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Wednesday 27 January 2010

Shaken Not Broken

One evening, many moons ago, while walking out with friends I witnessed a horrific fatal road accident in which someone was knocked down and killed. At the time it happened, it was natural to go into 'autopilot' and do all the things necessary to attempt to save a life. I felt nothing other than, "What needs to be done...do it now!!" There was no sense of shock, only the need to respond.

After the ambulance and police had been, there was nothing else to do but walk on and by the time we reached the pub we had gone through the inevitable bad-taste jokes made to dispel the gloom and once we had all calmed down a bit and began to speak of the events of the evening, there was a sense of appreciating each other more, knowing that a life could end like that of the young man who died on the road that night. We were all more attentive to one another. Later that evening, still unaware of feeling anything about the tragedy, I ordered a drink, took it from the bar and it immediately fell straight through my hand to the floor and smashed. A kind of physical delayed reaction to shock, I expect.

It has sometimes seemed to me since, that the world, which moves at a slower and surer pace than any individual part of it, goes through the same motions of delayed reactions. People nowadays latch onto the phrase of 'broken Britain' - which is rather odd for we are no more or less broken than we ever were. The 20th Century was the bloodiest in history (in terms of how many people died in battles) and it often seems that what we live through now is the delayed reaction to the horror of the world wars. The 60s and 70s in their bizarre dress sense and over the top exhibitionism were kind of like the jokes on the way to the pub. In the late 80s the Berlin Wall came down - the sense of appreciation for what was left of the mess - and the whole 'Free Nelson Mandela' concert and Live Aid and love-ins. Then by 2000+ we dropped the glass and decided we live in a broken world.

We don't. The world is so much bigger than we are and we are simply living with the shock of recent years.

Though it seems so recent and therefore so much more powerful, the 20th Century was not more bloody than what had gone before. What percentage of the population was wiped out by the Black Death and the subsequent plagues? What percentage of the population of young men were killed at Towton - the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil? News comes faster and we think things are worse but they are not. Things are how they have always been and always will be until we realise that no battles ever really achieved anything and no matter how 'just' the war appears, it never put an end to war. Whatever the 'scare' of the moment - be it climate change, swine flu, bird flu, SARS, or whatever else we come up with next - people will always be people and choose whether to live in fear or to live for the moment and be free.

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