world of the 1970s with its numerous hijackings, European radicals, and East-West confrontation.

If we think about it all this political mess does not really matter. As I’ve said, we will stop, mourn, reflect and move on. It is impossible to always mourn and stay scared. It is necessary to go back to our daily chores and joys. People tend to forget many things and their alertness slackens very quickly.

Going back to that reporter who said that the Parisians were not ready. I could ask the reporter if those 224 Russians who perished in the jet over Sinai were ready? Or if dozens of other Russians who died in previous terrorist acts in our country were ready? Were they? Is it possible to be ready to die any minute? Is it even necessary to be ready?

One World Trade Center, France Tribute
Credit: Xinhua/Li Muzi

Surely, we should all be somewhat prepared. It is vital to know the basics of behaviour in case of an emergency, including that of terrorism. It is good to be ready to fight for your life, to help others and even possibly to prevent things from happening. Just like I learnt what to do in case of a nuclear war when I was in school. It doesn’t mean that I should go around with a protective suit and a spade for a dugout.

How could the Parisians have been ready? All right, there might have been security checks in public places like that club. But it is impossible to install roadblocks at every café, stadium and shopping mall, just like it is impossible to always stop fanatics from blowing themselves in public. We are not all psychologists, counter-terrorism specialists, paramedics or gun-carrying robots. Besides, terrorist attacks are planned to be unpredictable even with all the advanced intelligence. So, it can happen anytime anywhere. How is it possible to be ready for that and not go nuts?

We cannot all live in total fear all the time. If we did life would be miserable. That would be one more great achievement on the terrorist side. While if we manage to keep our faith in the future, our heads up and our life full then we can undermine the very essence of terrorism – instilling fear in the general public.

Should we let some bastards make us constantly frightened to go out of our houses, take buses and underground, fly planes and attend concerts? No, we should not. We can be ready to deal with situations when they happen. We should vote for governments that manage to provide better safety and intelligence without taking our civil rights from us. We must go on with our lives.

Paris Las Vegas. Detail
Paris Las Vegas. Detail

There is one more aspect to the problem. It is easy to manipulate a scared crowd. When we succumb to everlasting fear and “readiness” we let not just the terror inside our society but the terrorism and terrorists. Special agencies ought to be always on the lookout and prepared. When they say that everybody has to be prepared it means that the state is cancelled and it is time to hand out guns to people saying that every man for himself. Is it what that Russian TV reporter meant or wanted?

PS: I specifically chose not to post popular graphics with “Pray for Paris” line. To pray for what? Why pray? It is better to stand strong knowing that you are right than kneel and pray as if this would bring back the fallen ones. Let our enemies pray instead.

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