Conditioned To Respond To All The Threats

My cousin was a terrorist. Does that shock you? Send chills of fear coursing through you? Is your finger hovering over the unfollow button?

I didn’t know that my cousin was a terrorist at the time, I was too young to understand. I liked this particular cousin, I have quite a few. He was much older than me, and I only saw him a few times a year, but when I did he was kind to me and treated me as a human being not as a child. That, to me, made him special.

What I didn’t know about him was that he was a very angry young man, in his late teens/early twenties. He had an older brother who was perfect. He had a younger sister who was the beautiful baby. He was in the middle, never as clever or pleasing to his parents as his brother or sister. He was treated as the disappointment, always embarrassing his parents, never making them proud.

He got in with a rebellious crowd and joined the anarchic group of the day in his country. Did he know that this group was considered as a terrorist faction? I don’t know. He did something on behalf of this group, was part of some demonstration or action against the oppressive government, and he got caught. He was arrested, tried and imprisoned.

I don’t know the details.

Years later he contacted my parents. He had moved to a different country to start a new life. He was very proud of himself, he had found employment at a chain restaurant and had been promoted to manager of his branch of the chain.

That’s the last I heard of him. My family is a difficult one to belong to. For many reasons.

When I was a child, the world was living under permanent global nuclear threat. The title of this post comes from a song by Sting inspired by the times. I like this song because it holds a very important message, we are all human, and even those we are being told are inhuman, are human too. They have families, and they have the same concerns that we all do. We all have the same biology.

Sting – Russians

I remember being aware of the news, not so much intellectually, but fear was very palpable in the atmosphere, and certain aspects of what was going on affected my life, thus entering my young awareness.

I used to fly a lot as a child. Planes were often hijacked by people who were ready to kill passengers to get their demands taken seriously. I remember practicing in my mind how I would behave should such a thing happen to a plane I was on.

Where I went to school was also influenced by things happening. I was sent away from my father’s place of residence because of the terrorist group and their activities to which my cousin had belonged for a short while. One of the places I went to school was the UK. The IRA were at their most vicious at the time, and several places near to where I lived were bombed and people, members of the general public like me, died.

When Iran changed regimes and the Shah was ousted, many of my schoolmates came from Iran, forced to flee their homes for strange lands where they would be viewed with suspicion because of their nationality and ethnic heritage. My best friend was Iranian. Her mother was a lawyer who had fled Iran with her daughter and not much else. They had to get out quickly. Her father had stayed behind. He was a journalist. She never spoke about him. I think she worried too much  about him to speak about fearful things.

I lived near the Iranian embassy in London when it was seized, those inside were taken hostage, and then the SAS did their thing. I was there when that happened, close by, yet oblivious to it… because I was too young to know, and too busy living my daily routine, going to school and such stuff, going home, eating, watching a bit of TV.

The news, television shows and films were all obsessed with nuclear destruction. The baddies were always Russian or Iranian, mainly Russian, and they were always of the Bond villain variety, prepared to unleash hell on all for world domination and loads of money. What they would spend the money on and what they would do with their domination of the world, I don’t know, as there would not be much left if they followed through on their threats.

When I was a bit older, in my teens, I lived in Paris during the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Every day there was a demonstration about something or other. There was some violence, by extremists and havoc creators, mostly it was peaceful enough. Quite few few bombs went off, killing members of the general public. This had something to do with the Algerians and France’s occupation of the country. I was still a bit too young to understand what was going on. I was more focused on getting good enough grades at high school.

I remember once being stopped by a reporter for a news channel who had been granted access to interview people boarding a plane from the USA to France (I was returning to school after a vacation). Aren’t you afraid of going to Europe,  with all the bombs and terrorism going on there?, the reporter asked me, shoving a mic in my face.

I was a bit perplexed. I was just living my life, and traveling was part of my life. And besides, I felt safer in Paris at the time than I did in New York, but that was just my personal feeling.

The world is always in upheaval, there is nowhere which is safe, so… what is the point in hiding from danger, danger is everywhere where humans are… and even nature is dangerous. And if I die… does it matter in the greater scheme of things?

We are all hard wired for survival. So, no, I don’t want to die. But death is part of life. So is chaos. And human life is… the same thing happening over and over again in different guises. The villains may change, but there are still villains, and heroes to save the day, and a general public to be both audience and participants of a very passive kind.

Have you read or watched or listened to the news lately? If yes, how do you feel about the world you are living in? If no, is there a reason why you don’t follow the news?

The news, like books and films and music, is designed to lure the viewer or listener in with a hook, usually in the headline – headlines which scream hysterically that the end is nigh tend to suck in the most readers, viewers and listeners, that or cats, or humans doing something very dumb – then it presents a drama which unfolds, sometimes like a soap opera forcing you to stay tuned and follow each to be continued to the next episode, above all, an emotional reaction must be elicited from the audience, and nothing is more popular and targets more people than fear mongering.

We all respond to fear, because fear is one of the guardians of our life, and connected intimately with our survival. We are conditioned to respond to all the threats… how we respond… is it up to us, or has someone already decided how we do it for us?