This is a picture of my late granddad. He was an ARP warden during the war and his beat was the East End of London which, for those that don’t know, was bombed pretty much constantly by the Germans during the second world war.
Almost every night, he would go out walking the streets making sure people were safe and reporting on bomb damage, sometimes even as the bombs were falling. After that he would go home, not knowing if his own house was still standing or his family still alive, before heading off to do a full-time shift as a porter at one of the big London markets. That went on right through the blitz.
I mention him now because in the wake of the terrorist attack in London yesterday, much is being made of the fact that we, as a nation, have a spirit which means that we will never be defeated by these cowards who are now seemingly hiding in our midst. And of course we won’t, just as we weren’t by the Nazi’s or the loathsome IRA.
Some call it the Dunkirk spirit, others refer to the ‘Keep calm and Carry On’ mantra which has become synonymous with our nation in recent years but whatever it is, we have it, in spades. And it will see us through these worrying sad times just as it always has.
However, there is a huge difference between the Britain we knew in the blitz and even during the reign of terror imposed on us by the likes of Martin McGuinness in the 70’s and 80’s and it is becoming an increasing concern to me. It’s nothing to do with government, immigrants or even religion, it is to do with our individual selves. Or more specifically, what kind of Brits we are.
Much is being made of the selfish acts carried out on Westminster Bridge yesterday, and quite rightly so, but how many simply people walked by? How many were so obsessed with taking photo’s of the carnage lying on the road in front of them that they failed to offer a single ounce of compassion let alone help? The answer is too many. Far too many.
OK, I know there will be those who in moments of panic, default to their phones and others who, handcuffed by fear or even language, will have simply stood transfixed. But there were others who actively moved around taking pictures or film to upload onto social media or better still, sell for cold hard cash.
I won’t even ask how those people sleep at night because chances are, they will sleep just as they always sleep. But the fact that this mentality exists at all saddens me greatly because this isn’t the country that my granddad put his life at risk to protect.
Instead, we have become a nation which has a cancer running through it. And that cancer takes the form of selfishness. Far too many people these days have little or no concept of either personal responsibility, duty or even basic courtesy whilst both the law and authority have come to be regarded almost universally as some kind of enemy (until they need them of course).
Policemen, medics and even firemen are all too frequently abused and even attacked whilst simply trying to do their jobs whilst our servicemen and women, both serving and veterans, are regarded in some quarters as a cross between vermin and lepers. Marine A being a case in point.
Yet these are public servants. Their job, vocation even, is to protect, defend and aid society, our society. And the fact that they do that, by choice, should be applauded, not ignored. After all, can you, hand on heart, say that you would walk toward danger rather than run away from it? Yet that is what they do, some of them do it every single working day.
But we should not simply respect these people, we should aspire to be like them. For the way to defeat terrorism isn’t simply to ‘keep calm and carry on, because all that does is invite more of the same. The way to win the war on terror is to be better than those who wish to harm us. And that’s what we have to do, all of us, be better. Better at caring, better at helping and most of all, be better at being citizens.
Do that, we don’t just win, we win big.
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