Wartime mantra holds the key to beat­ing the ter­ror­ists

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD - Wash­ing­ton Post

It has long been a mo­ti­va­tional slo­gan for Brits young and old: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Since its rise in pop­u­lar­ity dur­ing World War II, the phrase can be found al­most any­where. It’s stitched into T-shirts, stamped on to sta­tionery, painted on mugs and proudly hang­ing in homes. It is a mantra de­signed to in­spire peo­ple dur­ing the most chal­leng­ing of times.

Clas­sic ex­am­ples of Bri­tish re­silience have raised smiles and made head­lines this year. There was the man who fled from ter­ror – with­out for­get­ting his beer. The woman who got on a train wear­ing a ‘‘We Are Not Afraid’’ T-shirt hours af­ter the deadly Bor­ough Mar­ket at­tack. In June, many unimpressed Lon­don­ers crit­i­cised The New York Times af­ter an ar­ti­cle de­scribed how the city was ‘‘reel­ing’’ from the Manch­ester sui­cide bomb­ing. An­gered by this ac­cu­sa­tion, many took to so­cial me­dia to let the world (and the Times) know: we are not reel­ing, we are fine.

As news of Fri­day’s ex­plo­sion at Par­sons Green tube sta­tion be­gan to spread, res­i­dents re­acted in typ­i­cally Bri­tish fash­ion by of­fer­ing kind words and cups of tea.

The ter­ror­ist at­tack brings the to­tal across Bri­tain this year to four. It also brings a new wave of re­silience – but with that comes an un­der­cur­rent of fear.

‘‘London has al­ways lived with the threat of ter­ror­ism. My habits, my life, will not change. We are re­silient,’’ said Zoe Lay­cock, a West London res­i­dent.

‘‘I con­tinue life as nor­mal . . . as a mat­ter of fact, I’m prob­a­bly out more rather than less. We can’t let these peo­ple dic­tate how we live. If we do that, they win,’’ wrote nurse Kristof­fer Oh­lin on Face­book.

The idea of not al­low­ing ter­ror­ists to ‘‘win’’ and in­flu­ence ev­ery­day life seems to be up­held by many across the United King­dom – and by Lon­don­ers in par­tic­u­lar.

‘‘Some­times I get more ner­vous on the Un­der­ground. But in all hon­esty, it makes me want to do more; to help prove they’re not win­ning. I refuse to live my life in fear, es­pe­cially in fear of ‘what ifs’,’’ said He­len Di­a­mond, 28, from Whit­stable, a sea­side town in south­east Eng­land. ‘‘I think the Bri­tish me­dia is cre­at­ing more fear in the public than these ex­trem­ists.’’

While some Britons have vowed to press for­ward with a stiff up­per lip, others ap­pear to be more anx­ious about trav­el­ling, es­pe­cially on the London Un­der­ground net­work.

Talk­ing about how her daily com­mute has changed, Shanni El­cock, 30, from south­east London, said: ‘‘I walk more, even though that’s not ex­actly fool­proof. And I’ve kind of stopped lis­ten­ing to mu­sic on the com­mute so I can pay at­ten­tion more to what’s go­ing on around me.’’

‘‘I’m much more vig­i­lant now than I used to be, es­pe­cially af­ter the rise of Isis-in­spired at­tacks,’’ said jour­nal­ist Sunny Hun­dal. ‘‘It’s im­pos­si­ble to stay un­con­cerned as be­fore, but nei­ther do I want ter­ror­ists to dis­rupt en­joy­ing London.’’

‘‘I walk more and am more anx­ious than usual through­out my jour­neys. Some­times I get off early and walk where pos­si­ble or sit at the plat­form for a bit and then get on the next [train],’’ said Amy Ri­dler, 27, from east London. ‘‘Of course, I want to say that I don’t live in fear, be­cause I do want to, but hav­ing higher anx­i­ety lev­els any­way makes mat­ters worse.’’

REUTERS

The fa­mous ‘‘Keep Calm and Carry On’’ poster from World War II, and its many adap­ta­tions, have be­come sym­bols of Bri­tain’s re­silience in the face of threats.

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