Wartime mantra holds the key to beating the terrorists
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.’’
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.