In nearly every corner of the world there is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate fear that you might die a fiery and painful death at the hands of an unknown or unidentifiable assailant. With the death toll of the latest tragedy in Nice still rising, Europeans are beginning to experience these same anxieties: that any given day might truly be your last on this earth, and there is very little you can do about it.
The chances of dying in a terror attack are still much smaller than we often realise. However there have been enough in the last several months for the threat to appear constant and unpredictable. The profound effect this can have on the human psyche and society is well understood: in other regions of the world this has been the norm for decades. We know what persistent feelings of insecurity do to people and communities.
Our thoughts and prayers are surely with the families and friends of those affected in Nice, as they surely were with those affected in Istanbul and Baghdad earlier in the summer – but thoughts and prayers are insufficient. They are the passive tools of those who wish to clear their conscience but are unwilling to act. And let’s be clear: we need to act.
But the question now is how to act upon these anxieties. Do we act positively, with the best interests of everyone in mind? Or negatively, with no motivation but vindictive lust for vengeance and retribution? As rational actors in our societies and communities, do we let fear and hatred overcome us, and lead us to commit reactionary, short-sighted acts of destructive self-sabotage? Or do we use this newfound common ground with our fellow citizens of the world to multilaterally advocate for a more peaceful and united world, securing long term stability for everyone?
The social and political tools available for us to work towards the latter are abundant, and the future of our planet is entirely in our hands. If we truly want these horrific attacks to stop, we will mobilise together, en masse, against an establishment which openly benefits from keeping us in a state of perpetual fear. We can do this peacefully: with our votes, our voices, our wallets and our choices.
Let’s write to our MPs; let’s get involved in community and grassroots efforts; let’s actively resist and object to the fear mongering tactics of our media and politicians; let’s stay informed; let’s see open hostility as the barrier to meaningful progress that it is. #JeSuisNice? Then let’s be nice. To each other, to our friends and neighbours, and to those who might look, think and behave differently. The best gift we can give to those who have already suffered at the hands of terrorists and foreign invaders is our sincerest attempt to prevent the suffering of anyone else.