Saturday, 30 June 2007

Safe as houses

Before I came to Glasgow, I anticipated that our time here would feel safe. By European standards, Glasgow doesn't have the best reputation for crime, but by the standards of most places I've lived it's really secure.

We chose to live in a nice southside suburb where people may twitch their curtains, but would never look inside your unlocked car. The residents of this wee corner of the world sometimes complain that nothing ever happens here but after years of electric fences and endless petty theft that suits me just fine.

I have felt safe here. I walk back from the station after dark on my own sometimes and we have even been known to leave our back door unintentionally unlocked from time to time (please don't tell my landlord), without incident.

And then, this afternoon, two people drove a vehicle into the check in area of Glasgow airport. It ignited, they were arrested and, although significant damage was done to the building, nobody was hurt. Actually that's not quite true. The two people in the car were taken to hospital with burns - I'm finding it difficult to feel too much pity for them right now.

The police now suspect that this is an act of terror linked to the discovery of two car bombs in London yesterday. And the UK is on full security alert.

I think it is human to feel a little less safe when terror breathes down our necks like this. But is it right? A terrible thing happened today. But will I be in any greater danger tomorrow than I was yesterday, when I felt no fear at all? Perhaps, but probably not.

Sadly, the success of terrorism depends on that 'perhaps' - the human response to an unpredictable event. In absolute terms, far fewer people will be directly effected by terror attacks than will have their lives effected by the fear these incidents generate. And then terror wins.

I passed through Heathrow on my way back from South Africa in August last year. It was the last time this country was on high alert and the launch of the liquid-in-hand-luggage restrictions. What struck me was how everyone just got on with it. The queues were unreal and the rumours very frightening. But the great British public know about queuing and developed a quiet camaraderie in the face of it all. There was no panic.

So, no. I am not going to bed afraid tonight. It's something I learnt while living in Scotland.


David said...

Terrorism by definition only succeeds if we are terrorised, if we change. They bombed the shit out of Glasgow during the War- and as a result we have this fantastic beautiful city mixing old architecture with old historical buildings.

Mr Bin Laden and his crew can do their worse.. the most they'll get is a joke or two about them. We might joke about the Scottish/English divide but we are currently united. They may hurt a bit of airport glass, but they'll never hurt Glasgow ;-)

Annie said...

You could perhaps argue that you are safer after the alerts in London, and what happened in Glasgow as security is now heightened, for now.

laurie said...

we saw this on the news this morning and were appalled, angry, surprised, infuriated. why anyone would try to blow up a building full of busy, innocent people is astounding to me, even though it is becoming all too common.

but glasgow! glasgow! it's unfathomable.

i'm so sorry. but it could be anywhere, tomorrow.

dulwichmum said...

What struck me about it was the fact that they were saying school holidays have started in Scotland and the airport was thronged with young families. What has our planet become?

Wouldn't it be simply amazing if we could all change and try to show eachother respect, compassion and love?

The Good Woman said...

Hi David - I'm sure you're right about the jokes. Humour does seem to be the coping mechanism of choice here.

Annie. Yup, that was my best friend's attitude when she flew longhaul on 10/11.

Hi Laurie - It could be anywhere. Or nowhere. Or only in warzones. Or down the street. But we can't spend our lives worrying about the possibility of something which may or may not happen.

DM - yes, it was the first day of the school holidays. I haven't heard any reports of fatalities but the intention was pure evil.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Yes it is hard to feel any sympathy for these people, if you can call them that. The disruption this has caused is phenonemal, delays and re-routing. My brother in law goes back to Dublin today and even though it's only a 45 minute flight from Manchester, he's not sure what's happening. It's about time these terrorists were stopped once and for all. If I knew a safe way to do it I would!
Crystal x

Kaycie said...

It's been a long time since we were threatened here in the States, but living in the Oklahoma City suburbs as we do, what I have noticed is that people are very practical about these things. When the Murrah building was blown up ten years ago, no one was expecting it. The threat is real, but there is no sense in living your life in a state of fear over it. These things happen when we are going about our lives as normal and there is simply nothing to be done about it -- but live your life. And hope.

The Good Woman said...

Hi Crystal. Sympathy is hard but I do feel pity, in a way. It must be so very empty to stray so far from humanity. But my sympathy lies with those effected by their acts.

And Kaycie, I agree completely. Careful and sensible - absolutely. Overcome with fear - absolutely not.

Iota said...

I think we are most afraid of the unknown, and somehow get used to living with things that we can't avoid. When I was at school, we used to have "bomb scare" drill, which was just like fire drill to us. But now if I say that to someone, it sounds horrendous. Similarly, my family in England are all so scared for us now we are in tornado alley, but the people here just get on with it. My children have tornado drill at school. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt, but it does breed a way of coping and getting on with life.

The Good Woman said...

We had bomb drills too Iota. Haven't thought about that in a while.

Gwen said...

This was an excellent post. Sorry I couldn't comment until now but my PC has been playing up.